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San Diego Legal Separation Lawyers
Information on Legally Separating in California
There are many instances in which a married couple may elect to separate without actively pursuing divorce. Some couples decide to live apart on a permanent basis without ever planning to file for divorce. A couple may also choose to separate temporarily before determining whether or not divorce is the right decision.
If you separate from your spouse without taking legal steps to protect yourself, many problems may arise regardless of your situation. Child custody issues, the accruement of debt, or the sale of valuable marital assets can be avoided with legal planning.
Mattis Law, A.P.C., is a top San Diego family law firm with years of experience. We have handled numerous California legal separations and can assist you in understanding what is in your best interests. Contact our office at (858) 328-4400 for a free consultation.
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Providing Couples with Legal Separations and Separation Agreements
Many people misunderstand what it means to be legally separated. California distinguishes between becoming legally separated and entering into a separation agreement. A legal separation allows for two people to permanently live apart but remain legally married. People typically gain an order of legal separation for religious reasons or for issues surrounding health insurance. A legal separation is similar to a divorce and is filed with the court. Issues such as child custody, child support, and alimony are decided upon, and the court must make a final judgment on the request.
A separation agreement, by contrast, is usually temporary and is either a first step prior to divorce proceedings or is requested so that a couple may separate on a trial basis. Like a legal separation, the agreement is binding and makes a temporary decision on matters such as child support, alimony, and marital property issues. However, a separation agreement does not have to be filed with the court, and is considered a private contract in California.
If health insurance is a concern, then our San Diego attorneys will help you determine if separation would negatively impact your benefits. We will discuss major concerns with you and your partner, such as who will live in the family home, and how finances will be divided and spent, as well as any community property issues. Allowing us to mediate your separation ensures that you can rest easy knowing that your future is protected. Both you and your spouse can enjoy an amicable separation.
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Frequent Asked Questions
In most cases, married couples gain no benefit from a legal separation rather than a divorce. Separations make sense when your marriage has declined to the point where you are ready for your union to end, but for whatever reason, getting a divorce is not an option. Additionally, legal separation has one particular advantage in the state of California: it can help speed up the divorce process.
Because California is a no-fault state, the standards for a legal separation and a divorce are identical. However, if you are new to the state, you must have established residency for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. When it comes to legal separation, there is no time requirement. There is also a six-month waiting period before a divorce can be legally finalized. There is no waiting period for a legal separation.
The first step towards legal separation is deciding on the grounds. According to Section 2310 of the California Family Code, a legal separation must be based on either a) incurable insanity or b) irreconcilable differences. These are the only two options.
Next, you’ll have to file the paperwork. This can be relatively straightforward or extremely complex based on your circumstances. For example, if you have children, additional forms will be necessary. If you have worked out a custody agreement with your spouse, the process will be easier than if you are petitioning the court to make custody orders on your behalf.
Finally, if the legal separation is only being sought by one partner, then the other spouse will have to be served with the papers. That spouse will then have the opportunity to contest the separation. A failure on his or her part to respond means that the separation will go into effect, without his or her consent.
An informal separation can be risky. A legal separation offers many benefits, such as creating the parameters for co-parenting, child support, and spousal support. You can lay out the financial specifics of your separation, protecting you from a situation where your spouse empties out a joint account, goes into debt, or sells off joint assets. A failure to get your finances in order can leave you vulnerable to malicious behavior or bad decisions on the part of your spouse.
Other benefits of a legal separation include maintaining health coverage or retaining a more beneficial tax status. A legal separation also leaves open the possibility of a reconciliation and resumption of the marriage in the future. For many people, divorce is not an option for religious reasons.
If you have been a victim or fear the possibility of domestic violence, it is important to take action immediately. Prior to filing for a separation or divorce, you should have a safety plan in place for you and your children. A safety plan includes:
- A place you can stay that will be safe from your spouse
- A separate bank account in your name that your spouse won’t have access to
- Leaving cash, an extra set of keys, and copies of your important papers (and those of your children) with someone you trust
- Alerting your neighbors and landlord that you may be at risk and to alert the police if they hear any signs of trouble
The more carefully you plan in advance for leaving your spouse, the safer you can keep yourself and your children.
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Attorneys Providing High-Quality Legal Representation in San Diego
After years of practice, our firm is well-versed in the complications of both legal separation and separation agreements. We have represented thousands of families, and have a reputation for protecting the interests of our clients. Contact our San Diego office of Mattis Law, A.P.C., at (858) 328-4400 today for a free consultation.
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