Separation v. Legal Separation in Florida

Posted on November 4th, 2016

There seems to be much confusion about the meaning of “legal separation” in Florida.  Since Florida does not recognize common law marriage, in order for there to be a legal separation, there must first be a legal marriage with or without children.  A legal separation without children is most commonly found in long term marriages where there is a court order that provides for the payment of spousal support or alimony.  Short term marriages without children do not usually carry significant exposure to alimony and may have no marital assets or liabilities subject to distribution.  There is no legal separation in Florida without a court order.

Long-Term Marriages or Marriages Involving Children

Separation becomes more of an issue when the parties are involved in a long term marriage or when there are children involved.  A child support obligation arises in a situation where Husband and Wife are married with a child or children and subsequently separate and cease living together as a family.  The support obligation is based on a calculation of the child support guidelines based on statutory consideration including an examination of the time-sharing schedule.  Usually, the spouse who had always been responsible for the day-to-day care for the parties’ children is the spouse to whom the support obligation is owed.  The other spouse is usually the “breadwinner” for the family and exercises his or her right to time-sharing with the parties’ children.

The hypothetical in the paragraph above illustrates the common scenario where there exists a meritorious claim for child support particularly if the time-sharing parent refuses to contribute towards the regular financial support of the parties’ minor children.  There may even also be a meritorious claim for spousal support.  However, until such time as either spouse petitions the court for “dissolution of marriage” or for “support unconnected with dissolution of marriage,” there can be no legal separation and no court order defining the parties rights and obligations towards each other and their children.  A “legal separation” is an arrangement whereby spouses live separate and apart from each other but their rights and obligations towards each other and towards their children are defined by a court order.   For questions about the child support guidelines after legal separation in Florida call Sam Jubran.

The Nature of Relationships – How it May Affect You

On the other hand,  “separation” does not necessarily require a marriage but contemplates a co-parenting relationship between the parents for any child or children they have in common.  If the parties are married but one of the spouses leaves the marital residence with no intention to remain married then a “separation” has occurred.   A separation becomes more significant when the parties are married because married parties usually have common assets, bills and most importantly, children.  A separation after marriage can ultimately mature into a “legal separation”  or divorce depending on the petition filed.   If one party files a “petition for separate maintenance,” the other party may file a “counter petition for dissolution of marriage.” Therefore, a “legal separation” usually requires both parties to agree not to dissolve their marriage. A “legal separation” may eventually mature into dissolution of marriage if the one or both parties desire to end the marriage.  If you have questions about legal separation in Florida or about filing a petition for support unconnected with dissolution of marriage, call (904) 360-6100.

A “legal separation” is the alternative to dissolution of marriage with minor children or dissolving a long term marriage without children.  After legal separation, the parties may continue to maintain the same health insurance coverage but they can not maintain the same family plan after their marriage is dissolved.

Don’t Wonder or Guess, Get the Facts – Contact a Jacksonville Legal Separation Lawyer at The Law Office of A. Sam Jubran, P.A.

For more information about separation v. legal separation in Florida call attorney Sam Jubran, Board Certified Specialist in Marital & Family Law,  at (904) 360-6100 or submit a case evaluation form and we will respond promptly.

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