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Separation Before Divorce

Separation Before DivorceHave you wondered about the differences between separation and divorce? Zonder Family Law discusses important points about legal separation to help you make an informed decision about your own marriage.

A legal separation is not a divorce. It does not end the marriage, and neither spouse can marry a different person until a divorce judgment has been entered by the court. Legal separation is an option for couples who need a “time out” to decide whether they are ready for the finality of divorce. Legal separation is also an option for couples who for legal, religious, or practical reasons decide that separation is a better choice than divorce. For example, one spouse with major health issues may want to stay on the other’s health insurance plan. Also, some religions do not approve of divorce, and the couple may wish to remain part of that particular church or other religious institution. And in some cases, couples simply do not have the financial means to divorce.

In addition, some couples must file for legal separation instead of divorce because they do not yet meet the California residency requirements for divorce. To meet these divorce residency requirements, at least one spouse must have lived in California for the previous six months and live in the county in which he or she filed for divorce for the past three months. It’s possible to file for legal separation in California without meeting these residency requirements, and then once you meet the prescribed timeline, you may amend your petition for legal separation to that of divorce.

Filing for legal separation allows you to petition the court for many of the same orders you might ask for in a divorce case, including those related to child custody and visitation, child support, and spousal support. You can even sign formal separation agreements, which lay out the financial terms of your separation, including whether certain assets should be treated as separate or community property.

Before making the decision to divorce, it can be helpful to ask yourself if you and your spouse are sure that you want to end the marriage. Sometimes one spouse or both spouses need time to really contemplate whether the marriage can be saved. A separation allows couples to take time apart and “try out” single life for a while. This break can also be valuable in allowing one spouse to “catch up” to the other who has begun to move on more quickly from the relationship. This separation is also a valuable time for marital counseling, in which the couple can work on communication and any other issues that have contributed to problems in the marriage. In addition, this trial period is a good time for children of the marriage to adjust to the idea of divorce.

Whether you choose legal separation or divorce, Zonder Family Law can provide expert guidance. Call us today for a consultation about your divorce options.

Contributions by Kate Langmore, Attorney/Writer