Legal separation and divorce are distinct legal proceedings with different legal outcomes in California. While both legal processes are similar in many ways, the end results are not the same. When divorce proceedings are finalized, your marriage is dissolved, and you and your spouse are no longer legally married.
When you go through the legal separation process, many legal issues, such as property division and custody matters, are resolved. However, you and your spouse are still legally married after your separation has been finalized in a California court. This means that you may be able to maintain certain benefits because you are still married, but you may not marry someone else unless you get a divorce.
California family law attorneys know the key differences between legal separation and divorce. Depending on your family circumstances and your relationship with your spouse, one option may be better for you than the other. A family law attorney can help you understand the different impacts a divorce or separation can have on you and your family.
Separation And Divorce Differences
There are several key differences between legal separation and divorce that will help you decide which legal path is right for you to pursue. See below for the main differences between separation and divorce in California.
- Marital Status – Unlike divorce, if you and your spouse choose legal separation, you will still be married when the legal proceedings conclude. Some couples decide to separate but stay married for religious reasons, to keep the marriage intact for their children, because they think they may eventually reconcile, and other personal reasons. If you decide to divorce after a separation, you have to go through the legal process to dissolve your marriage.
- The waiting period – California law requires a six-month waiting period before a divorce is finalized, but there is no waiting period requirement for legal separation. Depending on your particular circumstances, you may be able to secure a separation order faster than a dissolution of marriage order from the court.
- Agreement between parties – Either party may file for divorce and obtain an order for dissolution of marriage whether or not the other party agrees to the divorce. In a separation, however, both parties must agree to the separation for a court to issue an order.
- Insurance coverage, social security, tax filing, and pension benefits – When a marriage is dissolved, one party may lose benefits maintained during the marriage, such as being covered by the other party’s health insurance. Spouses sometimes opt for separation instead of divorce because they can keep benefits that they would otherwise lose upon divorce. Couples who separate but remain legally married may be able to keep social security, insurance, and pension benefits as well as the ability to file joint taxes.
- Residency requirements – In California, you must meet residency requirements to file for a divorce. Those residency requirements involve living in California for a minimum of six months and residing in the county where you filed the divorce petition for at least three months. There are no residency requirements to file for legal separation.
How Divorce And Separation Are Similar
Separation and divorce are similar in several ways. The legal procedures for separation and divorce require similar court filings to request an order for separation or divorce. Couples are not legally separated or divorced until a court order has been issued. Other enforceable court orders may be issued regarding property division, spousal support, child support, and child custody in both proceedings.
Although you may secure a divorce or separation without an attorney, in most cases, it is wise to at least consult with an attorney before deciding to handle the legal proceedings on your own. Family law proceedings and court orders can have a significant impact on your rights and well-being.
A family law attorney can go over your legal options and discuss the potential benefits and consequences of pursuing a separation or divorce. An attorney can also help protect your finances regarding debt and asset division, spousal support, property titles, and child support terms.
California Separation And Divorce Attorney
If you have questions about divorce and separation in California, family law attorney Bruce A. Mandel can help. Contact our office at 424-250-9130 or complete our online form, and we will get in touch with you. We will meet with you to discuss your case and go over your questions and concerns.
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