Legal Separation Attorney Jacksonville
Oftentimes a couple desires to legally separate before making the final step of divorcing. However, Florida law doesn’t recognize legal separations. It is one of eight states in America that doesn’t permit them. Alternatively, Florida offers several different state laws to address couples in this circumstance. Some of these laws cover child support during a couples’ marital separation as well as the right to create an agreement covering the terms of a marital separation.
Although these changes in a couples’ family structure are recognized and enforced by Florida law while they’re living apart, Florida doesn’t recognize the couple as legally separated. A Jacksonville legal separation lawyer is imperative at this time.
Separation vs. Divorce in Florida
There are several reasons why a couple may choose to separate as opposed to divorce. One of our attorneys at The Law Office of A. Sam Jubran, P.A. can sit down with you and go over the specifics of your situation and help you to determine what the best answer is for your family. Some reasons people decide to stay married but separate are:
- Financial Concerns: Benefits of pension or social security from a legal marriage or the ability to file taxes jointly
- Health Insurance: One party furnishes health insurance for their spouse
- Marriage Counseling: A couple wants to work on their marriage while living apart.
- Religious Obligations: Being morally opposed to divorcing but desiring separate lives
Once a Couple Choose to Separate
Taking advantage of Florida’s separation laws provide very similar arrangements for a separation and a divorce. Some of these arrangements are established financial support for the children, alimony issues, and determining how to divide debts and assets maintained by the couple. The differences these laws assign to each scenario is in a divorce, Florida recognizes the couple’s marriage as officially terminated. A couple that is separated is still married in Florida but the laws described above change their circumstances as if they were divorced.
Just as a couple looks to an attorney to guide them through the divorce process, the same standard should apply for a couple looking to separate. Although Florida courts don’t recognize a legal separation, the many changes to your family structure are recorded and enforced by law. Therefore, it’s imperative that an attorney advocate for your rights when determining these changes. We thoroughly understand this process, within the bounds of a separation. We’ve also had years of experience helping clients in your exact situation. We will help you to work out custodial, financial, and property agreements with your spouse and make sure that they’re clearly defined.
The Separation Agreement
Once you’ve decided the terms of your new familial structure, our office will draw up and file these decisions with the court through a Separation Document. This is legally binding contract, which both spouses sign. It addresses the details and changes that each spouse desires. This agreement is detailed and requires an experienced hand to draft it. At the Law Office of A. Sam Jubran, P.A, we have filed such documents in Florida courts many times. Our Jacksonville divorce attorneys not only have experience with handling these documents, but they’re also familiar with the court’s requirements and staff.
Child Custody in a Separation
Determining child custody in a separation requires the same scrutiny and dedication needed in a legal divorce setting. The two parties must hash out aspects such as child support and the primary residence. Then they must agree upon a legally binding agreement and file it in a Florida family court. This court then decides visitation and custody rights for each parent. The court looks at several factors when deciding the arrangement. Some of these include:
- the work schedule of each parent,
- the ages and needs of the children, and
- how many children are involved.
The guidance of a Jacksonville legal separation lawyer give you the assurance that every matter regarding custody is decided upon fairly. An experienced attorney can also make sure that you protect your rights and desires in the process.
Obtaining Child Support and/or Spousal Support While You’re Still Married
Even though legal separation isn’t recognized as such under Florida law, most of the rights that people have in states where legal separation is recognized do have some corollary under Florida law. For instance, after the court has determined child custody, the parent who has residential custody of the child (i.e., the parent who lives with the child) may petition the court to award child support.
In the event that the residential custodian petitions the court for child support while the couple is still technically in a marriage, the court will take a look at the finances of each parent and determine what (if any) financial obligation the parent has to his children.
In addition, a spouse may petition the court for spousal support regardless of whether or not there are children present. The court determines this in the same way it would if the spouses had gone through a divorce or were in the midst of going through a divorce.
In other words, there is no prerequisite of divorce in order for a spouse to petition the court for either alimony or child support.
What Happens If One Spouse Decides to Initiate a Divorce?
Separation agreements last until the couple decides to initiate a divorce. The purpose of the separation agreement is to take the place of a divorce decree. It allows the spouses time to operate on their own accord. However, once a divorce is initiated, the separation agreement is legally nullified. The parties will need to revisit each of the agreements made in the separation agreement.
This creates an obvious problem: you end up paying more in legal and court fees to negotiate two different agreements. This is especially true when one or both parties want to revisit custody, alimony, or child support.
What About Division of Assets?
This is the biggest problem for those who decide to separate. There are no statutes and the court has no way to handle asset distribution without the divorce procedure. The couple cannot divide up the “marital property” until the couple has decided to initiate a divorce. On the other hand, a couple can agree and sign off on a postnuptial agreement.
What Is a Postnuptial Agreement?
A postnuptial agreement or, colloquially, a postnup, is an agreement that allows couples to determine how they will separate assets post-divorce. During a divorce, a couple can draft an agreement on their own with the help of attorneys. Or they can let the court make a determination on it will divide assets. Typically, when couples cannot reach an agreement on their own, that is when the court has to step in an decide for them.
For obvious reasons, postnuptial agreements are similar to how a divorce would work in mediation. In other words, it requires both parties be more or less on the same page when working out the agreement. If the parties cannot voluntarily agree on the division of assets, then assets must remain in limbo (marital property) until the parties initiate a divorce.
What You Should Know Before Agreeing to a Legal Separation
Legal separations may not cost as much as a divorce, but they can. You and your attorney will attempt to reach agreements with your spouse and their attorney concerning contentious issues such a custody, visitation, child support, and alimony. Once you’ve made these agreements, if you decide to move forward with a divorce, you will need to draw up new agreements for the divorce. It may not take as much time to prepare, but it’s extra money in terms of court fees and filing.
While legal separation might make sense for some couples, the majority of couples may save money heading straight into divorce. It really depends on your personal situation. Separation and then divorce will cost more money than a mediated divorce would.
On the other hand, some find that separation is exactly what they need. Let’s face it, life sometimes gets in the way and we lose sight of what was once important to us. Finances, kids, and other obligations won’t go away during a separation. But for some, the separation adds perspective on what a couple truly needs to change in order to forward happily. Sometimes that’s a divorce, but sometimes, it isn’t.
Call Experienced Jacksonville Legal Separation Lawyer Sam Jubran Today
Our office can be the helping hand you and your children need to make the process a smooth and successful one. In case a divorce is decided upon in the coming years, the custody agreement will be re-evaluated through mediation. Negotiating and advocating the equitable division of property and navigating issues such as child custody and child support during a legal separation and after a divorce can be complex and may require extensive analysis. The Jacksonville legal separation attorneys at the The Law Office of A. Sam Jubran, P.A. have the financial experience, knowledge and compassion to ensure that your the interests of your family are protected.