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Some states may have a process through which you can obtain a legal separation. But strictly speaking Florida does not. However, if the parties enter into a written marital settlement agreement it may serve the same purpose as a legal separation.

A marital settlement agreement is a legally binding document just like a contract which can be enforced in Court. It should thus be drawn up by a competent Florida divorce attorney. It defines everyone's rights and responsibilities during separation on the issues involved in the party's marriage. Those issues typically involve division of property and assignment of responsibility for debt, and whether or not there's going to be alimony for example.

Also, child-related issues can be addressed in a settlement agreement or parenting plan. But it should be noted that the court always has the final say about child-related issues such as time-sharing, formerly known as "visitation", and child support. ("visitation" and "custody" are no longer terms that are used in Florida. The issue is how much time each parent gets to spend with a child. That is called "time sharing" ) The court, with regard to child related issues, is always going to determine whether the parties' agreement on these matters is in the best interest of the children.

If the parties enter into a marital settlement agreement they may indicate that it contains the complete and exclusive terms of their divorce, if in fact the parties decide to get divorced. There will then be nothing left for the judge to decide, except perhaps to make sure that the child related agreements are in the best interest of the children. The parties will then have a Florida uncontested divorce. (The parties may however just want a written agreement on rights and responsibilities during a trial separation, and aren't necessarily interested in divorce)

But the parties can also indicate in the settlement agreement that if they get divorced, that the settlement agreement will be void and that they will renegotiate if possible the terms of their divorce. And of course if they cannot reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce the judge will decide the case.

It is extremely important to note that each party should make full financial disclosure to the other party via a written sworn /notarized financial affidavit prior to the other party signing the settlement agreement. If there isn't such disclosure, there could be problems in the future regarding enforcement of the settlement agreement.

It is also a good idea for the parties to check with their health care plan if they have spousal coverage, to make sure that that spousal coverage remains in effect if there is a written marital settlement agreement. Note that a party cannot force another party to file for divorce, or refrain from filing for divorce. A party can file for a divorce or refuse to do so as they may choose.

A settlement agreement can be declared void by the parties at any time. And if that is their desire it is best to do that in writing. Also it's best to indicate whether or not the agreement will be void if the parties reconcile.


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