What You Should Know About Legal Separation in California


If there has been a strain on your marital relationship, you may be thinking about separating or perhaps even a divorce. There are differences between being legally separated and divorced that couples should be aware of before they decide which path to take. Knowing what a legal separation in California entails can help couples decide which scenario is best for them.


What is Legal Separation?

Many couples opt for legal separation when they’re not sure if they want to get divorced, but know that they don’t necessarily want to be together. A legal separation does not end a marriage but allows couples to live separately to determine whether they want to get divorced down the road. Grounds for legal separation include irreconcilable differences and incurable insanity.

During a legal separation, the court makes decisions regarding assets, debts, and child custody. Since both parties are not divorced, they may be able to hold on to health and life insurance policies until a final decision is made about the marriage.


How do I File for Legal Separation in California?

There are several forms to fill out if you want to file for legal separation in California. Be sure you fill them out completely and that they are accurate. A mistake can impact division, child custody, or other important issues. Many people opt for legal help when filling out these forms to avoid making mistakes that can have major implications on their lives.

Be sure to keep track of the date of separation. This is important because it determines property interests as well as spousal support. Once you are legally separated, your rights to community property stop.


What are the Living Arrangements During a Legal Separation?

Many couples decide to live apart, but some choose to continue to live under the same roof when they are legally separated. In 2017, a law went into effect in California that allows couples to live separate and apart while living under the same roof.

Many couples choose to continue to live together because it is less expensive or because they are waiting to see what the custody agreement will be regarding their children. Whatever the reason, couples can live under the same roof and still be legally separated in California.


Is Dating Allowed When You’re Legally Separated?

Whether you’re living together or separately, many couples wonder if they can date while they’re legally separated. While this is entirely your choice, if there are children involved, things can get complicated when one or both parties start to date. It may affect custody arrangements down the road. If there are no children involved, you may choose to date more freely. You just don’t want to make any decisions that may affect spousal support in the future.


Why Should I Consider a Legal Separation?

While you and your spouse may agree verbally to separate, having something on paper makes things official. It also helps to file for legal separation because it can clarify issues relating to real estate, assets, as well as custody. Couples who have children may choose legal separation over divorce because it sets the tone for what custody agreements may look like if a divorce does eventually happen.

Legal separations are also less expensive than a divorce which is another reason why some couples opt for them. A legal separation also gives each party time to decide if they really want to live the rest of their lives apart or if they want to try to work things out.

In California, while a legal separation is not required to get a divorce, there is a six-month cooling-off period that both sides must agree to before a divorce can be filed.


The Bottom Line

When you’re considering a legal separation, be sure to fill out your forms correctly and keep track of the official date of legal separation. This will be used to determine property and assets. Also, it is possible to remain under the same roof as your partner when you are legally separated. 

Many people choose legal separation because it puts things in writing when it comes to real estate, children, and other issues. Whatever your reason for legal separation, it is often helpful to have professional legal help to make sure that all guidelines are followed.


If you are looking for more information on legal separation or other family law issues like divorce, child custody, or child support, reach out to the Law Offices of William M. Strachan and we would be more than happy to assist you.