How Does Legal Separation Work in California?

Even though they share some similarities, legal separation and divorce are not the same thing. They both involve the couple living apart from one another with a specific legal agreement in place but legal separation does not completely dissolve the marriage like a divorce does.

In this article, we will detail how legal separation works in California, and when it might be the right choice for you.

What is Legal Separation?

Legal separation requires court-appointed agreements to be put in place, just like a divorce. The couple and their lawyers must reach agreeable negotiations that will be filed with the court. In a legal separation, the marriage is still intact, but with stipulations.

A legal separation agreement will take on all of the issues that are covered during a divorce proceeding. 

Both spouses need to agree to a legal separation in the State of California in order for it to take effect. If your spouse does not agree, you may have to file for divorce.

Pros of Legal Separation

Deciding to go down the path of legal separation is a personal decision that only you and your spouse can make, and you should put considerable thought into the decision.

If you are considering a legal separation, you should always seek the guidance of a skilled attorney who specializes in divorce and legal separation

For many people, legal separation is the first step to a final divorce. Reasons such as tax benefits and religious convictions can inspire a couple to become legally separated before deciding to completely dissolve their marriage.

Many times, a couple will determine that they may not be able to remain under the same roof, but they have a good reason not to divorce either.

Here are some reasons why you should consider legal separation:

  • You and your spouse will continue to receive health insurance from the subscriber’s plan. 
  • You and your spouse will still continue to benefit from federal tax breaks for married couples.
  • There is still a possibility of reconciliation. With a legal separation, you and your spouse can still decide to keep your marriage intact after some time apart. Many couples go to marriage counseling during a legal separation.
  • You or your spouse may not believe in divorce due to religious convictions.
  • You might be financially unstable and staying legally married will help with living costs. 
  • If you or your spouse are eligible for the other’s social security benefits. This sum of money increases after ten years of marriage.
  • You aren’t ready to negotiate a full-blown divorce agreement. Legal separation will protect your rights and financial interests while you decide if divorce is the right decision. 
  • If you plan to stay separated on a long-term basis, a legal separation agreement will keep your interests legally protected.
  • Legal separation covers all the issues covered in a divorce. This includes child support, custody, asset and property division, marital debts, and spousal support.

California Residency Requirements and Exceptions

Certain residency requirements must be met to get a divorce in California. At least one spouse has to be a California resident for at least six months and a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least three months. If both spouses have lived in California for at least six months but have lived in different counties for at least three months, then either spouse can file in their respective county. 

Couples who originally registered their domestic partnership in California do not need to fulfill any residency requirements to get a divorce. They can get a divorce regardless of where the partners are living. However, if their domestic partnership is registered in a state other than California, they will need to meet the same residency requirements as married couples. 

If neither spouse/domestic partner can meet the residency requirements, one of them can file for a legal separation and then file for a divorce after the residency requirements are met.

California Grounds for Legal Separation

California courts do not require either spouse to show fault in order to get a legal separation or divorce. It is a “no-fault” state, where one spouse just needs to allege that the couple has “irreconcilable differences” and that the marriage is no longer sustainable. “Irreconcilable differences” means that there are substantial reasons for the marriage to be dissolved.

To obtain a legal separation on this ground, both parties must agree. This requirement gives the responding party the ability to prevent the legal separation. 

Contact Azemika & Azemika Law for More Information on Legal Separation

Deciding to proceed with legal separation or divorce can be stressful. It is important to have a knowledgeable, experienced attorney at your side. At Azemika & Azemika, we are here to support and guide you through this difficult time. We are well-versed in the areas of legal separation and divorce, and we will fight for you and your family.

Contact us today to learn how we can protect you and your rights during the separation and divorce process.

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