Many people considering divorce decide to start with a legal separation. In some states, separation is required before being granted a divorce, but California does not have this requirement. Instead, legal separation is an alternative to divorce, and the process to initiate either is similar.

Before you make a decision regarding divorce or separation, it’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of a legal separation. If you are looking for individualized guidance or advice, contact the divorce attorneys from Sarieh Family Law.

What is Legal Separation in California?

Legal separation is very similar to divorce except that it is not considered a complete dissolution of the marriage. It involves court-ordered agreements and the physical separation of spouses, much like divorce.

Both spouses must agree to the separation in California, otherwise divorce may be the only other option. When separated, the spouses’ marriage is still intact, but there are stipulations and allowances that would not exist otherwise.

Legally separated spouses are still married, but their property and debt are divided by the court. Additionally, the court will enter orders regarding financial support, custody, and visitation.

Advantages of Legal Separation in California

Legal separation has some similarities to divorce, namely that it allows spouses to live apart from one another and lead separate lives. For spouses with children, separation also requires that they resolve issues surrounding custody and visitation. However, divorce and separation are not exactly the same. People who choose separation often do so because they consider the following to be advantages:

  • Both spouses can lead separate lives, including dating other people.

  • There’s no waiting period for legal separation like there is for divorce.

  • Separation allows adherence to religious views or personal beliefs that may disapprove of divorce.

  • Separation allows a more favorable waiting period to meet California’s residency requirements for spouses who have just moved to the state.

  • You and your spouse can enjoy some benefits of marriage, like health insurance and military benefits, while still living apart.

  • Legal separation is not permanent and can be reversed if spouses have a change of heart. Some spouses choose to attend marriage counseling during this time in order to make a decision about reconciliation and divorce.

  • Once separated, property and income acquired is considered separate property rather than community property, so it will likely not be subject to property division upon divorce.

  • Moving forward with a divorce is usually simpler if spouses are already legally separated.

  • Legal separation is generally simpler and less expensive than divorce.

Disadvantages of Legal Separation in California

There are some elements of legal separation that people may consider to be negative, so weighing the pros and cons is important before making a decision. For example, the following factors could be disadvantages to a legal separation in California:

  • Spouses cannot remarry while separated.

  • If either spouse dies while legally separated, the other spouse could be entitled to receive part of their retirement or their estate.

  • Joint financial property like bank accounts and credit cards could still impact both spouses, causing one spouse to be responsible for the other’s debts.

Legal Guidance for Separation in California

Ultimately, the decision to go forward with a legal separation or a divorce is personal and should be discussed with your spouse. There are many factors to consider, including the impact on your children, your finances, and your options in the future.

Legal separation is not a simple process; it is a complex legal procedure. In fact, the same court forms are required for a separation as for a divorce. This is why having guidance from an attorney is a good idea. Not only can a family law attorney help you complete the forms and file with the court, but they can also negotiate the terms of the agreement with the other party and ensure your rights are protected during your separation.

Contact Sarieh Family Law to schedule a free case evaluation with a Certified family law attorney.