Making the decision to divorce a spouse is never an easy one. In many instances, the couple may be unsure if they really want to end the marriage and opt for a trial separation period. In California, couples can enter into a legal separation for a period of time instead of divorcing. A legal separation is an option for those in a traditional marriage or a domestic partnership. Below is an overview of the options couples have in California regarding divorce and legal separation. If you are going through a divorce and need advice, it may benefit you to speak with a lawyer before proceeding.
Divorce Options In California
In California, couples have three basic options when it comes to dissolving their marriage. These options are:
- An Annulment
- A Legal Separation
- A Divorce
Couples do not have to agree in California when it comes to dissolving a marriage, either partner can file for a divorce. This is true even if one partner does not want the divorce to happen. Because California is a no-fault state, the person filing for divorce does not have to provide the court with proof of wrongdoing on the behalf of their spouse.
What Is A Legal Separation?
Some couples want to wait a bit before deciding to go through with a divorce. These couples often choose to file for a legal separation. When couples choose this option, they cannot remarry because they are still legally married to their spouse. Some reasons a legal separation may be a good idea for some couples include:
- Divorcing Is Against Their Religious Beliefs
- They Are Unsure They Want To End The Marriage
- Financial Reasons Make Divorcing Difficult Or Impossible
- They Cannot Meet California Residency Requirements For Divorcing
What Decisions Does The Court Make In A Legal Separation?
Many couples find they need court intervention to guide them through their legal separation. This is one benefit of having a legal separation instead of separating without going through the court system. Couples who are having trouble agreeing on things can ask a judge to create an order to guide them. Some things an order may cover in a legal separation are:
- Child Custody
- Child Visitation Schedules
- Monetary Support For Either Spouse
- The Division Of Marital Assets And Property
- Who Pays Certain Household Bills
- Who Carries Health Insurance For The Family
What Are The California Residency Requirements?
In order to file for a legal separation in California, couples must meet certain residency requirements such as:
- One Spouse Is A Full Time Resident Of California
- An Ammended Petition Can Be Filed After A Certain Length Of Time Has Passed If The Couples Wants To Divorce
If the couple is engaged in a domestic partnership instead of a marriage, the residency requirements are as follows:
- If The Domestic Partnership Was Registered In California
- If One Partner Is A Full Time California Resident
Filing For A Legal Separation
While you can file your petition for a legal separation pro se (without a lawyer), it may be best to obtain legal counsel before proceeding. In order to file, you must:
- File In The Correct County
- Fill Out The Forms To Petition The Court For A Legal Separation
- Prepare A Summons For The Other Partner Involved
- Fill Out Property Declaration Forms
- Complete Child Custody Forms For The Court’s Consideration
The decision to file for a legal separation is a good option for many couples. If you need help completing this process, contact an experienced family lawyer for advice. Having a lawyer to prepare your petition and guide you through the process may shorten the process so you can go on with your life.