Legal Separation: General Info

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Learn about the difference between getting a divorce and a legal separation and why people might choose a one over the other. #3253EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

This type of court case can give you everything a divorce does, except for ending the marriage. You are still legally married.

Yes, if you do not want to end the marriage. You may want to stay married if, for example, your religion keeps you from getting a divorce, but you do want the other relief available. Examples: parenting plan, property and debt division.

The process is like and uses many of the same forms as divorce. You start by filing FL Divorce Form 203, Petition for Legal Separation. You can get this form from the court forms list at, or you can use one of our Do-It-Yourself packets:


You must file and have delivered to your spouse (serve your spouse with) a new petition for divorce.

You can change (convert) a legal separation decree to a divorce order. Once six months have passed after entry of the legal separation decree, either spouse can file a request (a motion) to change it. The court must grant the motion. The rest of your legal separation orders, such as any parenting plan and child support order, will still be good (stay in effect).

*Our Legal Separations: What if I Want a Divorce or to Get Back Together packet has forms and instructions.

Probably not. If you file for legal separation, but your spouse counter-petitions for divorce, the court will probably grant the divorce. To get a divorce, one spouse only needs to show you have irreconcilable differences. This means there is no hope of you getting back together.

You can file for divorce and file a motion for Temporary Family Law Orders. Our Ask for Temporary Family Law Orders: Divorce Cases | Printable Packet has forms and instructions.


Sort of. You can file a Petition to Invalidate Marriage, FL Divorce Form 205, available at If the court finds reasons to do so, it will grant you a Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage.  This declares the marriage could not legally exist (was void) from the day it started. Only a very few cases will fit this definition. Read the next section to learn more.

Yes, if you can prove at least one of these:

  • One or both of you were under age 17 when you got married.

  • You were both under age 18 when you married. You did not have parental or court approval.

  • One or both of you were already married to someone else when the marriage took place.

  • You are too closely related by blood.

  • One of you could not consent to the marriage, because of mental incapacity or alcohol or drugs.

  • One of you used force, threats, or fraud to make the other marry you.

  • You have not chosen to keep living together as spouses after turning 18, getting the ability to consent, or after the force or threat stopped or discovery of the fraud. 

It depends. In the case of marriage by fraud or duress, only the spouse who was the victim of force or fraud can ask the court for this. Talk to a lawyer if you want to file this kind of case, or if you have been served with such a petition.

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Last Review and Update: Jul 21, 2022
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