California offers couples who are unsure of or unable to end their marital union an alternative to divorce. If you and your spouse need to remain married but want to live separately and maintain individual households, a legal separation may be the right option for you.
What is Legal Separation?
Legal separation mirrors the divorce process. However, there is no legal termination of the marriage.
One spouse files a formal petition, and the other is expected to file a response. There is a period of time in which the spouses may negotiate the terms of their separation, or a trial may be set for the court to rule on such matters as:
- Asset and debt division
- Spousal support
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
The spouses may also participate in mediation. Any legal separation agreement or ruling signed by the court is binding and enforceable. If a spouse chooses, they may file an amended petition and change the proceeding to a divorce.
Why Choose Legal Separation Over Divorce?
There are several reasons that a couple may choose to legally separate rather than divorce in California.
These include the following:
- To bypass residency requirements. California requires six months of residency before filing for divorce. This is not necessary to file for legal separation
- To avoid the six-month waiting period for a court-ordered divorce. California will not grant a divorce until six months after the date of filing. A legal separation allows enforceable orders to be in place prior to
- the six-month mark
- To allow for reconciliation. Spouses remain married and unable to remarry others after legal separation. A legal separation can be dismissed or vacated easily, and couples can resume their marriage
- To maintain medical insurance or inheritance rights for a spouse or children
- To make major medical decisions on behalf of the other spouse should they become incapacitated
- To stop the accrual of marital property. Once legally separated, spouses are no longer entitled to any marital portion of property accumulated by the other
How is Legal Separation Different from Divorce?
Legal separation may achieve many of the same goals of divorce. However, it has a very different legal effect on a marriage.
Legal separation does not terminate the marriage contract. Therefore, legally separated spouses are not able to remarry. They are still bound to one another and have contractual rights and responsibilities to each other as spouses.
Divorce terminates the marital contract. The only remaining obligations the spouses have to one another are outlined in the divorce decree.
An Experienced California Attorney Can Help
To discuss whether legal separation or divorce is proper for you, reach out to an experienced Los Angeles divorce attorney at Fernandez & Karney. We will listen carefully to you and work diligently to meet your legal goals and expectations.
Schedule a confidential consultation with Fernandez & Karney now. We will walk you through both the legal separation and divorce processes, so you are well-informed when taking the next best step in protecting your future.