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Deciding to divorce or legally separate

On Behalf of | Jun 23, 2023 | Divorce |

Sometimes no matter how hard a couple tries, their marriage comes to an end. In California, these couples have the option to divorce or to legally separate.

Divorce and legal separation overview

When a couple decides to divorce, they are legally ending their marital relationship and they are free to remarry if they want to. The court makes a decision about property division, child custody, child support and spousal support.

Couples may choose legal separation if they want to live apart but do not want to end the marriage entirely. In this situation, the couple stays married but the court can issue orders similar to those in divorce. Couples choose legal separation instead of divorce for several reasons.

Sometimes, they want to take time to evaluate whether there is a possibility they can work through their differences while they live apart.

In other situations, a legal separation may make sense for financial reasons such as retaining certain benefits like health insurance or social security. Others choose to legally separate for religious or cultural reasons.

Some couples may also find a legal separation to be less complex and faster than divorce.


Both processes require that one spouse lived in California for at least 6 months before filing. The first step is to file a petition with the court. Then, both spouses must complete a financial disclosure that lists all of their assets, debts, income and expenses.

Once the parties have resolved all outstanding issues, the court will issue a judgment of divorce or legal separation. It will include the terms of the arrangement, including child custody and child support if applicable, as well as spousal support and division of assets and debts if the couple is divorcing.


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