Many federal documents and programs provide for legal separation. I often times hear the term used inappropriately in regards to a Tampa divorce, and this can have a negative effect on many programs and the benefits you and your spouse are receiving. An incorrect filing of “legally separated” could cause you or your spouse to receive an over payment, resulting in having to refund the amount of the overpayment and incurring fees, fines, and in some cases even prosecution. This Tampa family lawyer can tell you it is vitally important to reference the legal definition of “legally separated”, regardless of how you feel about your pending dissolution of marriage.
In general, I’ve found people needing or using a divorce lawyer in Tampa, Florida react to the words “legally separated” the same way that they react to the words “head of household” on their taxes. They make an emotional decision that says “Well, I make the decisions in this house!” and then file “head of household.” When you enter “head of household” on your taxes, you are not being asked who is the dominant personality in your household. For tax purposes, although I might say in conversation that my wife runs the house in my family, that does not affect a legal designation of “head of household.” “Head of household” refers to the idea that you are unmarried and are legally responsible for at least 51% of the income and 51% of the total cost of running your home. Even if you are a business professional and your wife is a homemaker, you cannot be considered “head of household” because legally, a married couple enters into a binding agreement where all assets and all expenses are shared equally, where each spouse is responsible for exactly 50% for the total income and total debts of your household. (This idea is the basis for alimony payments after a dissolution of marriage for example.) Being married means you are legally in it together, exactly evenly, until you are no longer married, regardless of any other circumstances, who earned it, who spent it, who made a final decision, etc. Even though being married automatically means you can not legally file “head of household”, top divorce attorneys always run into cases where one member of the marriage has claimed “head of household” on their taxes. Regardless of how the social dynamics in your relationship pan out, where the law is concerned if you are married, you are in this together, equally!
If you are considering a divorce, consult with a lawyer who has experience in collaborative divorce, mediation, and traditional adversarial divorce so you can receive insight on which type of divorce may be right for you. Seek out Tampa divorce attorneys with the knowledge you need. Seek out S. David Anton of Anton Legal Group!
David Anton is a third generation Tampa Bay attorney who has handled all aspects of dissolution actions since 1985.