Legal separation is not just another word for divorce. Legal separation and divorce are separate and distinct things here in California.
We’ll start with the main difference between the two. A divorce legally terminates a marriage. With legal separation, on the other hand, a marriage remains formally in place. So, legal separation provides a route for married couples who want to live apart but do not currently want the formal marriage termination that divorce brings about. A couple may have this desire for religious, personal or practical reasons.
Another difference regards filing requirements. There is a residency requirement for divorces in California. However, there is no such requirement to file for a legal separation.
Now, there are ways in which legal separation is similar to divorce. For one, the filing process is similar for the two.
Additionally, both divorces and legal separations can be filed under the no-fault grounds of irreconcilable differences.
Also, in both divorces and legal separations, arrangements are put in place addressing important issues between the splitting couple. This includes things like property division, spousal support and (if they have kids) child custody/visitation/support issues.
As can be the case in divorces, disputes sometimes arise between couples regarding such issues in legal separations. What happens in such disputes can have lasting implications. So, when a person ends up in a dispute with his or her spouse during the legal separation process here in California, it can be critical for him or her to stand up for his or her rights. Skilled family law attorneys can assist individuals with this.