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Legal Separation

 

A legal separation does not end a marriage or domestic partnership. You can't marry or enter into a partnership with someone else if you are legally separated (and not divorced). A legal separation is for couples that do not want to get divorced but want to live apart and decide on money, property, and parenting issues. Couples sometimes prefer separation for religious reasons.  

You do not need to meet California's residency requirement to file for a legal separation. If you file for a legal separation, you may later be able to file an amended petition to ask the court for a divorce-after you meet the residency requirements. 

In a legal separation case, you can ask the judge for orders like child support, spousal support, partner support, custody and visitation, domestic violence restraining orders, or any other orders you can get with a divorce case. 

In order to initiate a legal separation case, you must prepare and file a Summons and Petition together with any other applicable forms.  Upon filing, the Court issues your Summons and assigns you a case number.  Your spouse must be personally served with your Summons and other documents.  You can have anyone over the age of 18 serve your spouse at no cost or you may choose to have our office have your spouse served by our registered process servers at an additional fee.   

Once your spouse is served with your Summons and other documents, he or she will have 30 days to file the appropriate documents in Court to contest your matter or they can opt to do nothing. 

If your spouse does not file the necessary documents with the Court to contest, your legal separation may proceed by default.  You must prepare and file the default package with the Court.  After the Court processes your default package, you must then prepare and file the judgment package to finalize your legal separation.  If your legal separation includes the issues of child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, or division of assets and obligations, the Court may request that you attend a Default Trial in order for the Judge to make a ruling on these issues.   

If your spouse does file the necessary documents with the Court to contest, you must then complete your legal separation by either agreement or trial. 

If you and your spouse can agree to all the issues involved in your legal separation, i.e. child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, division of community assets and/or obligations, confirmation of separate property, etc., your legal separation can be completed by agreement.  You and your spouse must complete all of the necessary documents, including the agreement, in order to have the Court finalize your legal separation.

If you and your spouse cannot agree to all of the issues involved in your legal separation, then a trial date must be requested so that you can go before a Judge in order to obtain your final legal separation judgment.  You must prepare all of the mandated trial documents and submit them in a timely manner in order for your trial to proceed.  If it becomes necessary for you to go to trial, it is always recommended that you have an attorney appear with you so that you have appropriate representation as this hearing will result in the Judge rendering a decision on all issues and finalizing your legal separation.

 In California, starting on January 1, 2005, domestic partners must also file for dissolution, legal separation, or annulment to end their relationship.  The information above also applies to the legal separation of a domestic partnership. 


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Last modified: 05/10/07.
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