Legal Separation vs. Divorce

While divorce is the most common outcome for couples whose marriage is no longer working, it is not the only option. Under certain circumstances, an annulment may be granted. Another valid option for many couples is what’s known as “legal separation,” which shares several key elements with divorce but is recognized as a different distinction altogether under the law. While most states allow for legal separation, the law in Florida is somewhat different.

At Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A., our Clearwater family law professionals want couples to have all the facts before they make any important decisions. Read on to learn more about legal separation in Florida, and contact Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A. for all your family law and divorce-related needs.

Understanding Legal Separation

In many states, couples who want to reconsider their marriage without beginning divorce proceedings are free to seek a legal separation. This allows them to legally split up assets, divide child custody, and even negotiate support payments under the acknowledgment that their marriage is not working but also not worth entering into a divorce case to end. In legal separation, issues may be reviewed by the court, or by third party mediation.

There are multiple reasons why a couple may seek a legal separation rather than divorce. Some couples choose to stay legally married even though the romantic aspect of the relationship has come to an end for the benefits marriage allows, such as health insurance and Social Security. Other couples may choose to stay legally married for the sake of their children, as to avoid putting them through a prolonged court battle or even leave the door open for reconciliation at some point in the future. Other couples may wish to file for divorce but choose to seek legal separation instead for religious reasons.

Is Legal Separation Allowed in Florida?

Florida is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning it is possible to file for divorce without alleging any wrongdoing on the part of the other party. Because state law suggests that couples are free to end a marriage without entering into a prolonged legal battle, legal separation does not exist in the state of Florida. It is one of 6 states in the union where the option is not available to couples.

Florida does, however, allow for what is usually known as a “limited divorce,” which is similar to a legal separation. Although factors such as treatment during the marriage may play a part in a limited divorce, more than anything, the grounds for limited divorce must establish that the marriage was essentially over because the couple in question has already separated, or one party has deserted the other. If there are children involved in a limited divorce, the court will usually establish residence based on who has been the “custodial parent” (i.e. the parent who has been taking care of the child/children) and can establish visitation rights for the “noncustodial parent.” Child support may also be granted in a limited divorce, based on the income of the noncustodial parent.

A limited divorce may turn into a “full divorce” if one party contests the actions of the other. If a full divorce petition is filed, the court can revisit issues such as child support, custody, and division of property. A couple may still be subject to the rulings of the court if they decide not to proceed with a limited divorce after initially entering into one.

Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney

At Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A., we understand how difficult divorce can be on families and individuals, which is why we will always try to resolve your case with maximum efficiency. Whether you are entering into a contested divorce, uncontested divorce, or high net worth divorce, our Clearwater separation atorneys promise to work to secure you the best possible settlement in the shortest amount of time. And with experience in everything from restraining orders, to fathers’ rights, to child custody and visitation, you know we will be able to assist in virtually all of your legal needs. Just look at the testimonials from our former clients and you will see, Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A. is the law firm you can trust to fight for your future.

Give us a call at (727) 245-9009, or fill out our form online to get started.