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Separation Before Divorce

Have you wondered about the differences between separation and divorce? The team at Zonder Family Law Group is here to help you make an informed decision about your marriage.  As your Divorce Quarterback™, we will guide you through the process and work with outside professionals, as needed, to facilitate the best solution for your family law issue.

What is Legal Separation?

A legal separation is not a divorce. It does not end the marriage and neither spouse is free to  marry a different person until a divorce judgment has been entered by the court. 

A 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 requires a court order and should not be confused with a physical separation.

How to Determine When Legal Separation is Necessary

A legal separation is also an option for couples who for legal, religious, or practical reasons decide that separation is a better choice than divorce. 

  • One spouse with major health issues may want to stay on the other’s health insurance plan or government benefits
  • Some religions do not approve of divorce, and the couple may wish to remain part of that particular church or other religious institution
  • Couples simply do not have the financial means to divorce
  • One party has an alcohol or substance addiction and the other wishes to create a financial boundary
  • Tax benefits, such as capital gains taxes on the sale of a primary residence, may also be a factor in choosing a legal separation 

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 is possible to file for legal separation in California without meeting these residency requirements and, 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.  If you opt for a legal separation, however, you will need to take additional steps to secure a divorce.

Zonder Family Law Group Can Help You Decide Which Option is Best for You

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 may also be 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 the children of the marriage to adjust to the idea of divorce.

Contact a Knowledgeable Legal Separation Lawyer

This information is provided for general educational purposes only. It is not intended as specific legal advice for any particular case.

For more specific information, please contact Zonder Family Law Group for a consultation.  If you are in Santa Barbara or Ventura County, call(805) 777-7740.  If you are in Los Angeles County, call 818-877-0001. ZFLG is deeply committed to helping clients resolve the conflicts that arise in the course of the divorce.

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