Divorce or Legal Separation: What is the difference?


In California, there are four ways to legally end a marriage or domestic partnership, dissolution (commonly known as divorce), legal separation, annulment and technically death, which is not recommended.  Each method has distinct requirements and consequences. For those considering a legal separation, it is important to understand the differences and limitations of a separation. 

What are the Advantages to Legal Separation?

Legal separation is most used when someone has not lived in the state for six months, and they want to start the process of ending their marriage. Often, after a person has met the residency requirement, they convert the legal separation to dissolution. Other times people pursue legal separation because there are deep religious convictions, tax considerations, and in some cases, a spouse may be considered a dependent and insurable under a health insurance plan. The biggest difference between a divorce and legal separation is that in a legal separation you do not need to be a resident of the State of California for six months before filing, and at the end of the case the parties (if the responding party does not request dissolution) are still married. 

What are the Disadvantages of Legal Separation?

The downside to legal separation that I have seen in my nearly 40 years of experience, is that life moves on and invariably I get a call from a person with a legal separation who expresses they “need” to get a dissolution. The law is written in such a way that when filing a dissolution after a legal separation the parties must still go through the disclosure process even if there are no remaining financial ties between the parties. Simply put, it is a pain and an intrusion into the parties’ new boundaries and expectations of privacy.

Is Legal Separation Right for You?

If you are considering legal separation or divorce you should meet with an experienced family law attorney to review your rights and fully understand the implications of separation compared to a divorce. The Reape-Rickett Law has highly experienced family lawyers in Calabasas, Santa Clarita, and Westlake Village who can answer your questions and help you determine what is best for your situation. Contact us today at 888-851-1611 or click here to speak with one of our experienced family law lawyers.

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