Sometimes, married couples decide to live separate and apart from one another as though they were divorced, but for a variety of reasons, so not want to actually obtain a divorce. The State of California provides a procedure for such couples, known as a legal separation. A legal separation does not end a marriage or a domestic partnership. However, assets obtained after separation are separate property and debts incurred post-separation are the separate liability of the party who incurred them. Further, just like in a divorce proceeding, the court has jurisdiction to make custody orders, child and spousal support orders, and orders dividing assets and debts.

Most often, clients file for legal separation if they do not wish to obtain a divorce due to personal reasons or religious beliefs. Other reasons to obtain a legal separation rather than a divorce include financial reasons (for example, to remain on a spouse’s health insurance plan), limiting liability, or failure to meet residency requirements for divorce (at least six months of residency in the State of California and three months in the county of filing).

It is important to understand that a legal separation requires the consent of the other party. If one party wishes to obtain a legal separation, but the other party wishes to proceed with a divorce, the court will enter a divorce. Similarly, a request for legal separation can be converted into a request for dissolution at any time that the case is pending, by amending the initial petition for legal separation.

The attorneys at Youngman Reitshtein, PLC will assist you in determining whether or not to petition the court for a legal separation rather than a dissolution, and represent you in such an action.