The decision to divorce isn’t always an easy one. Sometimes, couples may want some time apart to help them decide whether they want to continue the marriage or move on. In Florida, there is no legal separation. However, couples can still take some steps before filing for divorce, as long as they protect themselves in the process. Remember that separated couples are still married, under Florida law, and so they must be sure that they are able to agree to the issues that may come up during this time period.
Alternatives to Legal Separation
Couples in Florida may live separately before they divorce. If you choose to do this, however, it is advisable to create a separation agreement. While this is not a document that is approved in the family court system, it does provide a degree of protection for couples in this situation. Another option is to enter into a postnuptial agreement. A postnuptial agreement is similar to a prenup except that it is executed during the marriage, rather than prior to it. The postnuptial agreement should include all of the same issues that are handled in a divorce, such as:
- Distribution of assets;
- Allocation of debts;
- Child living arrangements;
- Child support and visitation; and
- Spousal maintenance.
Resolving these issues now will help to better navigate a divorce, should the couple decide to move forward in that direction.
File a Petition for Support
One legal document that can be filed separately from a divorce is a petition for support. The petition is a request for child support, spousal support, or both. Money may be needed to allow both spouses to continue to pay the mortgage, and other necessary bills and living expenses. The support petition is a good option for those whose spouses have already moved out, but there is no pending divorce petition filed. These issues can be addressed again later, as part of the divorce proceedings.
Couples in turmoil may want to get counseling to help them decide what to do. Many times the couple simply needs some time apart to review the relationship and work on issues that need to be repaired. Counseling can be done together, as a couple, or alone.
Rules of Separation
There are no rules for separation, but couples should follow some guidelines to help them prevent problems. When separating, make a unified decision on how finances will be handled. Get copies of all bank accounts, pensions, and other records so you can review them later. Meet with a skilled divorce attorney to learn about your options, even if you have not yet decided to part for good. Continue regular communication so that you can assess the progress of the situation. Keep up regular child visitation, so there is as little disruption for the children as possible. Finally, set a timeline for the separation so that it won’t go on indefinitely.
If you are considering a separation or divorce, contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and bankruptcy lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+