What qualifies as a 'legal separation'?
Unlike a divorce, legal separation does not mean the end of your marriage; it simply means that you and your spouse choose to live separate lives while remaining legally married.
The intent of a legal separation is to work out an agreement and/or court order, for things like the division of your assets, child custody, visitation, and support. This court order aims to protect your interests until you reconcile, file for divorce, or the death of either party. (It may be helpful to read our page on “Divorce” as all the same rules of law and procedures are followed in a Legal Separation as in a Dissolution of Marriage.) A legal separation is not a necessary step in obtaining a divorce. However, if the decision to divorce is made down the road a judge may decide that since you were satisfied with your separation agreement, the same arrangement should carry over to the divorce settlement agreement. It is for this reason you will want to consult with an experienced San Diego family law attorney.
Here are some typical reasons we see people looking for a legal separation:
- It allows couples time apart, away from the conflict of the marriage to decide if divorce is what they truly want.
- It may allow for the retention of medical benefits and certain other benefits that divorce would bring to an end.
- If your religious beliefs conflict with the idea of divorce, you are able to live separately and retain your marital status.
- If you are a military spouse, you may wish to remain married for 10 years so that you can take advantage of the benefits set up by the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act.
- Remaining married for 10 years or more also means being able to take advantage of certain social security benefits for a spouse.
- If the decision to divorce is made, the legal separation agreement can likely be converted into a divorce settlement agreement.