What Is Legal Separation?

One of the most confusing issues in California law is the use of legal separation. Some of this confusion is due to the use of the terms legal separation and being legally separated.

It helps if you think of a legal separation as a noun and being legally separated as a verb. A legal separation is a legal proceeding, just as a dissolution of marriage (divorce) is a legal proceeding. Being legally separated means that you and your spouse no longer hold yourselves out as a married couple.

Thus, you can be legally separated even while still living together. Once a party decides to file a legal proceeding, they must choose between a legal separation and a dissolution of marriage. Each of these legal proceedings will encompass many legal issues before the court such as child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, restraining orders, etc.

What Is The Difference Between Legal Separation And Divorce?

The real difference is that at the conclusion of a legal separation, the parties will still maintain their status as being married. Historically, legal separations existed in California for couples who did not want to be divorced for religious reasons.

Unlike a divorce, after a Judgment of Legal Separation, if the parties ever want to remarry, they (with the help of their lawyers) will need to file another action for the dissolution of the marital status. The issues previously decided in the legal separation action will remain resolved, and the termination of the status will be the only issue before the court.

As a practical matter, most parties will find it most cost effective to simply file for a dissolution of marriage. Learn more about the difference between legal separation and divorce in a free 30-minute consultation at our La Mesa, California, law office. Call 619-567-5703 or contact us online today to speak with attorney Brian Cochran.

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