• Legal Separation Process in California

Legal Separation Process in California

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.

Get help with your California legal documents today!

A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your legal documents instead of an expensive attorney!


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By |2018-01-18T15:47:24-07:00September 4th, 2015|Family Law|20 Comments

About the Author:

Sandra M. McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice Inc., has worked exclusively in the legal field since 1976. She served as the 2004-2005 President of CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants). She obtained a Paralegal Certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her career in the legal field, she has worked as a freelance paralegal, law office manager and paralegal studies teacher, and has co-authored numerous legal publications and written hundreds of self-help legal articles. As a registered Legal Document Assistant, Sandy is dedicated to providing affordable, low-cost, self-help document preparation services for California consumers in all 58 counties.


  1. STEVEN R MITCHELL March 29, 2019 at 8:32 am

    In California, is an agreed upon and court approved stipulation and order dividing assets and defining support prior to a divorce a legal separation?

    • Sandy McCarthy March 29, 2019 at 9:50 pm

      A legal separation is a different legal process than a divorce. It sounds like you are looking for a legal definition of being “separated.” You may want to talk with a lawyer to get a better understanding of the definition if this with regards to your particular situation.

  2. Rodney Cruze February 25, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    My wife and I had a legal separation filed at a US embassy. All it was, was a notarized, simple 1 page agreement about living separately and continous financial support. She is recieving my Social Security compensation and Military pension. I have decided that i will file for divorce. Will divorce agreement between my wife and I terminate all agreement made on legal separation?

    • Sandy McCarthy February 25, 2019 at 9:24 pm

      I cannot say, but we can certainly incorporate those same provisions in a marital settlement agreement if you both agree.

  3. Rehana December 8, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Me and my husband are seniors with second marriage , (7 years married )and having our own respective adult children. Due to differences we may consider Legal Separation or divorce ( I am dependent on Social security and medicare on his work record, so would like to do legal separation only which will allow me to to continue to these benefits, but his adult sons are pushing him to go for divorce asap. How can I stop that?

    • Sandy McCarthy December 13, 2018 at 2:46 am

      If one person wants a legal separation but the other person wants a divorce, unfortunately the court will allow the divorce to go through. We can help you file paperwork and request motions that include support and other issues if you need help. Please give us a call at 800-747-2780.

  4. BRIAN C CIORCIARI August 31, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Is there an approximate or definite timeline from filing FL-115 with the court to judgement on legal separation?

    • Sandy McCarthy September 1, 2018 at 1:56 pm

      Yes but it depends on a variety of factors that have gone on with the case. We would need more information in order to help you on this.

  5. Chanda Keller May 28, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    If a couple is legally separated, and the husband passes away, does the wife have say so over his body and funeral? And can his child from a previous marriage interview and try to stop the wife from having any say out doing with her father body/funeral?

    • Sandy McCarthy May 28, 2018 at 6:20 pm

      You are asking legal advice and would need to direction your questions to an attorney.

  6. Donna Barnard April 9, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    I moved away from my husband in 2013. In 2016 I moved to VA to live w/my mom. I have 2 kids 10 & 13. My husband starting working on divorce papers last Oct by hasn’t completed them yet. My mom and I want to by a house together. The lender is asking for separation papers. We have 3 weeks before we have to sign for the house. Any suggestions would be appreciated

    • Sandy McCarthy April 11, 2018 at 4:30 am

      If it is a California divorce, we can help you both complete it. Have your spouse call us.

  7. Susan Alias December 19, 2017 at 10:02 am

    If you are legally separated but continue living together for economic and child reasons, do the years you live together after legal separation count toward California’s “10-year rule”?

    • Sandy McCarthy December 21, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      That would be a legal question that you would need to confirm with an attorney about.

  8. Alice Lee Humes December 12, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    I have two young kids and I am the one with stable income. My spouse has not been able to secure a stable job in the past few years and lost medical benefits and he’s reckless with finances and has poor credit. He also diagnosed with scarcoidosis 5 years ago but need constant medical monitor. We’ve been married odor 14 years but has no “physical” contact for the last 6-7 years. I handle all bills and have good credit. I wanted divorce for a few years now but kids are only 7 and 11 years old. He came with debt and no asset into the marriage (lies and I uncover the truth later, here and there). I’m frightened of the debts he may incur and the lack of medical care and consistent medical insurance will put me and kids in danger/trouble. He threatened to take 1/2 of everything I have (he has nothing under his name) and fight for 50% of children (although he can’t take care of them physically or financially) just to make a point and stop me from divorce him and get him out of the house. He doesn’t want or care for the kids (he say he does to maintain an image) because these kids came from donor sperms because he can’t have kids on his own). I want to know how I can protect myself financially and not separate from my kids… legal separation?

    • Sandy McCarthy December 25, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      It sounds like you may have financial exposure of supporting him if you file a legal separation or divorce, however the longer time to you are together, the greater the exposure you have. You may simply want to file for a legal separation to start the separation process and resolve all of the issues so that you at least can financially separate yourself from him and be able to make your own financial plans for future years. Give our office a call for help. 800-747-2780. If you need legal advice, contact an attorney.

  9. Vera Garcia October 20, 2017 at 5:35 am

    I’m in California and I have been married for 3 years. I’m currently seeking to file for legal separation due to infidelity and mental and verbal abuse. I have no income because my husband never leaves me any money whatsoever. He makes plenty but I have no access to any of it. I don’t want anything at all I just want out of this marriage. We have no kids together but I have 4 of my own. He can have everything….

    • Sandy McCarthy October 25, 2017 at 11:37 pm

      we can certainly help you file for divorce or legal separation. The reason you’re seeking a divorce or legal separation does not matter because in California you simply can file based upon irreconcilable differences. Olease give our office a call at 800-747-2780 if you would like to explore how we can help you in this matter.

  10. Jamie Sweger September 25, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    My spouse filed a petition for separation several years ago. We attended one hearing where child/support was set. We never completed any agreement to divide assets and have no separation agreement or “judgment of separation”. We have lived separately but maintained a close and loving marital relationship. The support payments continue thru wage assignment but he spends most free time here at all ur family home. Would our separation be considered “legal” without a final judgment?

    • Sandy McCarthy September 28, 2016 at 3:48 am

      A judgment of legal separation is usually the document that creates an order of legal separation. It would seem you would want to make sure you get your case completed. Otherwise after awhile, most courts will simply dismiss your case for failure to timely complete it…making your case go completely away.

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