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Considering a Legal Separation Instead of a Divorce? Here’s What You Should Know

Residents of California who seek to end a marriage have several legal options, which may include a collaborative divorce, mediation, arbitration, annulment, divorce trial, or legal separation.

If you are considering ending your marriage by means of a legal separation, there are important factors you should be aware of.

Legal Separations in California

A legal separation in California is very similar to a divorce but it does have important distinctions. As a practical alternative to a divorce, a legally separated couple can still be legally married; therefore, the legal status of the marriage will remain intact. In many ways, however, they live as if they were divorced. Those who have been legally separated do not share a home, and if they have minor children together, they will need to have a child custody agreement, such as a visitation order, and/or child support.

Why a Legal Separation Can Benefit You

People are always changing their mind, and a separated couple is no different. Not every couple who is legally separated will divorce. When choosing to go through a legal separation instead of a divorce, this gives the former couple the opportunity to reevaluate their marital disposition before at least one party makes the final determination to divorce. Every case is different and some couples are able to save their marriage and reconcile their differences.

Another common reason as to why a couple can choose a legal separation as opposed to a divorce is because of religious values that disallow divorce. Many religions restrict married couples from getting a divorce, and couples will avoid this in order to prevent being ousted by a religious decree.

Others may choose a legal separation in order to hang on to benefits that could be lost through a divorce. By being legally separated, couples will continue to have access to benefits such as employment medical insurance or military benefits.

Still, some may find the process of obtaining a legal separation as a trial run before actually going through a divorce. It gives people a sense of what dissolving a marriage would be like before making the permanent decision to do so.

Requirements to Obtain a Legal Separation

A couple who no longer lives together is not automatically considered to be legally separated. Spouses need to file the correct documents in court in order to commence the process. When petitioning for a divorce, at least one party must be a resident of the state for a minimum of six (6) months. In a legal separation process, no residency requirement is necessary. This could be another reason why a legal separation could benefit a couple seeking divorce, particularly when both parties are new California residents. In the State of California, a legally separated couple can convert their separation into a divorce once the separation has been finalized.

Even in a Legal Separation, You Have a Right to Protect Your Interests. Consult a Knowledgeable Family Law Attorney

Even as a legal separation is not a divorce, there are important issues that need to be resolved. In a legal separation hearing, a judge may issue orders concerning child support, child custody, and alimony. Obtain the legal support of a law firm who can help you protect your interests.

The attorneys at the Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP firm are exceptionally dedicated in family law cases. If you are seeking to petition for a legal separation, contact the attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP today for more information on how you can protect your rights and safeguard your family’s interests.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.