It seems many people believe the difference between a legal separation and a divorce in California is that one is temporary and the other is permanent. This is an inaccurate belief. Often, the terms agreed upon for a separation act as the foundation of the divorce. Agreements in a separation are important because they may become permanent.
Until all of the steps of a full divorce are completed, individuals in the marriage are not eligible to enter into a new marriage. The same rules apply for domestic partnerships.
A legal separation does not alter your marital status.
During a legal separation, certain issues are decided for the couple. Among the central issues is the matter of property division. Spouses are given an opportunity to work with a mediator or negotiate with their attorneys over the property they share. Should they not reach an agreement, the matter can be taken to court, where a judge will make the final decision. These cases are like a typical court hearing and involve witnesses, testimonies, and the presentation of evidence.
In court, the couple will determine how to split up mortgage payments, utility bills, medical care, bills, taxes, and any other living expenses the couple may have. The court also decides how assets should be managed during the separation.
This is also the time for the two to negotiate spousal support and what will be required for future support payments.
During a legal separation, the couple will negotiate an agreement on any child-related issues. Typically, the most important part of this is custody and visitation rights. The couple must decide with which parent the child will live and how much time each parent has to be with the kids. These negotiations sometimes also involve child support.
Many couples are hesitant about going through with a separation because a separation is not a divorce, and it does not end the marriage. However, a separation is the best situation for a couple who may still be able to work things out with one another, especially if they are not completely sure if they want to separate permanently.
A separation allows couples to experience a kind of trial period of being split without having to tackle the cost of a divorce. Divorces can be expensive, so a separation gives the couple a chance to experience the perspective of a divorce without the costs or permanency. There are also legal reasons for becoming legally separated rather than going through with a divorce. These reasons include matters such as healthcare, religion, or immigration purposes. A legal separation gives the couple an opportunity to split up and live apart while maintaining their rights as a couple.
Divorces can be a very long process. A separation, on the other hand, is immediate.
Once the separation is ordered, it takes effect. During times of the proceeding, individuals can ask for a protective order. These are granted in situations of violent or threatening actions toward one another or the children.
California law requires at least one of the spouses to have lived in the county where the divorce was filed for a minimum of three months and in the state for a minimum of six months before they can be permitted a divorce. Legal separations do not have these same requirements. Legal separations can be filed until a couple meets divorce residency requirements.
To learn more about your options, contact us for a free phone consultation or call our Temecula office at (951) 749-5863.