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Legal Rights: Legal Separation

Legal Rights: Legal Separation

Separation: Legal Separation Depends on the State; In Florida, It's Not Used Often


    Florida is a no-fault divorce state. Generally, parties in a divorce case must only allege the grounds of irreconcilable differences in order for a divorce petition to be filed and to go forward. 

Florida also has no automatic waiting period/cooling off period prior to or after a divorce has been filed. Some states require the parties to wait months or years prior to the filing of a divorce petition or after a divorce petition has been filed before they can become divorced.  Florida has no such restriction.   

Statutes permitting legal separation exist in Florida and other states. Unfortunately, if one party were to file a petition for a legal separation in Florida, the other spouse could counterclaim for a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. At that junction, the case would be converted to a divorce and the case would proceed in a divorce mode, even though the other party desired only a legal separation.    

In Florida, unless the parties are willing to agree to a legal separation agreement, it is unlikely that they will be able to obtain one through a court order (if the other spouse desires a divorce). Consequently, separation agreements can occur. But divorce lawyers in Florida know, at any given time, if a party desires to obtain a divorce, that party will be free to go forward and obtain a divorce. 

As a result, in Florida and other no-fault states, separation actions and separation agreements have limited practical impact.    

Charles Jamieson is a family law attorney who has represented clients in divorce cases in more than 20 states. He has practiced law for 26 years and is located in West Palm Beach, Fla.

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