Making the decision to end a marriage is seldom simple or easy. Some couples opt for a legal separation, sometimes known as a trial separation, to get the time and space necessary to sort out their feelings before reconciling or proceeding to legal dissolution. Florida, however, is one of seven states that does not recognize legal separation, but a family law attorney can help you negotiate a legally binding temporary agreement in circumstances when a separation is preferable to a divorce.
There are several reasons people might choose separation over divorce:
- Religious beliefs
- Family issues, such as inheritance or property claims
- Financial considerations
A divorced spouse is eligible for Social Security benefits from the ex-spouse, but only if the marriage has lasted 10 years, so some couples use separation to run out the clock. There are also time requirements on the marriage for some military benefits. Separation also allows both spouses to retain the health insurance coverage under an employer plan. It can be a good option if filing taxes jointly offers greater benefits than filing individually, or if you need the marital deduction for estate planning purposes.
If you are not ready to file for divorce, ask a family law attorney who is knowledgeable about Florida divorce statutes whether a temporary separation agreement is right for you. Negotiating a smart agreement is particularly important when children are involved since a temporary court order addresses issues such as the parenting plan, child support and time-sharing, as well as division of assets and debt. If these arrangements work out and are agreeable to each party, they can serve as a precedent for the legal divorce agreement.