Legal Separation: What Does it Actually Mean?

May 28, 2010

BlogScissors 300x199 Legal Separation: What Does it Actually Mean?Many people going through a divorce in California say that they are “legally separated.”  While they may have begun the dissolution process, usually they are not “legally separated.”  California has a different process which allows for “legal separation.”  Although the process is nearly identical to pursuing a dissolution, the end result is different.  Filing for a legal separation will lead to a judgment of legal separation, which is a binding court order.

Starting the process for a legal separation requires the same steps as for a divorce – filing a Petition, Summons, and other required documents with the court and paying the filing fee as well as having your spouse served.  All of the same issues must be resolved by the court, including:

•    Child custody
•    Child support
•    Spousal support
•    Division of assets and debts

Seeking legal separation rather than divorce is unusual.  Generally, legal separation is sought by individuals who, for religious or cultural reasons, do not wish to be divorced.  A judgment of legal separation does not change your marital status.  You are still married to your spouse, and neither of you may marry or register in a domestic partnership with another person.  If either of you wish to remarry or register a domestic partnership, you must first obtain a divorce.

One major distinction between legal separation and divorce is that with legal separation there is no waiting period (versus the statutory six month waiting period with divorce.)  Once all of the paperwork has been completed and properly filed with the court, judgment may be entered.

Because filing for legal separation requires the same attention to detail as filing for divorce, I encourage you to seek legal assistance.

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