Can I get legally separated instead of divorced in California?

California law allows for legal separation between spouses. The process for obtaining a legal separation is not very different from that of getting a divorce. Just as you would in a divorce, you will file a petition, serve it on the other party, and wait for an answer. You will attempt to resolve your issues, such as parenting, support and property division. If you cannot address these issues on your own, you may have a trial before a family court.

What are the advantages of legal separation?

Legal separation is different from divorce. That’s because with a legal separation, you’re technically still married. You can still file joint taxes and share health insurance. However, you cannot remarry — unless you later divorce.

Legal separation can be a trial run for divorce. In some cases, parties can try and reconcile their marriage if they choose. If they do, they can file a motion to vacate the legal separation order.

Some people simply prefer not to divorce. Sometimes, this is for religious or spiritual reasons. Other times, their motives are practical. The decision to legally separate rather than divorce is a personal one.

Can we negotiate our issues on our own?

Yes. Whether through negotiation, conciliation, mediation or another method, you and your spouse can develop an agreement to settle your issues without going to trial. However, the court must approve of this agreement.

If you have children, you will need to settle whether to share parental decision-making authority and how to divide parenting time.

You will need to calculate a child support arrangement using the California child support guidelines.

You will need to determine what property is part of the community estate (marital property) and divide that fairly. Likewise, you will also need to divide community debts if there are any.

You will also need to determine if one spouse will receive some form of spousal support.

Since a court must approve your separation agreement, you must resolve your issues to comply with California law. Because of this, you may want to have an attorney work on the agreement with you.

Do we have to have grounds to divorce in California?

Unlike many other states, California is a no-fault divorce state. That means you don’t have to prove your spouse hurt or damaged the marriage to get divorced.

If you still have more questions regarding your legal separation, talk to an experienced family law attorney about legal divorce and whether it’s right for you.