When married couples run into strife and problems, they might consider ending their union. However, not all couples are ready to file for divorce since that is a permanent dissolution of the marriage. In some cases, and due to a variety of reasons, couples in California might choose a legal separation instead of a divorce.
Defining legal separation
Legal separation occurs when a court issues a decree that allows a couple to live separately and that addresses the division of assets, spousal support, child custody and child support. While the process is similar to divorce since most of the same issues are negotiated and resolved, it is not permanent.
Reasons for choosing legal separation
There are many reasons why spouses might choose a legal separation over a divorce. These include:
• Hope for a reconciliation between the spouses
• Religious prohibition of divorce
• Desire to stay married while the children are still minors
• Need to maintain certain benefits, such as health insurance
• Need to reach a certain length of marriage to access social security or military spouse benefits
What should you include in your legal separation petition?
When you decide to file for a legal separation, you will need to provide all relevant information. This includes:
• Each spouse’s full legal name
• When and where the couple was married
• When and where the spouses began living apart
• Each dependent’s full legal name
• A draft of a custody and visitation schedule
• A draft of the division of property, financial responsibilities and spousal and child support negotiated by the spouses
Once the court issues the legal separation order, the spouses must follow what has been included in the order or face potential consequences with the court. Some spouses might choose to continue living under the legal separation agreement permanently. Others might reconcile. Finally, some might decide to make the split permanent and seek a divorce.