What’s a Separation?

A legal separation allows a couple to work through issues in their marriage before filing for divorce. Some couples use a legal separation as a trial divorce and some find renewed energy to work on the marriage after time apart. It helps a couple sort out financial issues, as well as custody issues, as separation agreements are often the basis of the divorce agreement, should the couple later choose to end the marriage. Some couples choose to legally separate, instead of divorce, for religious reasons or to retain medical benefits.

Limited Divorce

However, Florida is one of six states in the nation that does not recognize legal separation. (The others are Georgia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Mississippi, and Texas.)  Florida does allow for “Limited Divorce”, which is similar to legal separation in other states. Although Florida is a no-fault divorce state (meaning a reason need not be listed for the ending of the marriage other than it being irreparably damaged), a limited divorce can be filed on the grounds of cruelty, desertion, and voluntary separation.

A limited divorce can grant spousal support, establish the primary residence of minor children, and visitation rights. Parents must complete a form containing their financial resources and income to establish child support.

Limited divorces in Florida means the court decrees that this divorce is not permanent. It does not allow for remarriage by either party and does not determine property claims (although your divorce settlement could stipulate these). A limited divorce merely separates the parties, establishing claims for support. You do not need a limited divorce before applying for (absolute) divorce.

Annulment and (Absolute) Divorce

An annulment states the marriage never occurred. Reasons for annulments may be religious or the establishment that one party was not fit to contract, as in the case of intoxication, mental limitations, or already being married. A marriage based on fraud or deceit is also a candidate for an annulment. Florida courts are conservative in granting annulments and will take many things into consideration – including the children – when deciding one. It is difficult to get a marriage annulled, when children are involved as they are seen by most courts as the ratification of a marriage.

Unless your reasons for requesting the annulment fit the terms mentioned, opting for divorce may be a better fit, particularly if you have children. If you’re concerned that all divorces are long drawn out, brutal occurrences, know that they don’t have to be.

Many couples are able to work with a mediator in a collaborative fashion coming to an agreement over property, child custody, and support that is acceptable to both parties. However, while collaborative divorce is generally less costly, a smoother process, and less divisive, it is not for everyone. Communication is at the heart of the collaborative divorce process. Without it, it is impossible.

Ending a marriage is difficult and not understanding the intricacies of Florida divorce laws can make it more so. A skilled family law attorney can help you understand and process your options. Call Dean Tsourakis today to discuss the best solution for you and your family.