Why get Legally Separated?
Many people often think that a legal separation is the first step that you must take prior to getting a divorce. While this is the case in some states, in California you do not need to file a legal separation first if you know that you want to dissolve your marriage. When a married couple experiences events where they may be considering divorce, but are unsure if they want to permanently terminate their marriage status, a legal separation may be the solution.
Filing a legal separation can create some boundaries and protection during the parties’ time apart and can legally separate the parties’ assets and financial responsibilities, while also establishing support, and child custody orders if there are children involved while keeping the party’s marital status intact. Having these orders in place allows the parties to live their lives separately with structure while determining if they are happier doing so. Additionally, couples may file a legal separation versus a divorce due to religious reasons, personal beliefs, and to maintain benefits they receive as a married couple such as health insurance coverage (should the medical provider allow you to do so), social security and pension benefits. Filing a legal separation may also provide the ability to receive tax benefits as you are still legally married which you can confirm with a profession tax advisor.
If you decide to file for legal separation and a judgment is entered for the legal separation, you must understand that should you decide to proceed with a divorce in the future, you will typically need to file an entirely separate case to do so. While you can often incorporate orders from the legal separation into the divorce case, you will typically need to go through a similar process through the court system again.
If you are considering filing for a legal separation versus a divorce, we suggest that you first speak with a family law attorney for legal advice so that you can make the right decision moving forward.
The process for legal separation is very similar to a divorce process and has several steps involved. As such, it is important to seek the help of a professional who is familiar with the court’s requirements, documents, procedures, and timelines to ensure that everything is handled correctly and avoid wasting unnecessary time and money.