Judge on the benchThis is the next post in my series on the possibility of a “legal separation” in Melbourne or elsewhere in the state of Florida. I have previously explained that while our state does not recognize the concept of a legal separation, there are steps you can take to protect your financial interests. We discussed one of these steps in our last article on the topic of filing a Petition for Support. In this article we will discuss how separations can impact child custody.

Parents will often enter written agreements as to how custody and visitation will work during a separation. It is important to understand, however, that such agreements are not an order of the court and are generally unenforceable. By this I mean that law enforcement will not view such an agreement as binding and officers will not take steps to enforce these agreements in the event that a parent is failing to abide by its terms. While such an agreement will likely be used as evidence in any subsequent child custody proceeding, it generally will not be considered an enforceable document.

In the event that parents do file for a divorce then the Court will make its custody determination solely on the basis of what is in the child’s best interests. One of the things the Court will look to, when considering a child’s best interests, is the historical arrangement which was employed by the parents. This means, for example, that if parents enter into an agreement that they abide by for several years then the terms of that arrangement may be adopted as the Court’s order in the event that there is a custody dispute. How any such arrangement impacts subsequent custody proceedings will always be fact specific and it is important that you discuss the matter with a lawyer.

Florida law does allow for a parent to Petition the Court for child support even if the parties are still legally married. This means that, if you are separated from your spouse but do not wish to file for divorce, your spouse is obligated to help support your child. If it is shown that your significant other is not assisting with supporting the child or children then the Court may issue an Order stating that child support is to be paid. This Order will be the same as any other involving child support and your potential ex will face jail time if they refuse to follow the Court’s mandate.

If you are considering separating from your spouse then it is vital that you speak with counsel to gain a full understanding of your situation. As a Melbourne family law attorney I am able to assist with such matters. Contact my office today to schedule an initial consultation. We also service clients in the Brevard County cities of Titusville, Cocoa, Palm Bay, Grant, Valkaria, and Rockledge, as well as in the Indian River County areas of Fellsmere, Sebastian, Vero Beach, Indian River Shores, and Orchid.