Legal Separation Vs. Divorce in California

In California, a married couple may choose to divorce or legally separate. While both have their advantages and drawbacks, it is imperative you are entirely informed before making either of these life decisions.

Speak with an experienced divorce attorney about both of these options if you are unsure which is best for you.

What is a Legal Separation?

California allows married couples to legally separate as an alternative to divorce. A legal separation is a legal court decree permitting spouses to live apart and maintain individual lives. Like divorce, there are orders regarding the division of marital assets and debts, child custody and visitation, child support, and spousal support. Unlike divorce, these are not necessarily permanent orders.

Why Choose Legal Separation Over Divorce?

There are several reasons married couples choose legal separation over divorce in California. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The couple is unsure about dissolving the marriage but wants to live apart;
  • The couple is unsure about dissolving the marriage but wants to define financial, property, and co-parenting matters;
  • One or both spouses has religious beliefs that exclude divorce as a viable option to end the marriage;
  • One or both spouses has personal feelings or beliefs that exclude divorce as an option to end the marriage;
  • There is a benefit or a need to retain specific benefits of the marriage for one or both spouses, such as remaining on a spouse’s health insurance plan, receiving tax benefits, or receiving government benefits like Social Security.

Requirements for Legal Separation in California

There are no residency requirements for legal separation in California. There are two possible grounds for legal separation. These are irreconcilable differences or incurable insanity.

A spouse does not need to prove irreconcilable differences but only needs to state that the couple cannot get along. Incurable insanity must be established.

What is Divorce?

Divorce, or dissolution of marriage, is the permanent end to a marriage. Once a divorce is finalized, both spouses are legally free to remarry should they choose to do so. During a divorce, all of a couple’s assets, debts, real property, child custody and visitation, and spousal support matters are resolved.

Why Choose Divorce Over Legal Separation?

Unlike legal separation, divorce ends a marriage. Spouses enter the divorce process married and leave it single. There are no longer any legal ties, joint financial matters, or shared benefits.

Requirements for Divorce in California

California requires one of the spouses to live in California for at least six months before the divorce. That same spouse must reside in the county where the divorce is to take place for at least three months prior to the divorce. If residency requirements are not met, spouses may file for a legal separation while waiting to qualify for a California divorce.

Contact an Experienced California Divorce Attorney

If you would like to explore your legal options further regarding a California legal separation or divorce, contact the attorneys at Moradi Saslaw. At Moradi Saslaw, we will listen to your circumstances, review your matter in its entirety, and offer honest and reliable advice to suit your needs.

No two legal separations or divorces are alike. Whether you have a case with complex assets or child custody and visitation issues or need help separating property after a long-term marriage, Moradi Saslaw can help. Contact our offices today for assistance and to schedule a confidential consultation.