Legal Separation in Los Angeles

Legal separation is a significant and important concept in California.  A legal separation is distinct from a “date of separation”, which legally defines the date that marital partners physically separated and one spouse had an objectively expressed belief that the marriage was over.  A “legal separation” is a type of case, similar to a divorce, except that parties to the case remain married even when the case is over.

Nearly half of all marriages in the United States end in a divorce or legal separation. While divorce may seem like the only option, some couples opt for a legal separation instead.  It should be noted, however, that very few parties actually get a legal separation judgment in California for the reasons described below. Depending on the circumstance surrounding your split, a legal separation may make more sense than a divorce. If you are looking for a Los Angeles legal separation lawyer, we can help you determine which option is best for you and can guide you through the process in an efficient and effective manner.

The Benefits of Legal Separation Over Divorce

When is a legal separation preferred over divorce? Here are some common situations where separation may be better:

  • Health benefits. A divorce typically terminates insurance coverage and forces at least one party to seek out a new plan. When separated, spouses may be able to retain the same health care benefits they received throughout marriage. (Note: a comprehensive analysis of the particular health plan is required to determine if this is possible.)
  • Tax benefits. In many cases, spouses receive income tax benefits. A separation – as opposed to a divorce – allows each spouse to continue taking advantage of certain tax benefits and deductions.
  • Religions reasons. Many religions look down on divorce, and those who choose to end their marriage can be ostracized from their affiliated institution. Being legally separated allows you to remain married for the sake of religion.
  • Military benefits. Military spouses receive a number of benefits that would otherwise be terminated in divorce. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, spouses who remain married for a minimum of 10 years can gain benefits. A legal separation does not affect this timeline, so it may be beneficial to opt for a legal separation instead of a divorce.
  • Cool down period. When couples experience conflict, they often need time to cool down and resolve their differences. A legal separation provides time to do this without doing so with the finality of divorce.
  • Social security benefits. Couples who are married for 10 years or more are eligible to receive a share of the other spouse’s Social Security benefits. For couples parting on good terms, it may be worth legally separating until the 10-year threshold is surpassed.

“Should I complete this process on my own?”

Filing for a legal separation requires careful consideration of a number of unique factors. While it is possible to complete the process on your own, it is not advised. An attorney can provide a very cost-effective and accurate solution for those looking to circumvent divorce through legal separation in Riverside County. At Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, our attorneys are highly specialized and have a keen understanding of drafting and overseeing legal separations.

What is the process to obtain a judgment of legal separation?

The process to obtaining a legal separation is nearly identical to the process to obtain a divorce.  The case is initiated by filing a petition for legal separation, which is the same form as the petition for divorce incidentally.  The case is filed and the respondent is served, and they have 30 days to file their response.  Either party can file a motion for temporary orders, and each party can initiate discovery.  There will be certain hearings including status conferences and a “Mandatory Settlement Conference” before the case can be resolved with a trial.  The only procedural difference between a legal separation and divorce is that in a legal separation action, there is no six-month waiting period for the “marital status” of the parties to be terminated.  This is because in a legal separation case, unlike divorce, the parties stay married to each other.

Wilkinson & Finkbeiner

Our office has a staff of experienced California State Bar Certified Family Law SpecialistsJulia Schneider manages our Los Angeles office.

As one of the few Certified Family Law Specialists in the area, you’re in great hands with our firm. We understand the best way to approach legal separation.

Whether you are looking for advice on whether it makes financial sense to pursue legal separation or divorce, or if you need help with any other part of the process, we are here to assist you. Our knowledgeable team of Los Angeles legal separation attorneys encompasses the skillset and legal expertise to help you make the best decision for your individual circumstance.

For additional information and a free case evaluation, don’t hesitate to contact us today.