Florida Legal Separation vs. Divorce

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

Florida Legal Separation vs. Divorce

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

While some states' laws include provisions for legal separation proceedings, Florida's laws do not. In Florida, if you want to formalize your separation from your spouse, you may be eligible to petition the court for a simplified dissolution of marriage. If you meet certain criteria and do not want to get divorced, you may ask the court to rule on some of the same decisions that a divorce would otherwise cover. In this way, you can approximate a legal separation.

Man and woman sitting on a couch with crossed arms looking angrily at each other

Turning to Florida Courts for Help

Some couples are not certain they want to divorce, so they opt to separate first. In other cases, couples know their marriage is over but want to avoid divorce for religious reasons or to maintain spousal health insurance, military benefits, Social Security, or other benefits.

In many other states, couples who want to end their marriages without divorcing can obtain legal separation orders through the courts. Because Florida law does not provide for legal separation, couples in these situations have limited options. Although you cannot obtain a court-ordered separation agreement in Florida, you may still be able to protect your rights through Florida's state courts.

Simplified Dissolution of Marriage in Florida

If you qualify for a simplified dissolution of marriage in Florida, you can file for divorce quickly and relatively easily. The criteria for a simplified divorce include:

  • At least one of you has lived in Florida for at least six months.
  • You do not have minor or dependent children with your spouse, neither of you is currently pregnant, and neither of you (if female) has any minor or dependent children born during the marriage.
  • You both agree that your marriage cannot be saved.
  • You agree on how you will divide your assets and liabilities.
  • Neither of you seeks alimony from the other.
  • You both agree to give up your right to trial and appeal.
  • You are both willing to sign the divorce petition and to attend your hearing.

If you want to formalize your separation but don't qualify for a simplified dissolution, consider petitioning the court for a full dissolution.

Decisions About Child Support, Visitation, and Alimony

You do not need to get divorced to ask the court to rule on child support, visitation, and alimony. If you and your child's other parent live apart and agree on terms for child support and visitation, consider asking the court to approve a voluntary agreement reflecting your wishes.

In situations where your spouse is averse to paying child support or if you cannot agree on a parenting plan, you may face a more difficult court proceeding. A Florida divorce attorney can help protect your rights, as well as the rights of your child.

Florida law also includes provisions allowing a separated spouse to petition the court for spousal maintenance, or alimony, without petitioning for a divorce. If you and your spouse have separated and you want alimony but your spouse does not agree, an attorney can help you present your case.

Although Florida does not have a statute for legal separation, it is possible to get court orders for certain decisions that would otherwise be part of a legal separation agreement. In other situations, you may want to consider a simplified dissolution of marriage.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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