Differences Between Divorce and Legal Separation in California

Legal Separation Divorce in California
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Many people are not aware that there is an option other than divorce for couples considering ending their relationship without the finality of divorce. This option is legal separation.

What is Legal Separation in California?

In California, you can get a legal separation from your spouse by filing a request in family court. Legally separated is a different legal status from divorced or married. You’re technically no longer married but you’re not divorced either and you can’t remarry again. The court’s order granting the legal separation includes orders about property division, spousal support, and child custody and support. Just as a divorce would without the finality of a divorce.

The date of separation becomes a point of issue that couples argue over during the divorce process. This is because it can significantly affect the division of property and money. It’s important to note that moving out of the family residence without an expectation of return will likely determine your legal date of separation.

What Happens to the Assets and Debts of a Marriage After a Legal Separation?

Legal separation impacts the classification of a couples’ assets and debts. Prior to a legal separation, all assets and debts in a marriage are considered community property. However, once there is a legal separation, all of the assets and debts after the legal separation are considered separate property. This is important because the assets and debts incurred after separation are generally not subject to equitable division as would be property that is identified as community property.

Benefits of Legal Separation in California

Some people choose legal separation instead of divorce because of religious beliefs. Maybe one spouse wishes to keep the benefits of health insurance that he/she may lose with a divorce. Another reason people get legally separated is to give separation a “trial-run” before actually moving forward with the divorce process. This is a time where couples will typically try to engage in therapy or couples’ counseling to determine if the issues that resulted in separation can be resolved. Significantly, some couples may choose the route of legal separation if they wish to protect themselves from any further accrual of debt if one partner is mismanaging money.

Differences between Divorce and Legal Separation in California

The process of divorce and legal separation are similar. The same judicial council forms are used to file with the court. Individuals dictate what specific day they were legally separated and which assets are designated to each spouse. The main difference is that there is no final divorce judgment which permanently alters the legal relationship of the couple.

SquareFairy helps you prepare your California legal separation papers for FREE. Start your ready-to-file California Legal Separation Forms here.

Candice Saadian Costa

Candice Saadian Costa, who runs Golden Gate Mediation in San Francisco, is a California licensed attorney who has dedicated her legal career to working with families in high-conflict. Serving as both a litigator and mediator, Candice represents both parents and minors in high conflict juvenile dependency matters and mediation services to couples facing divorce. In her family law mediation practice, Candice strives to enforce the idea that the divorce process can be navigated through with dignity and does not have to become a drawn-out, expensive and adversarial process. Candice respects each of her clients’ unique situations and tailors her services accordingly. She is committed to always maintaining impartiality and fairness to each party.