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When to Separate and When to Divorce

The decision to end a marriage is among the most difficult decisions couples may ever have to make. Because it is not something to be taken lightly, many consider the option of separating before deciding if they want to formally divorce. For some, separation is considered an in-between step leading to an inevitable divorce. For others, it can offer much-needed time and space to reevaluate their needs and relationship.

Understanding Separation vs. Divorce

The main difference between separation and divorce boils down to the legal status of the marriage. When separated, couples retain their married status along with the rights and benefits that come with being married. Divorced couples have legally ended their marriage and return to an unmarried status.

Some states allow for legal separations; however, Florida is not one of them. Legal separations retain a couple’s married status yet includes a court order that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each party while living apart. In Florida, the only time the courts get involved in a marriage separation is when couples seek divorce.

What to Consider Before Separating or Divorcing

The choice to separate or divorce is deeply personal and fraught with emotion. If you find yourself in this situation, here are some questions to ask yourself as you evaluate the next step in your relationship:

1. Do you fully understand the reason you want out of your relationship? If you find yourself making an emotionally reactive decision or threats with no substance, separation may give you the time you need to process what you truly do and don’t want in a relationship.

2. Is the desire to separate one-sided or two-sided? If divorce is the mutually agreed upon decision, separation may not be needed; however, if one person wants to work on things, a separation may be a helpful step to allow both people to get on the same page about what’s next. If that happens to be divorce, then being on amicable terms heading into the process often helps it go more smoothly in court.

3. How will the separation affect your kids? Your kids are always watching and listening. Be real with them with whatever you decide, but be wary of the message a separation could send to them if you’re not clear with them from the start – it could give them a false sense of hope that their parents may reunite.

4. What practical implications do you need to consider – financial, health, family, military, religious, etc.? Aside from the emotional concerns, a host of practical implications await for couples intending to separate or divorce. If you rely on your spouse for health insurance, financial support, or have other shared assets, you’ll want to consider and prepare for what future scenarios may hold.

When your marriage is at a crossroads, we here at the Vasquez de Lara Law Group are ready to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation or ask your questions.

Author Bio

Vanessa Vasquez de Lara is the founder and owner of Vasquez de Lara Law Group, a Miami family law firm. With over 20 years of experience in family law, she has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including divorces, child support, child custody, alimony, and other family law cases.

Vanessa received her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law in 2002 and is a member of the Florida Bar Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named to the 2015 Super Lawyers Rising Stars and the 2016-2023 Super Lawyers list.

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