Yes, Virginia, there is Legal Separation in Florida

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.

53 thoughts on “Yes, Virginia, there is Legal Separation in Florida”

  1. Michelle,

    The next time anyone (especially a lawyer) tries to tell you the difference between “legally separate maintenance” or “support unconnected with dissolution” and legal separation, you ask them what the difference is between dissolution and divorce. They are the same thing. You can get a legal separation in Florida (it’s just called something else and it just involves alimony or child support), and you can keep it forever so long as neither of you file for divorce. In fact, it’s a great way to keep Tri-Care.

  2. I am considering moving back in with my separated husband, no so much to reconcile but to provide home schooling our special needs child needs. He will provide room & board but our other finances will not co-mingle. We have been living apart for two years & no legal paperwork has been filed to date. I don’t want to mess with my Govt subsidized health care. I will continue to file married separated for taxes. Can I get legal separation papers mostly to keep from losing health insurance subsidy. It is only me- I won’t claim the kid to mess with his taxes. He has no insur presently. My income will go down alot as I would leave a FT job for maybe PT hrs.

  3. Laura,

    Remember, all that Florida “separation” gets you is alimony and/or child support. And if you live with your husband, you can’t compel either one of those things. I have no idea how living with your husband will affect your health insurance, but you might want to speak with an attorney about it. And, you might be better off filing your taxes jointly rather than filming “married filing separately.” You should talk to an accountant about it. If you live with your spouse then, legally, you’re just plain married. The law doesn’t care if you hate each other and don’t have sex, you’re still married. And if that works well for your child, more power to you.

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