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Divorce vs. Legal Separation in California

Posted by Thomas Huguenor on August 5, 2015 in Divorce

A married couple seeking to split up has multiple legal options in California. The three primary ways to end a marriage or registered domestic partnership are divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Most couples who want to legally end a marriage seek a divorce or a legal separation.

What’s the difference between legal separation and divorce?

  • A legal separation requires the consent of both spouses. If you file for legal separation and your spouse does not consent, you will either need to continue attempting to fix the marriage or file for divorce.
  • A legal separation has no residency requirement or waiting period. For a divorce, however, you must have lived in California for at least six months before you file, and you will need to wait at least six months after you file for the divorce to be final.
  • A legal separation does not end the marriage. It allows the couple to live apart with an agreement that covers issues like support and child custody, but neither person may re-marry while the legal separation is in place. Spouses may use a legal separation to get the physical and mental space apart needed to work more productively on marital conflicts. If this work is successful, the couple may end the legal separation and reunite. If it’s not successful, the couple may convert the legal separation to a divorce.

Your San Diego divorce lawyer can help you decide whether a divorce or legal separation is the best option in your specific situation. Contact the Law Offices of Thomas M. Huguenor at (858) 458-9500 to discuss your options.

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