An Alternative to Divorce
Legal separation is one of three ways married couples or domestic partners in California can determine their rights and responsibilities to their spouse when they part ways.
Much like divorce, legal separation involves the judicially determined resolution of a host of family law issues such as division of property, spousal support, and child custody. Unlike a divorce, however, a separation does not completely terminate the marriage.
Legal separation is often seen as a quicker, more cost-effective, and less permanent approach to ending a marriage or domestic partnership. The Los Angeles legal separation attorneys at The Broadway Law Firm can help you navigate the process successfully.
Is Legal Separation Better Than Divorce?
Legal separation can be preferable to divorce in a number of situations. For instance, if the parties to a marriage wish to live separately but maintain the possibility of reuniting in the future, separating may be the best option. If divorce conflicts with a couple’s cultural or religious background, a permanent and legally recognized separation is a viable alternative.
Legal separation also allows parties to maintain certain benefits of marriage, including employee health insurance and favorable tax treatment. Finally, separating in California may be an option for couples who are simply unsure if they want to incur the finality (and expense) of a divorce.
As an added benefit, there is no residency requirement for couples who want to legally separate, while divorce requires at least one party to have lived in California for six months prior to filing.
How to File for Separation in California
The process of legal separation is similar to the process of a divorce in that a party must prepare paperwork, petition the court, serve their spouse with the documents, and attempt to work out agreements on contested issues. The parties may agree in advance on how to divide their assets and debts, whether either party will receive alimony, and how child custody and parenting time will be structured. Alternatively, the parties may ask the court to decide these issues if they are unable to agree.
Although a legal separation is often considered temporary, most do ultimately lead to divorce. Often, the terms of agreed to in the separation agreement become the terms of the final divorce order. Therefore, it is critically important to approach these issues carefully and with the advice of an attorney. There is a real possibility that any temporary orders in connection with the proceeding may become permanent and final upon divorce.
How Long Does the Process Take?
Once a separation order is signed and approved, it goes into effect immediately (unlike a divorce, which is only entered after a six-month “cooling off” period). However, parties are still legally married. They may not get remarried or enter into a domestic partnership unless they return to court to formally dissolve their marriage through the process of divorce.
Parties who are considering legal separation often opt to avoid going to court altogether and enter into a separation agreement. This is a contract between spouses that settles marital issues like property division, spousal support, and child custody without a court order.
Contact the Broadway Law Firm Today
If you would like to learn more about how to enter into a legal separation in California, call The Broadway Law Firm at (213) 344-0545 to speak with our Los Angeles family law attorneys today or contact us online.