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What is legal separation?

Some married couples in California may want to be apart from each other, but do not want or cannot undergo a divorce. The state's family law allows spouses and domestic partners to separate without filing for divorce or dissolving the domestic partnership.

Legal separation does not terminate a marriage or domestic partnership. However, a person may not remarry or enter another domestic partnership if there is a legal separation. A separation case may be changed to a divorce if certain requirements are met.

The legal process for seeking separation is the same as divorce. The case may be filed in California if one of the spouses is living in the state. A person can also file an amended petition for divorce after the required residency time for divorce elapses.

Domestic partners may file for separation if the domestic partnership was registered in California even if neither partner resides in the state. If the partnership was not registered in California, at least one of the partners must live here. If the domestic partners do not live in California and seek to end their partnership, a state court may be unable to issue orders about property and debt, support or the couple's children.

A couple may seek separation instead of divorce for several reasons. They may wish to live apart and seek judicial orders about their assets and parenting matters. Divorce may conflict with their religious or personal beliefs. Other reasons include their failure to meet the state's residency requirements for divorce and they do not want to begin the process of ending their relationship. Spouses may also wish to remain married for financial reasons, such as keeping a spouse on a health insurance plan or to continue to receive benefits that require the recipient to remain married.

Couples can seek orders that judges routinely issue in a divorce. These include child custody and visitation, child support, property division, payment of debts and spousal or partner support.

Source: California courts, "Options to end marriage or domestic partnership," Accessed April 2, 2018

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Mohajer Law Firm, APC

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