While other states have a formal legal process for separation, Florida does not have such a procedure for an interim status. Instead, a Florida couple is married until they are divorced. Given that, it’s important to take some steps to protect yourself financially, as soon as possible.
Get It in Writing
No matter how congenial your separation has been, document every agreement between you and your spouse. You don’t have to require everything in formal writing. (Although if you prefer that, that’s fine.) But if you do agree to something during a casual conversation, follow it up with an email, confirming the specifics of your agreement. This will help ensure that you both understand the commitment that you’ve made, even if it is not enforceable as a contract.
Create a New Budget
Even if you’re staying in the same house, separation will impact your finances. Come up with an honest assessment of your income and your expenses, both in the immediate and longer-term. Also, keep in mind that a separation may result in new expenses that you haven’t previously had to pay (e.g., health insurance, changes in childcare, sole responsibility for utilities).
Make an Inventory
When people think of the division of marital property, they think about things that they own. But marital property also includes any debts that you may have accumulated during the marriage: You share those just as much as you share your home or car.
So as soon as possible, start a detailed accounting of your finances. Create a list of accounts that are only in your name, joint with your spouse and joint with someone else. Don’t forget the kids’ savings accounts, college accounts, 401Ks and your Zelle or Venmo accounts.
Also, list your liabilities (mortgages, credit cards).
Include both the location of the assets/liabilities, the dates of acquisition of the property, the current valuation, and other relevant information.
A separation does more than change your relationship. It impacts your finances—and, depending on what happens, it could do so for years to come. Start getting prepared by putting the information you need in an organized fashion.