Legal Separation in Florida: Laws and Alternatives

In Florida, legal separation is not recognized by the state’s law. It’s a “no-fault divorce state,” which means couples can get a divorce without proving fault. They just need to show the relationship is beyond repair.

Legal separation lets married couples live separately. Unlike divorce, it’s not a full termination of the marriage but a legally binding arrangement that divides finances and responsibilities.

There are differences between legal separation and divorce, such as the former doesn’t dissolve a marriage, so parties can’t remarry. Couples who separate legally can still enjoy certain benefits, such as health insurance and tax advantages. However, this doesn’t mean the state offers no options for individuals seeking separation.

The alternatives to legal separation in Florida include Divorce, Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, Limited Divorce, Postnuptial Agreement, Private Separation Agreement, and Petition for Support.

What Is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

Legal separation is a court-approved arrangement in which a married couple lives separately while the legal bond remains. Although legal separation is not recognized in Florida, many other states acknowledge it.

Legal separation and divorce are two distinct legal processes that do not provide couples with the same result or resolution.

For this reason, obtaining a divorce in Florida becomes a better option for some since it provides a direct sense of closure to ex-partners seeking complete separation.

How Is Legal Separation Different From Divorce

Legal separation differs from divorce as it allows couples to live separately without terminating the marital bond.

In a legal separation, spouses who live separately maintain their legal marital status while addressing issues such as child custody and child support. This formal legal process allows couples to pause before deciding instead of immediately opting for a divorce.

In contrast, divorce dissolves the marriage entirely, severing all legal ties and allowing both partners to remarry. Often, after a divorce, benefits such as health, tax, and life insurance may no longer be available or become too expensive for the family.

A divorce proceeding can involve child custody and assets division — the court may also order alimonyor financial support to an ex-spouse.

Couples may file for legal separation if they see a chance for reconciliation.

What Are the Advantages of Legal Separation

The advantages of being legally separated include the retention of health insurance and tax benefits, the chance to resolve legal matters, easier reversibility, and no residency requirement.

These benefits allow spouses to maintain certain legal rights and responsibilities to each other and their children while living apart.

  • Maintain health insurance: This is crucial if one spouse relies on the insurance of the other spouse.
  • Preserve tax, social security, and military benefits: Offers temporary continuity in tax, Social Security, and military benefits, providing time for financial adjustments for each spouse.
  • Resolve marital legal issues: A way to settle child support issues, parenting plan, and marital home assets division without undergoing the divorce process.
  • Easier to reverse: Living separately allows for possible reconciliation if couples change their minds, unlike a divorce action, which is permanent. 
  • No residency requirement: Unlike divorce, legal separation doesn’t require a specific residency in some states.

What Are the Disadvantages of Legal Separation

The disadvantages of legal separation include limited grounds and enforceability, limited resolution, more expenses, and being a temporary relief or solution.

  • Limited grounds: Legal separations require specific legal reasons, potentially limiting options. In addition, not all states recognize legal separation, and the grounds for filing might be limited.
  • Enforceability: A legal agreement leaves couples in a middle ground. When spouses live separate from each other, they may choose to date other people. However, the spouses cannot remarry. Inheritance rights or dissolution of marital property in case of death aren’t also settled.
  • Limited resolution: It doesn’t provide the same legal protections as divorce. Inheritance rights, spousal support obligations, and property division often remain unresolved.
  • More expenses: When couples file for legal separation, they may incur expenses on legal fees and court costs similar to divorce. It can be more expensive, especially if it leads to divorce.
  • Temporary relief: To legally separate doesn’t guarantee reconciliation and may not resolve underlying issues in a relationship.

Is Legal Separation an Option in the State of Florida?

No. Legal separation is not recognized by the State of Florida, as the state has adopted a “no-fault divorce system,” which renders separation unnecessary. 

The state’s focus on divorce as the primary means of terminating a marital relationship means separation is not legally acknowledged or available as a distinct status.

Couples remain married until one spouse files for and obtains a legal divorce through the Florida courts. 

As one of the only six states in the US, Florida law allows couples to address key issues within the divorce proceedings, streamlining the resolution process. 

However, this doesn’t leave individuals seeking to separate empty-handed. Several alternative options acceptable under the Florida statutes can achieve similar outcomes.

What Are the Alternatives to Legal Separation in Florida?

The following are alternatives to legal separation in Florida.

  • Divorce
  • Simplified dissolution of marriage
  • Limited divorce
  • Postnuptial agreement
  • Private separation agreement
  • Petitioning the court for support


Divorce terminates a marital relationship by resolving marital assets, money, and child-related disputes. 

The court may review the couple’s previous legal agreements and is not necessarily obligated to honor them. Florida courts can also award child support and alimony without a pending divorce as per statute 61.09, known as the “Alimony and child support unconnected with dissolution.”

The primary advantage of divorce is that ex-spouses can lead separate lives and generally move out of the marital home. Its disadvantages include potentially greater stress on both parties and the increased cost.

The fee for filing for divorce in Florida typically starts at $400.00.

Simplified Dissolution of Marriage

A Simplified Dissolution of Marriage provides an expedited and cost-effective option for uncontested divorces, available to couples meeting specific criteria. 

  • Both spouses must have lived in Florida for at least six months.
  • Agreement that the relationship cannot be saved.
  • No minor or dependent children together.
  • Assets and liabilities must be divided fairly and to both parties’ satisfaction.
  • There is no request for spousal support (alimony) from either spouse.
  • Willingness to give up the right to trial separation and appeal.
  • Both spouses must sign the petition (not necessarily together) and attend the final hearing (together).

If the criteria are not met, then the standard process of filing for divorce must be followed.

This type of divorce is advantageous because it is faster and doesn’t require an attorney. However, it has stricter criteria for both spouses.

The starting fee for this alternative costs around $410.00.

Limited Divorce

Limited divorce is another legal option in Florida. 

This alternative requires establishing a valid reason for the breakup, such as cruelty, desertion, or voluntary parting.

The court determines the child’s primary residence, establishes visitation rights, and mandates separated parents to disclose income and resources for monthly child support payments.

Limited Divorces can start at $400, similar to a full divorce.

Postnuptial Agreements

A postnuptial agreement is made after marriage, unlike a prenuptial agreement. They are used to define property division, support obligations, and other matters in case of a divorce to resolve the case without going to court.

A postnup agreement offers a proactive approach to addressing key issues, including the division of assets and debts. It provides a mechanism for couples to sign a contract governing how assets will be treated in the case of a divorce.

This type of formal agreement is advantageous since it allows individual spouses to protect inheritances and interests. The main disadvantage of a postnup agreement is it cannot discuss issues related to child support or custody.

On average, the cost of having an attorney draft a postnuptial agreement starts from $500. The total cost typically averages around $5,000.

Private Separation Agreements

Since Florida does not recognize legal separation as a legal status, ex-spouses can create private agreements without going to court. 

This agreement means each spouse can mutually agree to live separately without requiring the approval of the court. They can also agree on important matters such as dividing assets, deciding how to receive child support, parenting time, and other related issues without needing a court hearing.

Any reputable law firm can assist in drafting or reviewing a private separation agreement. In general, lawyers typically charge hourly rates ranging from $200-$500 or more for their services.

Petition for Support

When a spouse leaves the marital residence without submitting a divorce, a “Petition for Support Unconnected with Dissolution of Marriage” can be pursued by any spouse to secure alimony.

This petition, distinct from a divorce, permits a spouse to seek financial assistance during a marital split. The filing spouse must ensure the other spouse is properly notified of the petition and court order.

This option costs about $300.