Divorce often involves both emotionally and financially difficult decisions. You may need space from your current relationship, but not yet feel ready to end your marriage, especially if you share children.
Legal separation is a process similar to divorce that allows you to move on with an independent life without sacrificing your marriage.
How legal separation works
As with divorce, during legal separation the court will distribute your marital assets and make decisions about child support, custody and visitation. You can also ask the court to approve arrangements that you and your spouse have negotiated on your own. At the end of the process, you remain legally married unless you later decide to divorce.
Reasons that couples choose separation over divorce
Separation may help you gain perspective on whether you are truly ready for divorce. However, you might also have personal, financial or legal reasons for avoiding or delaying divorce, including:
- Religious beliefs or personal values
- Shared insurance coverage or other benefits
- California residency requirements for divorce
To file for divorce, either you or your spouse must have been living in California for six months prior to petitioning. The filing spouse must also have lived in the county for the three months prior. Legal separation only requires that one spouse currently lives in California; there is no time requirement for residency.
Legal separation can be somewhat less complicated than divorce. However, it is essential that you approach the process carefully. If you later decide that you want to end your marriage, the terms of your separation could impact the outcome of your divorce.