How Does California Define a Legal Separation?

We enter into marriages full of hope and expectation that it’ll all work out for us. Unfortunately, many marriages end in divorce. This doesn’t have to be viewed as a failure. Not all marital unions are built to survive, for one reason or another. But there may come a time when you have to face the question of whether it’s time to part ways with your spouse. Divorce doesn’t have to be the only answer, though. If you don’t want to enter divorce proceedings just yet but still want to legally separate your finances and protect your assets, you may consider filing for a legal separation.

By making your separation legal, you and your spouse remain married, but family law courts divide your property, finances, and debts. Depending on the circumstances of either spouse, the court may also order financial support to be provided to one spouse. If you have any children, the judge can order child custody and visitation rights, as well as child support arrangements.

The decision to legally separate shouldn’t be made hastily. While not as complex or costly as divorce, legal separation is still complicated and emotionally taxing. If you decide to proceed with a legal separation, seeking professional legal counsel is highly advisable. The Law Office of Patrick O’Kennedy would be proud to lend you its legal services in hopes of making things easier for you during this challenging time.

What Are the Benefits of Opting to Separate Instead of Divorce?

When choosing whether to divorce your spouse or legally separate from them, there are a few pros and cons for both options worth considering. 

The benefits of choosing legal separation include the following:

  • A legal separation does not end your marital relationship. There is a chance that you and your spouse may repair things during the separation. A divorce is much more final, and it would be more difficult to come back from.
  • Among the most common logical reasons to choose legal separation over divorce is that separation allows both parties to maintain their company-sponsored health insurance coverage. If the marriage ends, one party may lose that healthcare. 
  • California has a regional requirement for divorces. You must have lived within the state for at least six months before you can file for divorce in California. A legal separation has no such requirement. 
  • Divorce is made simpler if you previously filed for a legal separation. The court can convert your legal separation into a divorce at any time if you request it. 
  • Legal separations can begin almost immediately. A divorce, on the other hand, may take several months of difficult court proceedings before it is made official.
  • Since a legal separation keeps the marriage officially intact, a spouse may continue to benefit from the tax, Social Security, or military benefits afforded to them by marriage.
  • Some religious beliefs forbid or frown upon divorce. By filing for a legal separation, you may uphold your religious belief while exploring options for saving your marriage or ultimately moving on if that proves impossible. 

What Are Some Reasons to Potentially Favor Divorce Over a Separation?

While legal separation has its many benefits, there are a few notable disadvantages as well. Sometimes, divorce may be the right choice for you and your situation.

Some of the reasons to choose divorce over legal separation may include:

  • Because the separation doesn’t end your marriage, you are not permitted to enter a new marriage with someone else yet. If that is your aim, then you must consider divorce. 
  • If you die while legally separated, your ex-spouse may have the legal right to recover part of your estate. This may include receiving your retirement savings, your personal assets, valuable possessions, or real estate property. However, divorce cancels out these spousal rights. To learn more, speak with an asset protection lawyer.
  • Legal separation maintains the marital status, meaning that certain financial matters will still be connected to your ex-partner. Joint bank accounts and shared credit cards could be detrimental to your financial affairs and hurt your credit score. A divorce, on the other hand, would sever the financial ties you have with your ex.

Are There Other Options to Consider Beyond Separating from or Divorcing Your Spouse?

In addition to filing for a legal separation, there are other notable alternatives to divorce that may be worth considering. You may decide to file for a legally binding separation agreement.

This is a legal contract between you and your spouse that lays out the terms and conditions of the separation. If your spouse agrees to the contract, you may get additional benefits not otherwise possible in a standard legal separation. To learn more about this and other alternatives, please speak with the legal team of The Law Office of Patrick O’Kennedy.

Contact the Law Office of Patrick O’Kennedy for a Free Case Evaluation

Whether you choose to go through with a divorce or legal separation, you are likely to face some difficult times ahead. We would like to be there for you during this time. Our law firm prides itself on providing helpful and compassionate legal representation to our clients when they are most in need. If you have any questions about the legal services we offer, please feel free to contact us at any time.

Contact our California law offices at 714-701-6356 to schedule your free initial consultation. Remember, you have options. And we’re here to help. We hope to talk to you soon.