Chase, Berenstein and Murray, Counselors at Law provides collaborative divorce solutions to clients in San Mateo, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties.

What does legal separation mean in California?

Married couples sometimes face challenges that lead them to consider separation. Legal separation is a process that many couples consider when they are contemplating divorce.

If your marriage has become unhealthy, you might be wondering about legal separation as an alternative to divorce. Exploring the specifics of legal separation in California can help you understand its implications and the process involved.

What is legal separation?

Legal separation, unlike divorce, does not dissolve your marriage. Legal separation is a court-ordered status that establishes how you and your spouse will live separately while still being married. Through a legal-separation agreement, you can make formal arrangements regarding child custody and timeshare, division of assets and debts, child support, and spousal support (if applicable). The agreement is legally binding, offering peace of mind and clarity on how you and your spouse will operate financially and in relation to your children.

Key differences between legal separation and divorce

While both legal separation and divorce involve dividing assets and potentially addressing child custody, there are crucial distinctions. For starters, after a legal separation, you remain married. Divorce, on the other hand, severs the legal tie of marriage.

Additionally, you should bear in mind that California has a six-month waiting period after initiating a divorce before it can be finalized. Legal separation, on the other hand, has no such waiting period.

Finally, legal separation can allow for possible reconciliation. If you and your spouse decide to remain married, you can change or terminate the separation agreement.

Reasons to consider legal separation

There are several reasons why couples in California might opt for legal separation.

Legal separation can be a way for a couple whose marital conflict is related to finances, to test the waters of living apart and being financially independent.

Some individuals may have religious or moral objections to divorce but still need a formal separation of finances and living arrangements.

Finally, legal separation might allow couples to retain certain benefits tied to marital status, such as health insurance.

Get answers to your questions

Legal separation in California offers a structured approach to living apart while remaining married. It can provide clarity on financial and child custody matters while keeping a legal marital relationship intact. Consulting with an experienced attorney can be invaluable in navigating the legal separation process and helping ensure that your rights are protected.