Although many states recognize separation as a legal status, Florida does not. This means there is no complete system of modified marital obligations for separated spouses, which can leave such couples in confusion about who should do what.
However, there is legal guidance for couples during the divorce — or dissolution, as it is referred to in Florida — to clarify each spouse’s marital obligations concerning spousal support, child support, child custody, and visitation during the separation. Courts rule on these issues after looking at many of the same factors that affect a divorce proceeding. A spouse may request the court’s intervention even if that person is at fault for the separation.
Separating spouses, with the help of their lawyers, can draw up a separation agreement that specifies their rights and responsibilities during the separation, settling issues like whether:
- One partner pays spousal support and how much
- The amount of child support payment
- Which parent a child will live with
- The scope of the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights
- Division of assets and control to certain property, such as cars and homes
Judges regularly approve these agreements since it is presumed that spouses can generally determine what is best for their own situation. Judges, however, look closely at provisions concerning children to ensure that their best interests are protected.
Having a knowledgeable divorce attorney during this process is very important. Most people going through a separation are doing so for the first time in their lives. A separation is an emotionally stressful time that can make it difficult for the spouses to think through these issues thoroughly on their own.
Experienced family law attorneys deal with these issues on a regular basis, know what sorts of agreements other couples have reached in similar situations, and know what agreements judges are more inclined to accept. The advice and judgment of an experienced family law attorney is invaluable during this trying time.