In last weeks blog, we talked about the common mistake of claiming “head of household” on your taxes. The same mistake is made with legal separation. Legal separation is not a state of mind. It is not a decision one makes in their head and it is not automatic just because you both agree and have filed a motion for a dissolution of marriage. It is a specific designation requiring the filing of specific paper work for specific reasons. It is not something that automatically happens in the process of your dissolution of marriage. What’s more, it does not exist in the state of Florida!
If you are in a state that has statutes for legal separation, it is a designation you would file for instead of dissolution of marriage, not in combination with a dissolution of marriage. Some may file for a legal separation because they do not meet the residency requirements for a dissolution of marriage in that state or because they do not believe in “divorce”. Legal separation means, while you are not technically “divorced”, you and your partner have agreed to dissolve the legal and binding agreements your marriage represented such as the combination of assets and debts. You are saying, “We are not divorced, but we are not legally liable for each other’s income and expenses as we would be in the marriage partnership.” So, while you are still married, you no longer wish to participate in the legal business partnership that is marriage in some or all respects.
Legal separation, if there are statutes in your state that provide for such, must be specifically filed for and then approved by the courts in order for you to be “legally separated.” Until your claim has been approved, you are not legally separated, regardless of the dynamics of your relationship, how you may have separated households and incomes, etc. As an example, according to the Ohio Bar legal separation “…is a civil lawsuit that does not legally end a marriage, but allows the court to issue orders concerning property division, spousal support, allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, child support and parent time allocation for any minor children. The parties remain married, but live separately. When a court grants a legal separation, each party must follow the court’s specific orders.” 
Tampa divorce attorneys can tell you there is no legal separation in Florida. There are no statutes for it. You are either married or your are not married. In the state of Florida there are no in betweens. And you are married until a court grants your request for a dissolution of marriage, not when you think the marriage is over, or one or the other of you has moved out of the house. You are married until the courts say “Granted” to your dissolution of marriage claim.
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.