In California, legal separation is a family law process that couples sometimes go through for various reasons. After a legal separation, you and your spouse may be physically and financially independent while remaining married.
If you are considering a separation, it is critical to understand the legal process and how a separation order will impact you and your family. Keep reading to learn more about legal separation and other related family law matters in California.
What Is Legal Separation?
Legal separation is like divorce in that many family decisions must be made before the legal process can be completed. These decisions often include debt and asset division, child custody, child support, alimony, and other unresolved marital matters.
The primary difference between separation and divorce is that you and your spouse are no longer married at the end of the divorce process. As mentioned above, when a court orders your separation, you and your spouse are still married and may not marry anyone else unless and until you divorce.
Why Choose Legal Separation
People choose legal separation for different reasons. See below for some of the most common reasons that people choose to legally separate:
- For religious reasons. Some people are opposed to divorce because it goes against their faith-based principles. They may also decide separation instead of divorce to remain in good standing with their religious institution.
- You do not know if you want a divorce. Divorce is a significant decision, and once it is finalized, it cannot be reversed. You might choose separation if you and your spouse think there is a chance that you might repair your marriage.
- Insurance or other marital benefits. Some insurance policies cover family members, and upon divorce, one spouse may lose health insurance coverage. Couples sometimes choose to separate instead of divorce to retain these benefits. However, your insurance company might prohibit coverage after a legal separation, so it is necessary to review the policy before deciding to separate instead of divorce for insurance reasons.
- For your children’s benefit. Some parents find that it is in their children’s best interest to remain married while living apart. Sometimes children find comfort and stability when they know that their parents are separated but remain married.
- Because you don’t meet the residency requirements for divorce. In California, you have to live in California for six months before you may file for divorce. Legal separation has no time requirements. Only one spouse is required to currently live in California to secure a legal separation. Sometimes people choose to legally separate while they are waiting to become eligible for a divorce.
The Court Process
Filing for separation in California is similar to the divorce process. One party files a petition for legal separation in a family law court. Couples sometimes choose to work together to reach a separation agreement. Even when the parties do not get along, they can sometimes reach an agreement on separation terms through mediation or another type of alternative dispute resolution.
If you and your spouse can agree to your separation terms, a judge will review your agreement and, if approved, will issue a separation order. If you and your spouse cannot resolve some separation disputes, a family law judge will hear from both parties and make the decisions for you.
How Long It Takes To Legally Separate
As previously described, couples who go through a divorce in California are subject to a six-month waiting period before their divorce may be finalized. Unlike divorce, there is no minimum waiting period to legally separate. When there are minimal disputed separation terms and couples reach an agreement, the process can be completed quickly.
However, when there are disputes about issues, such as child custody and property division, the legal process will take longer. Separation is finalized when the terms have been decided through an agreement between parties or judicial decision, and the court issues an order for legal separation.
Contact A California Legal Separation Attorney
If you are thinking about separation or divorce, contact California legal separation attorney Bruce A. Mandel at 424-250-9130 or submit a contact form to schedule a consultation. It is critical to understand how separation, divorce, and other legal processes might impact you and your family.
Bruce has represented clients in California for more than 30 years, and he can help you understand your separation or divorce rights and responsibilities. Follow The Law Offices of Bruce A. Mandel on Facebook for additional information about California family law.