What is a legal separation in California? First and foremost, in California, filing for legal separation is not the same as filing for divorce or terminating a marriage. In other words, filing for legal separation serves as an alternative to filing for divorce. For example, couples may want to file a legal separation when a spouse no longer wants to continue the relationship with his/her spouse, but does not want to get divorced. By legally separating, a couple can divide all community property assets and debts. In this regard, the couple will remain legally married, and may be entitled to benefits that would otherwise be lost had they divorced. However, the couple will no longer accumulate community property and debts together once the legal separation is finalized.

If you are questioning what is a legal separation in California, you are not alone. Many people often have a flawed perception of what a legal separation is, what the benefits are, and why a person would seek a legal separation.  Most people pursue legal separation for personal reasons. This may include religious beliefs, health insurance concerns or other practical purposes.

“I was interested in filing for legal separation. I contacted A People’s Choice and their friendly staff gave me a better understanding between the differences of filing for legal separation vs filing for divorce. They gave me a lot of information to think about and I also read several articles on their website” Mildred S.
“After doing some more reading and research, I decided to file for legal separation. My husband was on my health insurance and would not have been able to get the same type of coverage once we were divorced. Since neither of us were interested in getting married again, it was the perfect solution for us.” Mildred S.

Get help filing for Legal Separation in California!

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What is Legal Separation in California?

Legal Separation is an arrangement following a court order by which a couple remain married, retain certain marital benefits, but live apart.

You must get a divorce, obviously, if you want to remarry. However, either way, you do not need to hire an attorney to file for legal separation in California. Furthermore, there is no residency requirement to file for legal separation. Keep in mind, however, that if you have children however, they must meet residency requirements in order for you to get a child custody or visitation order. Lastly, there is no waiting period for a legal separation to be finalized as well.

How to File Legal Separation in California

Filing for legal separation involves a similar process as filing for divorce. For example, you must address the following issues (if applicable) when filing for legal separation in California:

  1. Child custody and visitation
  2. Child support
  3. Spousal support
  4. Property division
  5. Debt allocation

As the moving party seeking to legally separate from your spouse, you will have to complete and file forms similar to those required for a divorce proceeding. As with a divorce, once the legal separation has been filed, a person over 18-years old must serve the forms on your spouse. This person must complete a Poof of Service of Summons, and file it with the court clerk. Your spouse, referred to as the respondent, will have thirty-days to respond to the petition for legal separation. 

Consistent with a divorce process, within sixty-days from filing the petition, you must complete and serve mandatory disclosure forms. These include a Declaration of Disclosure,  Income and Expense Declaration, Property Division, and Property Declaration, on the respondent. You must include copies of your tax returns as well.  The respondent must also file the same documents on you within 60 days of filing his/her response. Keep in mind, however, that you do not need to file these confidential disclosures with the court. However, you must file a “Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure and Income and Expense Declaration” with the court to confirm that the disclosures were provided to the opposing party.

Lastly, once you settle all issues pertaining to your legal separation, you can file a settlement agreement along with your judgment. Once the judge signs your judgment, your legal separation is complete.

On the negative side, if you later decide to divorce your spouse, you will need to file an entirely new case with the court as well as pay another court filing fee. This case will only address the issue of the “marital status” as all other issues would’ve been resolved in the legal separation. For more information about what is a legal separation or to file a legal separation in California, contact A People’s Choice. We offer a convenient online interview process and have experienced staff ready to answer your procedural questions. Just give us a call at 800-747-2780.

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