What does “legal separation” mean?
When it comes to couples separating, most people think that divorce is the only option. However, there can be benefits to remaining married while going through most of the motions of a divorce. In some cases, a legal separation may be the better route for your situation. Maybe you are not sure divorce is the final result. Perhaps you want to retain some of the benefits of marriage. A legal separation is often a step that many people make before they officially divorce.
Legal separations divide the rights and responsibilities of both spouses, and the issues that need to be finalized mirror those of a divorce:
- Property division
- Child support
- Child custody
It is not unreasonable for a couple to want to remain married on paper for a variety of reasons:
- Married couples tend to have more tax and healthcare benefits, particularly if they have shared benefits.
- Many couples may consider the idea of future reconciliation.
- Religious practice may prevent an official divorce from occurring.
When a legal separation is granted in California, both spouses are free to live their own separate lives however they like, as long as they stick to the separation agreements.
Some important points to know about legal separation include:
- No new marriage allowed: If a marriage has not been dissolved through a divorce in California, then neither spouse will be allowed to remarry or enter into a domestic partnership of any kind.
- Children: If there are children under the age of 18 involved between a legally separated couple, then family law matters related to child custody, visitation, and child support can be decided as part of the separation process.
- Residency: Couples who do not meet the residency requirements for a divorce may choose to initiate a legal separation because there are no residency requirements for this process. For a divorce, California law requires that at least one person in the marriage have been a resident in the County where they file for legal separation for a minimum of three months and a resident of California for a minimum of six months.
- Property division: Spouses can reach agreements about how property will be handled during a legal separation, but if the spouses cannot reach an agreement, the court may step in.
- Options: A legal separation in California does not end a marriage, though a legal separation can be made into a divorce petition. Because the separation is not a legal action that carries the finality of a divorce, many spouses choose this option when they are unsure about whether or not they want to completely sever the marriage. Additionally, legal separation could allow one spouse to maintain legal status for immigration purposes. Legal separation will also allow one spouse to maintain their health care coverage if they are dependent on the other spouse.
- Immediate impact: A legal separation in California will go into effect immediately after it has been ordered by the court. This is not the same as a divorce. In this state, the earliest that a divorce can go into effect is six months after the date of filing.
Are legal separations quicker than divorces in California?
There are no specific time frames for a legal separation. The date of separation occurs when a couple is no longer acting as spouses, but a final judgment on legal separation could take longer than that. When there are no contested issues in the legal separation, the process works faster than if there are disagreements.
Legal separation and mediation
At the Law Offices of Ronald K. Stitch, our certified family law specialists also provide mediation services for couples. Mediation can offer a chance for an unbiased third party to help a couple of sorts through the issues that go into a legal separation. Mediation is often more cost-effective and less contentious and is particularly effective for couples who are amicable.
An attorney can help with a transition into a divorce
Over time, the two parties who have been legally separated may decide that they do wish to transition into a divorce. Hopefully, after a period of separation, both sides will have a thorough understanding of the benefits and consequences of going through with the divorce. At the Law Offices of Ronald K. Stitch, our Westlake Village legal separation attorneys will be able to help you transition your separation into a finalized divorce. Our divorce lawyers will be able to analyze the aspects of your legal separation, get input from all parties involved, make any necessary changes, and hopefully transition seamlessly to a finalized divorce.
It is time to get help for your legal separation
If you and your spouse are considering divorce or separation, you will want to explore all of the options available. At the Law Offices of Ronald K. Stitch, we are ready to help you explore and get through the legal separation process as an alternative to divorce. Our certified family law specialist will sit with you and answer any questions you have. This is a difficult time for you, so let our compassionate Westlake Village legal separation attorneys help. You can contact us for a free consultation by clicking here or by calling 818-237-4574.