Legal Separation: An Alternative to Divorce in California
A common alternative to a divorce is ‘legal separation’. In the event that you are unable to or do not wish to get divorced, you can request the court for a legal separation.
What is a legal separation?
In simple terms, a legal separation will not terminate a domestic partnership or marriage. But you aren’t eligible to enter into any other domestic partnership or remarry in case of a legal separation. For couples that are legally separated in California, it might be possible to file for a divorce sometime later if they meet some specific legal requirements.
There are couples who pick this alternative to divorce in order to put a halt to the relationship, without completely ending the marriage. The reasons for choosing legal separation over divorce could be many. These typically include religious and/or practical reasons. For instance, a couple may opt for legal separation if they agree to use one spouse’s health care plan to maintain the other. But if a couple is getting a legal separation for reasons pertaining to health insurance, it is important to ensure that there is no disqualifying scenario under the legal separation plan.
There are some couples who fail to meet the residency requirements essential for filing for a divorce in California. Both spouses may not like to wait and get the separation process started as quickly as possible. For such couples, legal separation is a good alternative to divorce.
There are certain things that are common between a divorce and a legal separation. For instance, just like a divorce, you could request the courts to take out order related to:
- Partner/spousal support
- Child support and visitation
- Debt payment responsibilities
- Division of property
Legal separation in California
In the state of California, your spouse needs to give consent to a legal separation for it to valid. Alternatively, if your spouse/partner fails to respond to the served divorce petition, then you are entitled to a legal separation.
For majority of the couples, there aren’t any real benefits of a legal separation except for a divorce. This kind of an arrangement is usually appropriate when the relationship is severely deteriorated and the couple has no desire to remain married, yet they cannot get divorced due to some personal reasons. The state of California does have one other benefit for couples seeking a legal separation. It is possible to fasten the divorce proceedings if you first file for a legal separation in the court.
Filing for a divorce or a legal separation will involve almost identical steps. You would need to file for a petition and disclose all details related to your finances, both to the court as well as to your partner. Numerous couples choose to handle their legal separation on their own, but a divorce attorney in the state could help make the planning of divorce an easier process. It also usually ends up saving costs.
When filing for a divorce in a specific county of California, the individual must reside for a minimum of three months in that county. If they fail to meet this requirement, they can choose to get a legal separation first and amend their Petition later when filing for a divorce (after residing in the stated county for 3 months).
Difference between “separation agreement” and “legal separation”
In California, a couple that wishes to separate could enter into something known as the “separation agreement”. This is basically a legally binding agreement that addresses various aspects of the separation such as spousal support, child custody, alimony and property division. But it is different from legal separation in the sense that couples are not required to visit the court for entering into separation agreement.