Legal Separation in California

Picture1Often, clients inquire about legal separations, as opposed to a dissolution, or divorce.  A legal separation is a relatively rare procedure that is very similar to a dissolution, except that neither party is free to remarry after entry of a Judgment of Legal Separation.

Legal separations are used when a party has not lived in the state or county long enough to file for a dissolution, or when the parties agree to a legal separation instead of a divorce.

Because it is unlawful for either party to remarry after a legal separation, if one or both of the parties wishes to change the legal separation to a divorce, one of the separated parties has to go back and file a Petition for Dissolution.  The procedure is rare enough that a party should obtain legal advice from a knowledgeable family law attorney prior to filing a Petition for Legal Separation.

If you are considering a legal separation in Hemet, Murrieta, San Jacinto, Temecula, Murrieta, or other surrounding cities in California, contact our firm for knowledgeable legal advice regarding your own needs and circumstances.  We can help you understand the differences between legal separation and divorce, which option is better for you, and how the process will move forward.

Legal Separation vs. Divorce

Separating from a spouse is a difficult and emotional decision.  As you grapple with your own thoughts, feelings, and concerns, you’re also having to face the challenges that come from dividing your household, moving out, and explaining your situation to family and friends.  This is all before you even consider the legal complications that come from filing for a legal separation or divorce.

As you consider how you and your spouse want to move forward from here, you may be asking yourself, “Why would we choose legal separation rather than divorce?”  The truth is, there are many reasons why a couple may decide that legal separation is the better option for them. Legal separation may be the best option for you if:

  • You and your spouse are not ready to end your marriage, but you agree that spending considerable time apart would be beneficial.
  • Divorce is not an option for personal or religious reasons.
  • You have not lived in the state long enough (six months) to file for divorce.
  • One of you has a severe medical problem, and you agree that the only ethical way to handle the issue is to separate, but keep both parties on the health insurance.

Whatever the reason for your separation, filing the appropriate legal documents can be just as complicated for a separation as it is for a divorce. It’s important for you to consult an experienced attorney before filing for legal separation, as an attorney will be able to help you complete the filing in the best possible way.

Legal Separation Procedure

Filing for legal separation in California can be a fairly different process from filing for divorce.  To begin, you and your spouse must agree to move forward with legal separation or, at the very least, your spouse must not object to the separation.  If your spouse objects and does not agree to allow the separation to proceed, his or her Response will change the legal separation to a divorce, whether you agree or not!

Because California is a no-fault state when it comes to separation and divorce, you do not have to prove that your spouse did anything wrong or was at fault in any way that contributed to the divorce.  Instead, you may simply state that your relationship suffered from irreconcilable differences, and this statement is enough to proceed with either a legal separation or divorce.

After serving the petition for legal separation to your spouse, you will have to disclose the details of your financial situation to your spouse and to the court.  At this point, it is helpful to have an attorney skilled in family law by your side to help you draw up a legal separation agreement.  If you and your spouse are not able to agree on the division of property, finances, and other items from your marriage, you may have to go to trial.  If you go to trial, the court will decide for you on the settlement of these issues.

Decree of Legal Separation

After going through the procedure, a decree of legal separation states the outcomes.  These could include child support payments, support payments to a spouse, custody and visitation rights, and the division and distribution of property.  In this way, a decree of legal separation is very similar to a divorce decree.  The main difference is that you are still legally married.  This means that neither spouse may remarry and which would also allow you to stay on your spouse’s health insurance policy.

After becoming legally separated, you may file for a conversion to divorce at any time.  You may also file for divorce at any time throughout the separation process.  Because California law requires a six month waiting period after filing, it can actually be faster to complete a legal separation.

California Separation and Divorce Attorney

Filing for legal separation is a stressful and challenging time.  You and your family’s lives are changing significantly, and on top of the emotional pain and confusion, you are also forced to deal with complex legal issues.  Because legal separation is not as common as divorce, you may find yourself dealing with even more obstacles and uncertainty than you wouldn’t otherwise.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to Julie Clark, Attorney at Law for help with your case.  Julie Clark has the experience, understanding, and compassion to guide you through the California legal system and help you obtain the best result possible from your separation.  Whether you’re trying to figure out child custody and visitation, the division of your property and finances, or just hoping to resolve your case in a timely manner, call our office today to set up an appointment.  Though the legal separation process can be confusing, we can help you decide if it is right for you, providing that your spouse is also agreeable.