Many people believe that in order to obtain a divorce in California, they must be “legally separated” first. This is not true. Legal Separation and Divorce do not necessarily go hand in hand, although the process for obtaining each one is nearly identical. You do not need to obtain a judgment of legal separation in order to obtain a divorce. A judgment of legal separation is in itself a binding court order.
Starting the process for a legal separation requires the exact same steps as for a divorce filing a Petition, Summons, and other required documents with the court and paying the filing fee (which is currently $355.00), as well as having your spouse served. All of the same issues must be resolved by the court, including:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Division of assets and debts
One major distinction between legal separation and divorce is that with legal separation, you do not have the statutory six month and one day waiting period for it to become final. There is no waiting period for legal separation as there is with divorce. Once all of the paperwork has been completed and properly filed with the court, judgment may be entered. However, it is important to remember that a judgment of legal separation does not change your marital status. You are still married to your spouse, and neither of you may marry or register in a domestic partnership with another person. If you wish to remarry or register a domestic partnership, you must first obtain a divorce.
Because filing for legal separation requires the same attention to detail as filing for divorce, we encourage you to seek legal assistance. Give us a call we’ll be happy to help!