What You Should Know About Legal Separation in California

Are you or a family member thinking about making the difficult decision of whether or not to get a divorce or a legal separation? Any kind of separation will be a difficult decision, so it’s essential to know the ins and outs of a legal separation before making that choice. 

Many people confuse a physical separation with a legal separation. If you choose to move out of the home you share with your spouse, this is merely a physical separation. However, if you want a legal separation in California, you must take legal steps to have this process done. 

After reading this article, we hope that you will be better equipped to decide whether legal separation or divorce is better for you and your family. 

What Are the Reasons to Get a Legal Separation in California?

You do not need a specific reason to file for a legal separation, just like a divorce. The idea of “no fault” applies to legal separation as it does in a divorce. Legal separations or divorces are granted for two specific reasons:

  1. “Irreconcilable differences” means that the marriage has broken down or one or more of the spouses thinks that the marriage has had irreparable damage. 
  2. “Permanent legal incapacity to make decisions” is a very rare reason to seek a legal separation.

What Are the Requirements for a Legal Separation in California?

Unlike in a divorce, there is no residency requirement for a legal separation, which means that you do not need to be a resident of California for six months, nor of your county of filing for three months. Many people who have recently moved to California who want to end their marriage choose to pursue a legal separation, so they don’t have to wait so many months to move forward with their lives. 

One thing that is important to remember is that for California to have the ability to make custody arrangements, the children must still meet the residency requirements, except in emergencies. Therefore, if you do need custody or visitation arrangements, you may want to explore other options. 

Divorces require a waiting period, but legal separations do not. In other words, if you and your spouse have a complete agreement, you can obtain a Judgement of Legal Separation faster than a Judgement of Dissolution of Marriage.

What Issues Are Included in a Legal Separation?

Every California legal separation includes the same fundamental considerations:

  1. Child Custody: who has the right to make the decisions about the children of the marriage and where the children should live
  2. Child Visitation: the day-to-day schedule for parenting, including holidays and vacations
  3. Child Support: California uses specific “guidelines” to calculate child support based on each parent’s income and how much time the children spend with each parent.
  4. Spousal Support: also known as alimony, the sub-issues include whether or not support is necessary, the amount of support to be given, and the length of the support should all be addressed.
  5. Property Division: property includes everything owned, from retirement accounts to bank accounts and real property, to the furniture, furnishings, and appliances that all need to be divided up between both parties
  6. Debt Allocation: everything owed, credit card debts, personal loans, and tax debts, must be split up.
  7. Attorney Fees: there are two general reasons why one of the spouses would have to pay the other spouse’s attorney fees. One reason would be that one of the spouses has a greater ability to pay than the other spouse does. Another reason is that one person has misbehaved during the proceedings and has to pay a fine. 

One noticeably absent thing is marital status. After a Judgement of Separation, you are still legally married to your spouse. If you choose to divorce after your legal separation, you will have to make a separate case for that specifically. 

How Do I Decide Between a Legal Separation and a Divorce?

There is no right or wrong answer when deciding between a legal separation and a divorce because it is a deeply personal issue. Some people might prefer a legal separation because of religious or moral beliefs.

In contrast, others will choose it because they think it will be emotionally easier on their spouse and children. Then others will want to keep their marriage status intact to stay on the same health insurance or still keep their military spouse privileges.

Find Out if Legal Separation Is the Right Choice for You 

If you are ready to take the step to legal separation in California, we’re here to help you every step of the way.

With over 20 years of legal experience at Valley Divorce Services, our legal document assistants (LDAs) provide self-representing litigants with legal documentation assistance. We can perform the following legal document services for you in connection with a legal matter in which you are representing yourself:

  • We can type or otherwise complete, as you specifically direct, legal documents that you have selected;
  • We can provide you general published factual legal information that has been written or approved by an attorney to help you represent yourself;
  • We can provide you published legal documents;
  • We can file and serve legal forms and documents as you specifically direct;
  • We can work in conjunction with limited-scope representation between lawyers and clients.

Request a free legal consultation today for more information on how we can help you plan for your future.