The Differences Between Divorce and Legal Separation in Florida

Married couple arguing on couch

As an alternative to divorce, many couples will separate, either temporarily or permanently. Many couples choose to separate rather than get a divorce to avoid costs, the headaches and stress of dealing with the Court, emotions, or simply because divorce seems too permanent or final.

In fact, many couples believe that rather than going through a divorce, they can legally separate. Is there such a thing as legal separation in Florida?

In this article, we will explain the truth about legal separation and the differences between divorce and separation.

Is Legal Separation Allowed in Florida?

Despite popular belief, legal separation is not recognized in the State of Florida. So, does that mean a couple can file for legal separation? Yes and no…

No, because Florida does not recognize legal separation.

Yes, but using different vehicles to protect their rights, assets, and children while they are separated.

Even though Florida doesn’t recognize legal separation, couples can take certain legal precautions to protect their rights, their assets, and their children, should they decide to go through an official divorce in the future.

What Are the Differences Between a Legal Separation and a Divorce?

In Florida, the main difference between separation and divorce is that in separation, both parties live apart but remain legally married. This means that couples can continue to participate in benefits such as health insurance, military benefits, and social security benefits. However, couples may need to continue to file taxes jointly, and child support and alimony orders may still be in place. In contrast, in a divorce, the marriage is legally ended, shared benefits are often terminated, and assets and debts are divided between both parties. Additionally, the tax status of both parties changes.


  • Both parties live apart
  • The marriage is still legal
  • Couples can continue to participate in benefits (such as health insurance, military benefits, social security benefits, and so on)
  • Couples may need to continue to file taxes jointly
  • Child support and alimony orders may be in place


  • The marriage has legally ended
  • Shared benefits are often terminated (in most cases)
  • Assets and debts are divided between both parties
  • Child support and alimony orders may be in place
  • The tax status of both parties changes

Legal Separation Options in Florida

1. Postnup Agreement

One of the biggest issues for couples who want a legal separation is the division of assets and debts. A postnup agreement is an agreement between two people who are married that governs how assets and debts will be treated and addressed in the event of a legal divorce.

In order for this type of agreement to hold up in Court, it must be in writing and signed by both parties. Both parties must also fully disclose all assets and liabilities in the agreement and declare that they did so.

2. Alimony and Child Support

Florida State Court reserves the right to impose both child support and alimony orders, even if a couple isn’t legally divorced. This is because many unmarried parents have children and later separated. The State of Florida is particularly interested in ensuring that parents who care for their children themselves receive the financial support they need.

The same is true for alimony. Florida State law also allows separated couples to request alimony, even if they aren’t formally and legally divorced. Although these cases are rare, and Florida Courts aren’t as likely to grant alimony as often as child support, alimony may be an available option for couples who are separated.

3. Child Custody

When drafting and organizing a separation agreement or postnup agreement, you can not legally make custody claims for each parent. Yes, you can draft a parenting plan and have it notarized, however, it will not be an official document approved or enforced by the Court.

Separation vs. Divorce in Florida: Which Is Better?

After reading the points above, you may wonder which option might be best for you and your spouse. Depending on your current relationship with your spouse or partner, your religious views, and your children (if you have any), you may decide that one option may be better than the other.

All in all, take some time to discuss your current situation with your partner. You can also reach out to an experienced divorce attorney for help and legal advice.

If you have any further questions about divorce, read our page on Divorce FAQs.

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