Your marriage is in trouble, and you and your spouse want some space apart. You move out and rent your own apartment but neither you nor your spouse have filed divorce papers yet, and you are not even sure if you want to.
Still, you can protect your property rights and make child custody arrangements during this separation period by pursuing a legal separation.
How can legal separation protect my rights?
In a legal separation, you can move the court to issue orders that are similar to those you would pursue in a divorce.
For example, you can ask the judge to rule on the division of marital property and debts during your separation period. This way, there is no confusion about who can rightfully take what and who will be paying which bills.
You can also ask the judge to issue a parenting time order. If you have kids, you do not want to fight about who has them when while you are separated. The court can rule on temporary child custody arrangements while you are separated.
You can also ask the court to rule on temporary spousal support and child support if you are legally separated.
The court orders that the couple seeks in a legal separation are legally enforceable.
How is legal separation different from a divorce?
Legal separation is different from divorce. In a divorce, your marriage is officially ended. Once finalized, you are free to remarry.
In a legal separation, you are still married to your spouse even though you are no longer living with them. You cannot remarry. But a legal separation can be a precursor to divorce.
With divorce, you must meet California’s residency requirements. Either you or your spouse must have resided in the state for the past six months and for the past three months in the county where you are filing for divorce.
If you get a legal separation, after the residency requirements are met, you can convert your legal separation, and the orders therein, into a divorce filing.
A legal separation can be a cooling-off period for warring spouses or it can serve as a stepping-stone to divorce. Either way, it is a good way to protect your rights before you file for divorce.