The difference between a divorce and a legal separation

Couples in the Bay Area have an alternative other than divorce should they decide that they need to live in separate households. Specifically, California couples can get legal separations from each other.

Although legal separations are a preferred tool of couples that realize they need to live apart but have moral objections to divorce, they have other benefits as well. The biggest benefit is that, with a legal separation, one need not meet the state’s requirement that, before divorcing, one of the parties has to have lived in California for at least 6 months.

Thus, legal separation can be a great way to resolve emergencies like domestic violence or other serious family issues. Moreover, people are allowed to go back and convert the legal separation in to a divorce after the fact without having to file a separate court case.

The important thing to remember about a legal separation is that, unlike a divorce, the marriage or relationship is not over in the eyes of the State of California. This means that a person cannot legally get married.

Otherwise, legal separation works basically like a divorce. Unless the couple can agree, a judge will issue orders dividing the couple’s property, awarding child custody and establishing parenting time, and determining the appropriate amounts of child support and alimony.

Someone who wants to consider legal separation as an option should therefore think of it as raising the same legal issues and disputes as would a divorce. After all, even if they are remaining legally married, separated spouses can still have profound disagreements about how to handle their property and, especially, their children after the separation. It is therefore advisable that someone going through a separation have the help of an experienced family law attorney.



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Kaspar & Lugay, LLP is a family law firm with offices in Corte Madera, CA; Napa, CA; Walnut Creek, CA; and San Diego, CA. We also represent clients in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Pismo Beach, Contra Costa County, and Los Angeles.