When filing to end a marriage, the parties can choose to file for legal separation or dissolution of marriage. Most parties choose dissolution rather than legal separation. A judgment of dissolution terminates the marriage and restores the parties to the status of unmarried persons. However, a judgment of legal separation basically determines the same issues as the judgment of dissolution except it does not set a termination date of the marital status. In other words, a legal separation allows the parties to separate their financial responsibilities while leaving the marriage bonds intact.
Unlike a divorce, a legal separation is wholly voluntary and an alternative to divorce. It originated as a way to relieve deserted spouses from harsh financial consequences and social disapproval. Although society has evolved over the years, the concept of “divisible divorce” still allows parties to resolve their economic issues separately from marital status. Today, the reasons for remaining legally married vary from religious or other personal reasons including maintaining medical insurance coverage or remaining eligible for other benefits reserved exclusively for spouses. Additionally, spouses may file for legal separation because residency requirements have not been met yet to file in California.
A legal separation may be granted only if (1) both parties consent or (2) the respondent does not appear and the petition requested a legal separation. Moreover, only a subsequent divorce can terminate the marital status of the parties. This may be done in response to the petition for legal separation by filing a response requesting a divorce or at a later proceeding after a judgment for legal separation has been entered by filing a petition to dissolve the marriage.
A judgment for legal separation should not be confused with another family law term – the date of separation – which is the date that a complete and final break in the marital relationship has occurred.
Prior to taking any legal action towards ending your marriage, it is important to consider the legal remedies available. Contact us today if you need legal assistance or are considering legal separation or divorce.
Shannon R. Loeser, Esq.
Certified Family Law Specialist
28202 Cabot Road, Suite 520
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Tel: (949) 392-5050