Legal Separation Vs. Divorce in California

By Beverly Bird

Most couples receive no real benefit from a legal separation rather than a divorce. It’s generally only suitable when your relationship has deteriorated to the point where you no longer want to be married but, for personal reasons, divorce is not an option. In California, however, there may be one other advantage. If time is of the essence, you can hasten the divorce process by filing for a legal separation first.

Consent

Legal separation is not an option in California unless your spouse agrees to go this route or he defaults after you have him served with your petition. This means he must either refuse to participate in the process, allowing it to proceed without objection, or file a response to your petition, consenting to the legal separation. Otherwise, you have no choice but to file for divorce instead.

Requirements

California is a no-fault state, and both a legal separation and a divorce require the same grounds. You must choose between irreconcilable differences or the incurable insanity of your spouse. The similarities between filing requirements end there, however. You must have lived in the state for six months before you file for divorce, but there is no such residency requirement for a legal separation. After you file for divorce, you must wait an additional six months before your divorce can be final, but there is no waiting period for a legal separation.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Procedure

Filing for a legal separation is no less complicated than filing for divorce. The two procedures follow an almost identical course, from serving the petition to disclosing the full details of your finances to the court and your spouse. In both cases, you can enter into a settlement agreement resolving the issues of your marriage or the court can decide those issues for you in a trial. California’s legislation does provide for a summary divorce, however. This option is much simpler than either a separation or regular divorce. You might qualify if you have no children, own no real estate, have limited assets and debts and have been married for five years or less.

Decrees

A decree of legal separation addresses the same things a divorce decree does, including support paid to either spouse and for any children of the marriage. Both resolve issues of custody, visitation and property distribution. The terms of each are binding. The most significant difference is that a legal separation does not end your marriage. You can remain on your spouse’s health insurance policy, if necessary, and you can’t remarry.

Conversion

California law allows you to convert your legal separation to a divorce after your separation is final or at any point during the legal process. Either spouse can file a request with the court, asking for the conversion. Although this requires additional paperwork, if you’re in a hurry to get your divorce moving along but have not established residency yet, you can file for legal separation immediately. The six-month waiting period for a final divorce decree begins ticking down as you work through the legal separation procedure. When it has expired, you can file to convert your matter to a divorce.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Arkansas Laws for Separation

References

Related articles

Do You Have to Be Separated for 6 Months to File for a Divorce?

How long you and your spouse must live separately before you can file for divorce – or if you even have to live separately at all – depends on where you live and the grounds on which you file. In some states, if you cite no-fault grounds, no separation period is necessary. You can file on most fault grounds right away in many states as well.

How to Separate in a Marriage

Divorce isn't for everyone--at least not immediately. For any number of reasons, spouses might want to live separately for a while before taking the final step to officially terminate their marriage. Depending on where you live, there may be more than one way to do this. Some states recognize legal separations, but a few don't, including Texas, Delaware, Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana. This doesn't mean you can't separate if you live in one of these states. It just means courts in these states will not issue a judgment of separation, so you'll have to create a separation agreement instead.

Divorce & Annulment Laws for Wisconsin

Divorce ends your marriage, and an annulment "erases" your marriage — it declares that you never legally married in the first place. It is far more difficult to get an annulment in Wisconsin than a divorce; regardless of how long you were married, certain legal circumstances must exist before a court will allow it. Unless you choose an annulment for religious or personal reasons, you can usually dispense with your marriage much more quickly and easily by filing for divorce.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Procedures for a Legal Separation & Divorce in Illinois

Illinois law recognizes legal separation, although not all states do. Legal separations are somewhat rare in the state, ...

Meaning of Bifurcation in Divorce

Divorce can be a long, drawn-out affair. If it's contested, it can take years. In the meantime, spouses remain legally ...

How Do I File for Divorce in Oregon?

In Oregon, divorce is called dissolution of marriage. Either spouse can file for dissolution and must do so in ...

How Do I File for Legal Separation in Nebraska?

Only a handful of states recognize legal separation -- a separation that occurs when you receive a judgment from the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED