Sometimes, even after a couple decides their marriage is over, they may not be ready to seek a divorce. For example, some couples avoid divorce due to religious or social reasons. In these situations, a couple may petition the court for a legal separation instead. While a legal separation is a step closer to divorce, it is not a complete termination of the marital relationship. In other words, legally separated spouses cannot marry other people before obtaining a divorce.
The Forms and Filing Process to Become Legally Separated in California
The grounds for becoming legally separated in California are actually the same as divorce; that is, irreconcilable differences and incurable insanity. However, unlike in a divorce, you do not need to satisfy the six-month California residency requirement in order to apply for legal separation.
Further, the filing process for legal separation is generally the same as that of divorce! First, to become legally separated in California, you must start the process by filling out some standard forms. Additionally, you must file declarations of what property you and your spouse own, as well as any debts in the marriage. Next, if you have children, you will file more paperwork to help the judge address custody and resolve child support issues. More specifically, the required forms include the Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) and an optional Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment.
After filling out these forms, you have to file them with the court, pay the required fee, prepare a summons, and have your spouse served with copies of all the paperwork. The summons serves as notice to your spouse that you have started a case asking for legal separation. Plus, it outlines the consequences if they do not respond within 30 days.
Responding to a Legal Separation Summons
If you have been served paperwork informing you that your spouse is seeking legal separation, you have two choices. First, you can ignore the summons. Alternatively, you may respond by filing an answer to your spouse’s petition. That said, the process does not necessitate your permission to proceed. In fact, the court may go ahead even if you ignore the paperwork. In this case, if you do not have an agreement in place with your spouse, the judge would simply grant a default judgment allowing the separation.
How to Complete the Legal Separation Process
Form an Agreement Out of Court, if Possible
Before completing and filing an agreement, spouses may try to find compromise, perhaps through a mediator. This process will help you pinpoint contentious issues, such as the disposition of property and division of debts. Further, this approach gives you some control over how you divide your property. However, if you cannot agree with your spouse on these matters, the judge will have to make the decision.
Further Court-Required Documentation
The forms identified above are standard in California courts and only initiate the proceedings. Typically, the county in which you file your action will have local rules and require additional forms. Therefore, we recommend contacting the clerk’s office in your county to confirm that you are completing the correct paperwork.
Further, there are other steps and documentation the court requires to ultimately complete the proceedings. If you want to become legally separated in California and need help completing the forms, contact A People’s Choice for non-attorney help. We provide low-cost legal document assistance to help you complete and file your legal separation forms as quickly as possible. Call today at 1-800-747-2780 for more information.