What is the Difference Between Legal Separation & Divorce?

It doesn’t matter whether yours is a “friendly” divorce where you and your spouse agree on everything or whether it is “difficult” divorce that has frequent and/or complex litigation. It is a difficult and emotional time and you want to assure that your interests and rights are protected in the process.

The process of legal separation and divorce in California is similar — but at the end of a divorce you are no longer legally married. California is a community property state; legal separation severs the tie of community property at the time of the filing and is intended to resolve property, debt and child related issues. Legal separation cannot be granted unless both spouses agree to it. If one spouse does not respond to the petition within 30 days, it is considered a “default” which will terminate that spouse’s ‘voice’ in the legal separation. The respondent spouse may request a divorce instead of agreeing to a separation, at which time the proceedings would continue but it would be divorce proceedings instead of legal separation. If both spouses agree to legal separation, the process leads to a final judgment, resolving issues such as child custody, child support, and spousal support. In our firm’s practice, the most common reasons parties opt for a legal separation or divorce are health insurance or religious reasons.

If a couple decides to seek a divorce, the process begins just as with a legal separation, with the filing of the Summons and Petition, and the UCCJEA Declaration if there are minor children.

The soonest you could be divorced or legally separated is six months and a day from the date that you or your spouse was served with a Summons and Petition. The reality is that many times a case can continue for a year or two or even more.

The Stockdale Law Firm, Inc. in El Dorado Hills will let you know what to expect in your divorce or legal separation, and keep you informed each step of the way. We will discuss your options and help you decide which approach is best for you. We work diligently to avoid unnecessary litigation and unnecessary emotional stress, which usually works to lower your legal expenses. It is our Firm’s policy to refrain from escalating conflict but if it arises, we will help you resolve the conflict through litigation or negotiation.

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