Living Apart Is Different from a “Legal Separation” in Orlando

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If a married couple in Florida is living separately and apart, this does not mean they are legally separated. They are still considered by the court to be married. Unlike some other states, a “legal separation” is not recognized under Florida law. It is not something you can file for. Nevertheless, living separately is typically what happens when a marriage is bound for divorce.

Getting clear about legal separation (or the absence of it) is important, because the consequences for unsuspecting spouses can be problematic. To officially terminate the legal contract of marriage, a couple must follow legal channels and file for divorce through the Florida court system.

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For instance, do not confuse legal separation in an Orlando divorce with temporary relief. There are times when spouses need to legally structure temporary, separate living conditions. After a divorce is filed but before it becomes final, a spouse may need assistance with temporary housing, as well as alimony, custody arrangements, child support or other interim solutions. This is called temporary relief and is a court-ordered protective arrangement that supports either spouse while a divorce is in-process.

Problems When Living Apart While Still Married

The video above is a cautionary tale about a married couple that no longer lives together, and have not had intimate relations, have not cohabitated, for several years.

Eventually the wife has a child. Because they are still married, the legal husband is by law considered to be the father. That means, if the mother then files for divorce, under Florida law the legal father (who is actually not the biological father) is accountable for child support and all other paternal responsibilities. At this point, the husband needs to take legal action and file a petition to contest paternity, in order to prove that he is indeed not the father.

After months or years of living separately, diverse legal issues may surface because spouses remain liable for their partner’s debts and other legal concerns. Marital property, alimony and parental responsibilities can become precarious points of contention.

In certain limited situations, there is a provision under Florida statue 61.09 that does provide for spousal and child support unconnected with divorce. If a couple is living apart, and one spouse is able to contribute to the financial support of his or her spouse and minor child, and fails to provide this support, the spouse who needs to receive the support may petition the court for alimony and for child support without filing for divorce. It is then up to the court to decide what is “just and proper.” This statute has no bearing on a divorce proceeding.

There may be cases where married partners are living separately in which a legally-binding prenuptial or postnuptial agreement comes into play, especially in the handling of assets and debts, business issues, inheritance, alimony and retirement.

Orlando Divorce Lawyers Advocating for You

The bottom line is, if a married Florida couple decides to go their separate ways but they do not legally become divorced, the official court decision is the one that says they are married.

If you are in need of trusted legal help, please contact us. At Kramer Law, our attorneys are ready to answer any questions you may have about legal separation in Florida, divorce, support issues and more. We will work with you to customize effective legal strategies to meet and protect your very specific needs, no matter what legal challenges you may face throughout your life.

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