Filing for legal separation in California is similar to the divorce process. The main difference between filing for legal separation and divorce is that the parties will not end their marital status upon dividing their community assets and debts. Read on to learn more about the legal separation process in California.

Definition of Legal Separation in California

Legal separation allows a couple to divide their assets and debts without ending their marriage. The legal separation process in California allows the couple to lead separate lives, but their marital status does not end. The couple may or may not continue living together. The legal separation process in California is very similar to filing for a California divorce. The petitioner must file a petition for legal separation. The respondent must file a response or the matter can proceed by default. Both parties must exchange mandatory disclosures; and the same process for dividing assets, debts, and resolving child custody and support issues apply. If the parties cannot agree as to how the marital estate shall be divided, a family law judge will make the final determination.

Difference Between Date of Separation and Judgment of Legal Separation

The date of separation establishes the intent of a spouse to no longer continue a marriage thus creating a break in the marital relationship. The date of separation is used to determine each spouse’s community and separate property interest. Property acquired by the community prior to the date of separation will be divided between the parties 50/50, unless the parties agree to a different division between themselves. Property acquired post-date of separation will be the separate property of the acquiring spouse, unless he/she used community property funds in its acquisition.

The judgment of legal separation refers to the parties marital estate. In a legal separation process in California, the judgment addresses the division of the marital estate upon the finalization of the legal separation status. For example, the judgment will state how the community property home is to be divided, in addition to other assets and debts, and resolve child custody issues.

How Long Does it Take to Get A Legal Separation in California?

A person is not required to fulfill any residency requirements before filing for legal separation in California. The date of separation (couples physically separating or when they are no longer acting as husband and wife) takes effect immediately. The legal separation can be completed prior to the six month “minimum time frame” within which a divorce would take. This is because in a legal separation there is no termination date of the marriage. A final judgment of legal separation can, of course, take longer if the parties are unable to reach a mutual agreement in dividing the community assets and debts. If not, hearings will be held in which the court will decide. 

When Are You Legally Separated in California?

A couple is legally separated in California when they obtain a court order (Judgement of Legal Separation). The date of legal separation generally refers to the date of entry of Judgment and court order which resolves all issues regarding the marriage such as the division of marital assets and debts, child custody, and spousal support. Once the final Judgment is entered, the parties are considered legally separated by the court.

Advantages of Legal Separation

Unlike divorce, legal separation is not definite. The legal separation process in California allows a couple time, opportunity and legal protections while considering whether they would like to completely sever the relationship with their spouse and get a divorce. In addition, some people seek to stay married but file for legal separation to keep their married legal status to each other for healthcare or immigration purposes. Legal separation is also preferred for couples who want to refrain from divorcing based on religious or deeply held personal reasons. If one spouse seeks divorce and not legal separation, the court must permit the divorce to occur.

Why Use A Non-Attorney For Your Legal Separation

You do not need to hire an attorney to help you with the legal separation process in California. Many people use a non-attorney to prepare the necessary paperwork and help them through the process. If you are considering filing for legal separation, using a professional, non-attorney legal document assistant will save you thousands of dollars as compared to hiring an attorney, and is much easier than trying to do it yourself! At A People’s Choice, we have helped thousands of California residents file for legal separation.  Contact us for more information.

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