Can You Ask for Child Support and Alimony without a Divorce?
All intimate relationships are complicated, and can expect to suffer difficult periods that test the bond between the people involved. Married couples are particularly susceptible to this type of trial, which may require a cooling off period, but not necessarily a divorce. Divorce is a big step that not all couples are ready to make, but this fact does not mean some of the repercussions associated with divorce cannot apply. When couples are together and living in the same household, finances are not so much a concern, and a parent/spouse naturally provides support to these loved ones. When strife emerges, and spouses decide they need time apart, or one spouse abruptly decides to leave, but does not initiate divorce, the other spouse may be left under a large financial strain. Typically, divorce resolves whether a spouse will have to pay alimony, or be designated as the parent obligated to pay child support, but when this legal procedure is not triggered, what can a spouse do to make ends meet? An exploration of the options Florida law allows to respond to this situation will follow below.
Obtaining Financial Support
Spouses with sufficient income are expected to support the spouse and any children, regardless of the state of the marriage. Florida law firmly establishes this obligation, and says that a spouse may petition the family court to determine if this financial assistance is necessary, even if a divorce case is not pending. The only guideline provided to judges when deciding this issue is that the financial support should be ordered when “just and proper.” Note that under this statute, the judge looks at the obligation of the requesting spouse, who is usually the recipient of support. Thus, the spouse requesting guidance must be living in Florida and apart from the other spouse and child for this law to operate. Further, judges have broad discretion to grant or deny these requests, and when looking at the financial situation of the requesting spouse, can find that no obligation to pay support exists. Finally, this law does not apply if there is a pending divorce or paternity action, and is strictly limited to situations of separation without divorce.
The other piece of this scenario often involves establishing parenting responsibilities as the spouses continue to decide the future of the relationship. As all parents know, caring for a child does not end when the adult relationship is over or fractured, and establishing clear boundaries and rights about when and where a parent may see the child is an important aspect of weathering the issues in the marriage. In connection with child support orders, courts also have the authority to establish parenting plans, even in the absence of a pending divorce. Parenting plans outline when each parent may exercise parenting time, and which parent will have the authority to make important life decisions for the child. Childcare duties and decision-making are usually shared between the parents, but this is not mandatory, though preferred. Establishing a parenting plan at this juncture clarifies the rights and responsibilities of each spouse, and will help to reduce future conflict over this issue. Further, it prevents a parent from leaving with the child without notice or information provided to the other parent, a scenario that could legally happen without a parenting plan in place.
Consult a Florida Divorce Attorney
Navigating the gray area between marriage and divorce is extremely difficult, and certain boundaries are often needed to address the essential issues of finances and childcare. If you have questions about obligations to pay support or parenting rights and responsibilities, talk to the experienced attorneys at Donna Hung Law Group. We understand the complexities of these issues, and will work to find a fair solution. Contact the Orlando law firm at (407) 999-0099 for a consultation.