Filing for legal separation in California is similar to the divorce process. However, the main difference is that under legal separation the parties will not end their marital status after dividing community assets and debts. Read on to learn more about the legal separation process in California and how a legal document assistant can help make it easier.

What is Legal Separation?

Legal separation allows a couple to divide their assets and debts and lead separate lives without ending their marriage. After a legal separation, a couple may or may not continue living together.

Legal Separation Process in California

The legal separation process in California is very similar to filing for divorce. For example, the petitioner must file a petition for legal separation. Then, the respondent must file a response. Otherwise, the matter will proceed by default.

When filing for legal separation, both parties must exchange mandatory disclosures. Furthermore, the same process for dividing assets, debts, and resolving child custody and support issues as in divorce apply to legal separation. Finally, if the parties cannot agree on 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

In a legal separation, the date of separation establishes the date of a spouse’s decision to discontinue their marriage. Furthermore, the date of separation determines each spouse’s community and separate property interest. For example, 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. On the other hand, property acquired after the date of separation will be the separate property of the acquiring spouse, unless they used community property funds in its acquisition.

In contrast, the judgment of legal separation addresses the division of the marital estate upon the finalization of the legal separation status. In other words, the judgment will determine the division of the community property home as well as assets and debts. Additionally, it will also resolve child custody issues.

Legal Separation in California Timeline

Unlike divorce, legal separation in California does not require any residency requirements and the date of separation takes effect immediately. Therefore, legal separation can be completed prior to the six month “minimum time frame” for divorce as there is no termination date of the marriage. However, 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. In these cases, the court will hold hearings to determine asset divisions.

Once a couple obtains a judgement of legal separation court order, they are officially legally separated. Therefore, the date of legal separation generally refers to this date of entry of judgment and court order. The order should resolve all issues such as the division of marital assets and debts, child custody, and spousal support.

Advantages of Legal Separation

Unlike divorce, legal separation is not definite. Instead, 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 divorce. Additionally, some people file for legal separation to keep their married legal status for healthcare or immigration purposes. Plus, couples who want to refrain from divorce based on religious or deeply held personal reasons also prefer legal separation. However, if one spouse seeks divorce and not legal separation, the court must permit the divorce to occur.

Benefits of Using A Non-Attorney For Your Legal Separation

Luckily, you do not need to hire an attorney to help you with the legal separation process in California. In fact, 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 compared to hiring an attorney. Plus, the process 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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