What Does It Mean To Be Legally Separated in California?

What Does It Mean To Be Legally Separated in California?

There are times when people need the legal rulings and orders that come with a divorce but aren’t, for personal reasons, interested in dissolving the marriage completely. The reasons for this vary. Sometimes, it’s for religious or moral reasons. It could also be for insurance and benefits purposes or for the sake of any children involved. Whatever the reasons, though, for these people, a legal separation in CA may be the solution.

Unlike physical separation, which requires no ruling from the courts or legal involvement and is merely living separately, legal separation is a legal process that gives similar orders as a divorce, but in the end, both parties remain legally married. This form of separation isn’t subject to the same residency requirements or waiting period as a divorce either. For some, this may be a preferable alternative to a standard divorce.

Issues That Are Decided in the Legal Separation Process

A legal separation will need to address some of the same basic issues as in a divorce. This is because, while it is understood that the couple is going to maintain their legal marital status, their lives are going to be lived separately going forward. Some of those things that will need to be settled in the process include:

  • Property division. The process of property division in a legal separation will follow the same basic principles as in a divorce. This means the property will be equitably distributed.
  • It’s important to recognize, though, that this is not the same equal distribution. While the starting point for this distribution is that an even split is optimal, many factors will be considered, and the final arrangement should be fair and equitable, even if it is not exactly equal.
  • Debt allocation. Just as the assets need to be equitably split, the debts will need to be as well.
  • Child custody and visitation. Just as with a divorce, one of the hardest but most important aspects of a legal separation is making plans regarding any children involved. Child custody plans can be difficult to arrange and decide on. The court will order whatever it believes to be in the interest of the child. However custody is awarded, there may be visitation to work out as well, and that schedule will need to be part of the final agreement.
  • Spousal support and child support. Often, one party has a greater earning capacity than the other and may need to pay spousal support and child support where applicable. This is another aspect that will need to be planned for before the legal separation can be finalized.


Q: What Is the Difference Between Physical Separation and Legal Separation?

A: Physical separation means you are no longer living together. That status could go on for quite some time before anything would be filed in court, and there is no legal requirement to file anything when physically separating.

Legal separation, on the other hand, follows a similar process to a divorce and requires a legal judgment. However, at the end of the process, the couple is still technically married even though they are separated.

Q: Is There a Waiting Period for a Legal Separation?

A: In California, there is a requirement for six months to pass between when one party is served papers and their divorce is finalized. In the case of legal separation, this is not the case. There is no waiting period before a legal separation can be finalized. This is one of the reasons that some people may choose a legal separation instead of a divorce.

Q: Can You Get a Divorce After a Legal Separation?

A: While a legal separation means that spouses remain married after the final ruling, there are some situations where they would like to get a full divorce instead. If that is the case, a divorce can still be obtained, but one of the parties will need to initiate the process. Divorce does not require consent, so it only needs to be one of the parties initiating. The courts may choose to carry over much of the legal separation agreement, or they may make alterations.

Q: Why Would You Want a Legal Separation Instead of a Divorce?

A: People have different reasons for choosing legal separation instead of divorce. In some cases, it’s for religious or moral reasons. In others, it’s so that they continue to get things like health insurance or the benefits that come with being a military spouse, which can only be received through legal marriage.

In other cases, there is the belief that the status of legal separation could make things easier for the other spouse or children. Whatever the reasons, though, no explanation is owed to the court. Like divorce, legal separation is “no-fault” and doesn’t require a reason. For most people, the choice is a personal one, and they are free to share it or not share it as they please.

California Legal Separation Attorneys, Khalaf Law Group

Although legal separation may not carry the same legal finality as a divorce, we recognize that it is still an incredibly challenging and emotionally taxing process for individuals to go through. It’s a situation that requires the same sensitivity and care that a divorce does.

That emotional burden and the weight of the situation can also make the procedural and negotiation aspects of the legal separation difficult to process and manage. Just as with a divorce, these processes can be complex and nuanced.

To get what you’re looking for from a legal separation and to come to an agreement that the court is likely to approve as fair, it’s generally in your interests to work with an experienced lawyer who understands the situation and law related to the matter. At Khalaf Law Group, we help our clients work through a legal separation with both the care and sensitivity that they need, along with the legal prowess necessary to stand up for what they are seeking.

If you think legal separation might be the right process for you or want to know more about it and how we can help, contact us today.

About Ted Khalaf

As you maneuver the difficult process of divorce and custody, it is essential that you are supported by a team of legal experts well versed in California specific Divorce and Family Law. For well over a decade, Khalaf Law Group have been serving clients across Southern California in all areas of Divorce and Family Law. With an exceptional track record of courtroom successes, Khalaf Law Group take great pride in providing their valued clients with the knowledge and information they require to maintain peace of mind and a positive outcome in their case.

Leave a comment