It goes by a couple of weird names (like “legally separate maintenance” or “support unconnected with dissolution”), but Legal Separation does exist in Florida. I get so mad because I hear all the time, not only from clients but from other lawyers, about how Florida doesn’t have legal separation. I was even at a family law Continuing Legal Education seminar a couple of months ago where a lawyer proudly pronounced that she had developed some techniques for obtaining alimony and child support in Florida where, “as we all know, there is no legal separation.” It’s just not true.
I do have to admit that filing for legal separation is rare. For one thing, if one spouse files for separation (which is basically saying, “I don’t want to divorce you, but I want you to pay me alimony and/or child support”), that other spouse normally just counterclaims for divorce.
But there are good reasons for filing legal separation as opposed to divorce. The obvious one is that one spouse may want to move out, yet still take time to work on the marriage. If the moving spouse can’t afford to live on his or her own while the couple attends counseling (or does whatever they need to do to work on the marriage), the court can set up temporary alimony or support for the interim.
And there are legal reason not to divorce, too, like collecting a spouse’s social security credits or remaining on a spouse’s health insurance.
The other upside to separation as opposed to divorce is that filing separation has no residency requirement in Florida. Remember, you have to be a Florida resident for six months before you can file divorce here. But you can move to Florida and file for legal separation the next day. That way, you could start collecting alimony or child support and convert your legal separation case to a divorce case after you’ve lived in Florida for six months.
So not only does legal separation exist in Florida, it’s downright useful in a lot of circumstances. Give us a call or send an email if you want to know more.