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Does Florida Recognize Legal Separation?

Many jurisdictions require spouses to be legally separated for a certain period of time (oftentimes about 6-12 months) before they can get a divorce.

Florida does not have such a requirement.

However, there are many couples out there who wish to go through a “trial separation” without taking the leap of divorce.  Many want an interim step short of divorce to maintain the possibility that the parties can work things out later and reconcile.  Does Florida have any mechanisms to provide protections to spouses and children during a trial separation?

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Florida Support Unconnected With Divorce

Section 61.09 of the Florida Statutes allows a spouse to request alimony (also referred to as “separate maintenance” or “spousal support”) and/or child support without asking for divorce.

There are various reasons why a spouse may file a case for support without asking for a divorce:

  • Florida does not recognize the status of “legal separation,” so this process allows a spouse to have a trial period apart without having to make a decision regarding divorce;
  • A party may not want a divorce because of religious beliefs;
  • A spouse may not want to go through a divorce while his or her children are still under the age of 18 or living in the home; or
  • A person may not have met the six month residency requirement to file for divorce (Florida requires that at least one party to a divorce reside in the state for at least six months prior to the filing of divorce; a proceeding for support unconnected to divorce has no such residency requirement).

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How Do I Discuss My Divorce With My Child?

Once a couple makes the decision to separate or divorce, one of the most difficult steps will be to discuss this decision with a child.  Risa Garon, a licensed clinical social worker, certified mediator, and Executive Director of the National Family Resiliency Center, Inc., provides the following advice regarding how to discuss an impending separation or divorce with a child:

1. Before you tell the children, speak to your spouse and decide what you will tell the children. Both parents should have the opportunity to speak.

2. Say what you think will be most helpful to them. Many parents want to tell exactly what happened in their adult relationship to their children. Parents can explain to their children how what they want to tell them will help them in understanding the separation.

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