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What Is a Separation Agreement?

Florida does not recognize legal separation, however, a couple that wishes to separate without going through divorce has other legal options.

These options include:

Postnuptial Agreements

A postnuptial agreement allows a couple to decide how they would like crucial marital factors handled if they ever divorce or informally separate. This arrangement can be presented to and enforced by a Florida court.

The state has strict requirements on the construction of postnuptial agreements that, if not followed, could invalidate this document.

These requirements include:

  • it must be in writing;
  • it must contain the voluntary signatures of both parties; and
  • it must contain a full list of assets and liabilities.

Informal Separation Agreements

An informal separation agreement can contain the same information as a postnuptial agreement, along with a few others. However, it is not considered legally valid by the court and, if there are any disputes over the contents of the agreement, either party is under no obligation to resolve issues.

Couples generally outline the following in a separation agreement:

  • each party’s right to live separately;
  • child custody;
  • provisions for a child visitation schedule;
  • child support;
  • spousal support;
  • property division;
  • how to handle insurance and relevant benefits; and
  • taxes.

Petition for Support

Couples who live separately but are not divorced can make provisions for the spousal support of one party. To do this, the party seeking support must file a petition with the court and notify the other party. The paying spouse has 20 days to answer this petition with either a confirmation of the support or a challenge.

Uncontested Petition
If both spouses are in agreement with the contents of the petition, they can initiate a final hearing. During the hearing, a judge will create a legal court-order for support just as if the couple was divorced.

Contested Petition
If the other spouse responds to the petition disagreeing with, or denying, the contents, and the parties are unable to come to an agreement, the party seeking support should file a Notice for Trial. In addition, this party should answer the counter to the petition within 20 days of receiving it. Some courts require the spouses to complete mediation before setting a final hearing.

Default
If, after 20 days, the other spouse has not responded, the seeking spouse can file a Motion for Default. This action will initiate a final hearing to bring the spouses together and establish a plan for spousal support.

Helping Clients Protect Their Interests

Attorney Jody L. Fisher can discuss your situation with you to decide which course of action would work best. She has over 15 years of legal experience and can establish a strong separation plan on your behalf.

To schedule your appointment, call our firm at (352) 503-4111 or contact the firm online.

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