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Legal Separation in California

Legal SeparationWhen a married couple is no longer getting along, it is not uncommon for one of the spouses to become frustrated and move out of the home. At this point, the spouses may consider themselves to be separated, but this scenario is much different than being legally separated. A legal separation is obtained through the court, much like a divorce. Provisions are made for child support, custody scheduling, spousal support and property division. It loosens the bond of marriage so that each person is able to live a somewhat separate life, but it doesn’t break it. The two spouses remain married, at least for the time being.

Legal Separation is Not Always a Path to Divorce

When people hear that a couple has legally separated, many assume that the ultimate goal is divorce, but this may or may not be the case. No matter how frustrated one person is with his or her spouse, it isn’t a good idea to leave the home unofficially. If there are children, this action could be seen as abandonment, even if it is the last thing that the person wants to do. If getting some space can’t wait, it is better to head to a local hotel for a few days and retain the right to return to the home. If those few days aren’t enough to cool things off, it may be time to proceed with a legal separation. Here are some reasons why legal separation is sometimes a long-term solution rather than a step toward divorce.

Reasons for Legal Separation

The couple may think that there is a chance of one day reconciling, and the spouses aren’t ready to give up on the marriage. They may want some time apart to gain perspective and heal from whatever circumstances caused them to hurt one another before giving their marriage another try.

One or both people in the marriage are against the idea of divorcing for religious or other reasons based on their personal value system, but they do not want to share their day-to-day life. Getting remarried may be something they either don’t believe in or can’t imagine doing, and they don’t see the necessity of a divorce.

Financial Benefits of Legal Separation

Staying married may carry various financial benefits. Holding onto health and other insurance benefits is one reason to forego a divorce. One dual-coverage policy is often less expensive than two single-coverage policies.The couple might also fare better from a tax perspective by continuing to file as a married couple rather than as single people. Those who have been married just under 10 years can also benefit financially if they stay married at least until that 10-year mark has passed. At that point, the spouse with lower earnings becomes eligible to one day collect Social Security based on the higher-earning spouse’s earnings rather than his or her own.

Residence Issues

In order to file for divorce in California, certain residential requirements must be met. If a couple is new to the area, it might not meet these requirements. Rather than staying in an uncomfortable situation while the clock ticks, the spouses can get a legal separation in order to gain the right to live apart while they wait for enough time to pass to start divorce proceedings, if they choose.

A person who is not a U.S. citizen but is married to one is sometimes able to live in the country based on this marital status. By getting a divorce, the noncitizen may risk getting deported. A legal separation will allow the noncitizen to stay in the country without being forced to live with his or her spouse.

It’s a Faster Decision

The court decisions made in a legal separation are made almost immediately, while the details of a divorce can be drawn out for months or even years. The decisions made may not be ideal for either person, but it does provide a vantage point so that each person can move forward.

When a couple is legally separated, neither spouse is responsible for the individual financial decisions of the other. A legal separation can save a person financially if he or she is married to someone with a spending or gambling problem. If the separation takes place without the court, the other spouse can still be held responsible.

If you are considering a legal separation from your spouse, contact our attorneys today for a free consultation and to help guide you through the process.