Understanding Legal Separation in California

Serving Clients Throughout Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Napa Counties

If you are having difficulties in your marriage, you have likely started researching what options you have available to you. It is a good idea to understand your situation as well as possible so that you can make the right choices for yourself and your family. For many couples who believe that their marriage may be ending, a legal separation is a smart first step.

This process will provide everyone the legal protections they need while deciding on how to move forward. In some cases, getting a legal separation even allows the couple to get the space they need to reflect on their relationship and eventually reconcile, so do not give up hope! Unfortunately, many people do not really understand what a legal separation is, and what qualifies for one in California. This blog post will give you a good understanding of this important topic.

Legal Separation vs Living Separately

One of the most common misunderstandings about a legal separation is that it does not always have anything to do with the date that spouses stop living together. You could live in separate homes for years without ever being legally separated. Technically speaking, you could remain living in the same house even after becoming legally separated.

A legal separation is only when a married couple petitions the courts to state that they are legally separated. As part of this, the courts will typically help to divide up assets and debts, determine child custody, and more.

For many people, a legal separation allows the couple to get these things settled legally while waiting for their six month ‘cool down’ period to be completed before they can divorce. For others, it simply helps to formalize things while they try to work on their marriage separately. Every marriage is unique, and for many, a legal separation is an important legal tool.

Legal Separation vs Date of Separation

If you do eventually get a divorce, the courts will need to list the date of separation as part of the process. The date of separation is used for things like determining the value of assets, deciding which assets need to be divided, and establishing when child support or alimony should begin.

The date of separation used in a divorce is not the same as a legal separation. While a legal separation will be given on a specific date that the courts decide, the date of separation is defined as, “the date that a complete and final break in the marital relationship occurred.” This will often be the date that one of the spouses asked for a divorce, though other times can be used.

Legal Separation vs Divorce

There are several important differences between a legal separation and a divorce, not the least of which is that a divorce is the final ending of the legal marital relationship. Another important difference is that with a legal separation, the couple may be able to still be covered by one insurance policy and file taxes as married, both of which will have a variety of benefits to many people.

You should also be aware that a legal separation requires that both parties agree to the separation (or one party does not respond to the courts after the other asks for a legal separation). A divorce, on the other hand, can move forward even if only one party wants it.

Always Talk to Your Attorney

Legal separations are important, but often complex, legal matters that you should not try to handle on your own. If you are thinking about getting a legal separation or a divorce, contact Carroll Law Office to schedule a consultation. We will be happy to discuss your situation and help you to decide what the best path forward is for you and your family.

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