Legal Separation

Many people confuse legal separation with  the date of separation. California is different from other states because from the date that the parties no longer live together (or sometimes live apart in the same residence) they are separated for legal purposes. From this date forward, the earnings of the party are that party's sole and separate property. If one of the parties buys an asset after the date that they not longer live together, that asset is the separate property of the purchaser. If one of parties pays on a credit card debt with their separate property earnings, the other party owes one-half back to the payor.

A Petition for Legal Separation is based on either irreconcilable differences or incurable insanity. The most common is irreconcilable differences.

In a dissolution and a legal separation proceeding, the property is divided,  a custody order is entered regarding the children, and support orders are made, if appropriate. At the conclusion of the dissolution proceeding, the parties are no longer married. At the conclusion of a legal separation proceeding, the parties are still married. 

There are only a limited number of reasons that a party might want a Judgment of Legal Separation.

Sometimes a person has a strong religious belief against divorce, so they want court orders regarding property, custody and support, but want to remained married.

Some parties believe they can file joint tax returns if they have a Judgment of Legal Separation whereas they cannot if they have a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. We always advise clients to speak with their accountants to determine if it is possible for them to file joint.

Some insurance companies will continue to allow health insurance coverage if there is a Judgment of Legal Separation. Not all insurance companies follow this policy, so it is in your best interests to contact the insurance company if you are going to rely on continuing coverage but plan to obtain a Judgment of Legal Separation.

Sometimes clients have asked to file for Legal Separation because the other person is emotionally fragile and being hit with divorce papers might be too harsh.

A Petition for Legal Separation can always to changed to a Petition for Dissolution of the Marriage if the party changes their mind.

The agreements  and orders in the Judgment of Legal Separation will also become the agreements and orders in the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.