When a marriage goes through a crisis, the couple may not be ready to take the decisive step of divorce but may choose to pursue a legal separation. After further introspection, they may decide to seek a divorce.

In practice, legal separation and divorce are similar. However, under California’s legal system, they are different processes with different requirements. Luckily, a couple in the middle of their legal separation or with a finalized legal separation can convert it into a divorce. But because of how complex this conversion can be, you will need the help of an Orange County family law attorney.

What is Legal Separation?

Legal separation does not mean the dissolution of marriage. It’s only a divorce that can ultimately dissolve a marriage in California. This option is often considered among couples who may be going through a difficult phase in their marriage, and want something to hold onto without necessarily pulling the plug.

A couple that isn’t ready to move forward with a divorce can consider this a good alternative because it allows the division of assets and child custody without making these decisions too quickly. A legal separation attorney in Santa Ana can help inform you what you need to know to start the process of getting an Orange County legal separation.

Legal Separation Vs. Divorce

It’s good to reiterate that legal separation is not divorce, but they are similar. Couples who get a legal separation order are still married, but some issues like child custody, property division, and financial support must be settled. If the couple cannot agree on these issues, they will have to be decided by a family law judge with the representation of Orange County legal separation lawyers. But in a divorce, you’ll actually be ending the marriage on all official legal records.

Once a divorce is finalized, one is allowed to marry someone else. However, you cannot marry someone else if you’re separated because you’re technically still married. You must go through the divorce process if you wish to remarry. Speak to a divorce attorney in Orange county if your goals are to dissolve your marriage and marry someone else.

What Issues Does Legal Separation Address?

Legal separation involves a lot of things that couples may not initially expect. But, this can be beneficial to the couple because it acts as a preliminary step toward divorce. During this time, the couple is separated, they get the time to reflect on their marriage and their changing lifestyles.

These legally separated couples may ultimately decide that their marital problems aren’t enough reason to end the marriage. But if they choose to dissolve their marriage, the legal separation speeds up the process significantly.

Depending on your family needs and circumstances, your marriage may have to settle some issues in a California legal separation. These issues include:

Property Division

California is a community property law state, meaning marital property and debts will be split equally in a divorce. Things like property preowned before marriage, personal gifts, and inheritances may be excluded from marital property. You can do this through mediation or a collaborative divorce negotiation, but you can also have a judge do this for you.

Child Custody

Some legally separated parents actually do remain in the same household to maintain normalcy for the kids. But because this may not be possible for others, a child custody order may be required based on each parent’s spent time with the child, each parent’s income, childcare, health care costs, education needs, number of kids, etc. Your Orange County legal separation attorney can inform you what else is to expect during child custody negotiations.

Spousal Support

If one party depends on the other for financial support, spousal support may be included in a legal separation process. This support is paid to maintain the living standard of the other spouse.

Child Support

Child support will be ordered to ensure the child’s health, safety, education, and general well-being. It will depend on factors such as the number of kids, each parent’s income, education expenses, childcare costs, etc.

Basically, a couple must resolve most if not all of the present issues in a typical divorce. But you will have the opportunity to rescind your decision to separate if you reconcile and resume your marriage. Take your time, and learn the differences, benefits and disadvantages of a legal separation vs. divorce before making any hasty decisions. A family law attorney in orange county can help you make an informed choice.

Why Do People Choose Legal Separation Instead of Divorce?

People choose to seek legal separation for various reasons. But some may choose it because their religion bars them from divorcing. They may also decide to separate if they wish to spend time independently for some duration while leaving the door open for reconciliation in the future. Some parents may stay married for the benefit of the kids. Others may do it to maintain healthcare benefits or save on tax liabilities.

How Do I Convert a Legal Separation Proceeding into A Divorce Proceeding in California?

You can change a legal separation petition to a divorce petition while in the kids of the separation proceedings. This won’t need both parties to agree to it. However, you will need to know where you are in the process to understand what you’re supposed to do. Your Orange County legal separation lawyer can guide you on these steps.

How Do I Convert an Existing Legal Separation into A Divorce in California?

Parties with finalized legal separation orders can choose to dissolve their marriage. Because many of the issues could have been settled, it becomes easier for you. If this legal separation has been in existence for longer, the court will still consider the laid-out divorce provisions.

This means you need to carefully consider the terms of your legal separation, which will determine the course of your divorce proceedings as it may be used as the legal basis for your future divorce.

Family Minded Legal Professionals Helping You Make Informed Decisions?

Whether you are using legal separation as a springboard for a divorce in the future or as a trial period as you weigh your options, it’s essential to have guidance. You need someone to advise you on your options.

Our family law attorneys have what it takes to guide you and ensure a brighter future for your family. We know it is a common scenario for couples to want a divorce in the middle or at the end of an Orange County legal separation. Let us assist you in making informed choices for your family if you live in Newport Beach or Santa Ana.