Legal Separation vs. Divorce in California

If you and/or your spouse have decided your marriage must come to an end, you have several options in the state of California. Most couples end their marriages through divorce, but some opt for legal separation instead. While they are similar in many ways, understanding the differences can help you decide which legal option is right for you and your family.

If you and your spouse legally separate, you are still technically married. However, you need a court order to complete this separation, and it may involve issues we associate with divorce, such as separation of assets and child custody. So, while you may have a child support order, a plan for the division of debt, and many other arrangements that the court may have established if you had gotten divorced, your legal status is still “married.”

Therefore, the process generally differs only in terms of result. Whether you divorce or legally separate, you will need to file a petition with the appropriate family law court, and you may need to attend a trial if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement over every issue.

If one of you wants a legal separation, but the other wants a divorce, the court will automatically proceed with a divorce.

Benefits of Legal Separation

Couples choose to legally separate for many reasons. For some people, religion discourages divorce, so legal separation is a way to obtain the space and independence they need without officially ending their marriage.

Additionally, legal separation can expedite a future divorce, as many of the above matters (e.g. alimony, division of assets and debts, etc.) have already been arranged.

Benefits of Divorce

Unlike separation, divorce changes your legal status to “single,” which allows you to remarry. It also provides an official end of your marriage, which many people value, as it allows them to fully move on.

Is Legal Separation the Same as Date of Separation?

The date of separation is often used in court proceedings when determining issues involving asset or debt acquisition, adultery, and more. This is not, however, the same as legal separation.

While legal separation is the process of filing a petition with the court, the date of separation can involve more symbolic events, including:

  • Taking off a wedding ring
  • Moving out
  • Verbally stating that the marriage is over
  • Separation of finances

The date of separation will be important for your case whether you are filing for divorce or legal separation, so be sure to document certain events as they occur.

We Are Your Dedicated Advocates

At US Legal Group, APC, we want to help you understand your rights and options. Family law is one of the most personal and emotional areas of the legal system, and we are here to provide both guidance and compassion. With years of experience and a personal commitment to your wellbeing, we are the team you need during this challenging time.

We provide free initial consultations for new clients. Give us a call at (714) 266-3277 or fill out our online contact form to request yours today.

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