In California, couples contemplating divorce have other options available to them. Legal separation, similar to divorce, requires a separation agreement outlining the details of important issues impacting a separation, like custody and support. While a separation order follows a similar process as a divorce, they have different goals. For example, at the end of the separation process, you are still married. So, it’s important to realize that a separation may only be a temporary solution to a long-term problem.
What is a Legal Separation?
In California, a legal separation is a binding court order giving couples a legal alternative to a divorce. Legal separation, unlike a separation agreement, is a formal end to a marriage that is one step away from the dissolution of the marriage contract.
Because a legal separation is a court order, many of the formalities of a divorce decree are required:
• Petition for legal separation from your spouse
• Complete a custody agreement, negotiate child support, and finalize agreements regarding the division of marital property
• According to Cal. Fam. Code § 2010, you will need to file all your documents and request a legal separation, and choose grounds for your request
If you are interested in a legal separation as a first step towards divorce, it’s important to realize that you need the cooperation of your current spouse. If they don’t agree to a legal separation, a divorce may be your only option. With a legal separation, couples will need to negotiate the same terms they would need if they were divorcing. It may seem like getting a legal separation wouldn’t make much sense, but there are several reasons a couple may choose a legal separation over a divorce:
• Their religion doesn’t allow divorce
• Staying married for the children
• Healthcare issues
• Would prefer not to be seen as a divorced person
If a couple knows they want to leave their marriage but they are worried they need more time to decide, a legal separation may be the best choice. If you file for a legal separation, you will need to complete much of the same formal paperwork as if you were divorcing, which will address several important issues, like:
• Who will the children live with?
• How often will each parent spend time with their minor children
• If either spouse will pay alimony or child support during separation
• How the couple will pay for housing/living expenses during separation
• How housing and living expenses are covered during the separation
• How the couple will manage assets during separation
• How assets will be treated during the separation
• How assets and property post-separation will be treated
Elk Grove Legal Separation Attorneys
A divorce ends your marriage, and for couples not yet ready for that degree of finality, a legal separation may be a better alternative. A legal separation is as close to a divorce as one can get without ending a marriage. Legal separation is a binding court order and carries more weight than a separation contract. If you aren’t sure what level of termination you need, working with a family law attorney could advise you. At Samara Dhillon & Associates, our attorneys a well-versed in California divorce law and can help you choose the appropriate level of separation for your situation. If you and your spouse are ready to consider legal separation or something less formal, the divorce attorneys at Samra Dhillon & Associates can help you. Call us at (916) 571-1550 to begin exploring your legal options.