Los Angeles Legal Separation Lawyer
Unlike a divorce, legal separation does not mean the end of your marriage; it simply means that you and your spouse choose to live separate lives while remaining legally married. The intent of a legal separation is to work out an agreement and/or court order, for things like the division of your assets, child custody, visitation, and support. This court order aims to protect your interests until you reconcile, file for divorce, or the death of either party. (It may be helpful to read our page on “Divorce” as all the same rules of law and procedures are followed in a Legal Separation as in a Dissolution of Marriage.)
A legal separation is not a necessary step in obtaining a divorce. However, if the decision to divorce is made down the road a judge may decide that since you were satisfied with your legal separation agreement, the same arrangement should carry over to the divorce settlement agreement. It is for this reason you will want to consult with an experienced San Fernando Valley family law attorney.
Reasons for Filing for Legal Separation:
- It allows couples time apart, away from the conflict of the marriage to decide if divorce is what they truly want.
- It may allow for the retention of medical benefits and certain other benefits that divorce would bring to an end.
- If your religious beliefs conflict with the idea of divorce, you are able to live separately and retain your marital status.
- If you are a military spouse, you may wish to remain married for 10 years so that you can take advantage of the benefits set up by the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act.
- Remaining married for 10 years or more also means being able to take advantage of certain social security benefits for a spouse.
If the decision to divorce is made, the legal separation agreement can likely be converted into a divorce settlement agreement. Unlike in a California divorce proceeding, there is no requisite waiting period to obtain a legal separation. If a spouse files for divorce, there is a minimum six month period that must elapse before the parties are permitted to terminate his or her legally married status. In the alternative, if a party files for legal separation, he or she can obtain a judgment as quickly as the court can process the paperwork. However, the judgment for legal separation does not entitle either party to remarry because the marriage is still valid. After the petition for legal separation is filed, many parties elect to file for divorce at a later date. This strategy is completely permissible, however it results in more court filing fees.
Filing for a legal separation can provide the parties with a number of financial benefits. The six-
month waiting period in divorce proceedings can have a big effect on the tax consequences of divorce. Unless the divorce petition is filed six months before December 31, the parties will have fewer tax options. Legal separation is often used as a tool to meet ten year marriage requirements for Social Security purposes or military pension benefits.
In order to file for divorce in California, one of the parties must meet the residency requirement. The residency requirement permits a party to file for divorce in California only if at least one spouse has resided in California for a minimum of sixth months. There is no such residency requirement in a legal separation. Thus, filing for legal separation is a tool often used to start separation proceedings while the parties wait out the six month requirement and later file for divorce.
A legal separation is a serious family law proceedings and should not be used if the couple is simply seeking a “trial separation”. If you hope to reconcile with your spouse, filing for legal separation may not be appropriate. If neither spouse intends to remarry, a legal separation can be appropriate in situations where divorce is against either party’s religion. This option will provide the spouses with the ability to separate their assets and obtain custody and support orders.