Legal Separation

In a legal separation, a court makes orders relating to items such as support, property and children, but at the same time, the legal separation agreement allows the couple to live apart while still legally married. Legal separation may be effective for couples unable to live together but for whom, due to financial, emotional or other reasons, delaying divorce is considered a better option. This is an individual decision, based on the circumstances of your situation.

Many people confuse legal separation with divorce separation. According to the law, divorce and separation are not the same; legal separation is different in a number of ways from a regular divorce.

One area that is different is that when filing for legal separation in California is the residency requirement. You may file your case in the county where you both live, and that is applicable even if you are a new resident to the area.

Unlike a divorce, if you apply for a legal separation in California, you do not have a six month waiting period once a summons has been served. The only thing you need to be aware of is that you must promptly file the required paperwork. After that is done, your legal separation may be completed within as little as a month after service of the petition and summons. In some instances, the legal separation is effective immediately on filing, provided all legal documents are completed and submitted, and the respondent signs an Appearance, Stipulation and Waiver form.

Judgment is not handed down until the court knows that both spouses have consented to the separation. Judgment is not available if one spouse is contesting the separation. If that is the case, you will need to agree on all issues involved, which can be accomplished through the mediation process. Once agreement has been reached, the dissenting spouse will file the necessary papers to agree to move the case forward. If mediation fails and no agreement is possible, litigation may be the next step.

A legal separation should not be confused with a nullity or dissolution. A nullity, also known as an annulment, means a marriage never existed, and the individuals are immediately single at the conclusion of the hearing.

Dissolution, another term for traditional divorce, states a marriage does not exist any longer when the dissolution is declared final. You become single upon dissolution, but must wait six months before marrying again.

Many couples find legal separation a better fit for their financial circumstances, as benefits, such as social security and veteran’s pension, would not accrue to both parties if they divorced. In short, benefits stay in place for those who choose legal separation. There are many options to discuss, and at The Maggio Law Firm, we are happy to hear from you, should you have any questions about legal separation.

Contact The Maggio Law Firm by email or phone, to discuss mediation or legal separation. This approach may be a viable and reasonably priced alternative to expensive divorce litigation.