Our Irvine Divorce Lawyers Explain the Rules Surrounding Legal Separation

While a couple may have decided they no longer wish to live together as a married couple, they have a variety of options besides divorce. Spouses who would like to part ways can also file for a legal separation in California, which generally has far less requirements than a standard divorce and affords couples special benefits, such as the ability to maintain a shared healthcare plan or avoid religious issues.

While legal separations may seem unusual, they are actually quite common and allow for many of the same benefits as a divorce. For example, a separation lets a couple to permanently separate, end the marital estate so that any property or debt acquired will no longer be considered joint property, and allows couples to pursue child custody and support, along with alimony payments.

Most importantly, while California law requires couples to have resided in California for a minimum of six months before initiating a divorce proceeding in the state, a legal separation does not carry such a requirement. A couple who does not meet this initial requirement may wish to file for a legal separation now and proceed with a divorce once they become eligible, or at any time down the line. Converting a legal separation into a dissolution of marriage is permitted anytime after the initial filing of a legal separation.

Differences Between a Legal Separation and a Divorce in California

While divorces and legal separations are quite similar, there are a few primary differences to each type of action. For example, a divorce is granted even when one party objects to the action, while a legal separation requires that both parties consent to the agreement. As mentioned above, a divorce requires at least one of the spouses to have resided in California for a minimum of six months in order to file for a divorce, a requirement that does not exist for a legal separation. Finally, a legal separation is valid immediately upon signing, whereas there is a six-month waiting period before a divorce can be considered valid, even after the parties’ agreement has been entered by the court.

Beyond those differences, however, the process for completing a legal separation versus a divorce are quite similar. Each party will be required to come to the table with a full view of their total assets and marital debt, and they will be equally divided unless a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement exists. Similarly, the couple should plan to consider how they would approach a child custody or support arrangement, and the court will determine whether the arrangement is logical and assigns the greatest responsibility to the party that has served as the primary caregiver throughout the marriage. Similarly, the couples can agree to an alimony arrangement that ensures each party’s lifestyle remains relatively unchanged. Generally speaking, Orange County divorce courts are quite flexible and largely allow couples to determine the terms of their legal separation, aiming to interfere as little as possible.

An Irvine Legal Separation Lawyer at Our Firm is Here to Help

The attorneys at Seastrom Tuttle & Murphy are eager to help their clients navigate their legal separation. Our accomplished divorce attorneys are well-versed in legal separation agreements and can advise whether a legal separation or a divorce are the best approach for your particular marriage or partnership. Our divorce lawyers understand that this is a challenging, emotional time for you and your family, and we aim to walk you through the process in a conscious manner. Call us today at 949-474-0800 to schedule your consultation.