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Divorce, Dissolution, and Legal Separation – What’s the Difference?

In Florida, dissolution of marriage is another term for divorce. You may hear both terms used when referring to ending a marriage. Unfortunately, Florida does not recognize legal separation.

Therefore, the only option to dissolve the marriage in Florida is a divorce or annulment. However, if you are not ready to file for a divorce, there are several options you and your spouse might consider to live separately and apart.

In states that recognize legal separations, the family court determines each party’s rights and responsibilities regarding matters that would typically be settled during a divorce. Then, the court issues an order addressing these issues, even though the parties remain legally married. 

Reasons some couples would prefer to separate rather than petition the court for divorce include:

  • Religious reasons
  • Trial separation 
  • Retirement and pension benefits
  • Health insurance 
  • Tax and other financial reasons

Because there is not a process for obtaining a legal separation, you may want to explore one of these three options:

Private Separation Agreements

The court will not approve a separation agreement, but you and your spouse can voluntarily enter into an agreement. The separation agreement is a legally binding contract, provided the agreement meets all requirements for a contract under Florida law. The agreement may cover the division of assets and debts, as well as domestic support obligations. 

Postnuptial Agreements 

If you and your spouse enter a postnuptial agreement, the agreement is binding on both spouses. Postnuptial agreements can resolve many of the same issues that a divorce would resolve, including alimony, property division, dividing debts, and inheritance. 

Petition for Support 

If you are separated, you may file a Petition for Support Unconnected with Dissolution of Marriage if your spouse has the ability to contribute financially and has failed to do so. The court may order child support payments and spousal support even though you are not seeking a dissolution of marriage. The petition may only be filed if a divorce action hasn’t been initiated. 

If you and your spouse wish to separate, it is wise to consult an Orlando divorce lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney advises you of your legal rights after separating from your spouse. Protecting yourself and your children begins with understanding your rights. 

Petition for Divorce in Florida – Contested vs. Uncontested Divorces

A dissolution of marriage (divorce) may be uncontested or contested. In an uncontested divorce, the couple agrees to all terms of the divorce. However, if the couple disagrees on just one issue, the matter becomes contested.

A contested divorce generally involves more litigation through the court. If the parties cannot reach a settlement before the final hearing through negotiation or mediation, the judge decides matters related to child custody, parenting time, spousal support, property division, and dividing debts. A couple could settle some issues and litigate other issues.

An uncontested divorce is less costly and time-consuming for the parties. However, both spouses must be willing to negotiate a settlement agreement. In some cases, couples enter mediation to resolve differences to avoid a contested divorce. 

Furthermore, reaching a settlement agreement means that the parties control the terms of their divorce. Otherwise, a judge decides matters based on the evidence presented in court and Florida divorce laws

It is important to remember that the Florida courts have jurisdiction over minors living within the state. Therefore, issues related to child custody, child support, and parenting plans are always subject to review by the courts. The judge bases decisions on the child’s best interest.

Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage

A simplified dissolution of marriage is an easier, quicker way to obtain a divorce in Florida. However, the couple must meet specific requirements to dissolve their marriage in this manner.

To qualify for a simplified dissolution of marriage, all of the following must be true:

  • Both spouses have lived in Florida for at least six months before filing the petition for simplified dissolution of marriage;
  • The spouses agree that the relationship is irretrievably broken, and the marriage cannot be saved;
  • The parties do not have any minor children together; 
  • Neither spouse is currently pregnant;
  • The couple agrees on how to divide the property they own together and how to pay joint debts;
  • Neither spouse seeks spousal support (alimony);
  • Both spouses are willing to give up their rights to a trial and appeal; and
  • The parties agree to go to the clerk of court’s office to sign the petition for simplified dissolution of marriage and appear at a final hearing.

The spouses do not need to go to the clerk of court together to sign the petition. However, they must appear in court together for the final hearing. If they do not meet all the requirements, they must proceed with a regular petition for divorce. 

If you have questions about divorce in Florida, you may want to talk with an Orlando divorce lawyer before filing a divorce without an attorney. The steps you take could be legally binding and significantly impact your future. Make sure you are choosing the best option for you and your children. 

Contact the Orlando Family and Divorce Law Firm of Conti Moore Law, PLLC for Help Today

For more information, contact our experienced Orlando divorce lawyers at Conti Moore Law, PLLC by calling (407)-831-0203 to schedule a free consultation.

Conti Moore Law, PLLC
815 N Magnolia Ave Suite 100
Orlando, FL 32803
United States

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