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San Jose Family & Divorce Lawyers / Blog / Divorce / What’s The Difference Between a Legal Separation Versus Dissolution of Marriage?

What’s The Difference Between a Legal Separation Versus Dissolution of Marriage?

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Working on your marriage can come in many forms. Perhaps you have worked through some issues and attended marriage counseling to learn new techniques. Sometimes, a couple decides to take what is called a legal separation. This could be in an effort to find your independence or remember what you love and miss about your spouse while remaining married. Someone might have told you, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” which means that sometimes, you need distance to grow closer to your spouse.

Sometimes, a marriage is irredeemable. You may go through a legal separation and realize you are happier without your spouse’s company. An unforgivable transgression may happen, and you and your spouse have agreed to dissolve the marriage.

Either way, you may be wondering how a separation will affect you, or if you are past the point of separation and considering a divorce, you’ll want to know the legal differences and how to prepare.

What is a Legal Separation?

A legal separation can be seen as either the final step in trying to save a relationship or the first step to divorce. It all depends on your and your spouse’s reasoning for the separation. It is essential to know the differences between a trial separation, a legal separation, and a dissolution of marriage.

Trial Separation or Legal Separation?

If you have attended marriage counseling or have been scouring forums in an effort to work on your marriage, you have most likely come across suggestions for a trial separation. A trial separation is not a legal separation.

A trial separation is an effort that you and your spouse decide together without including the court or lawyers. You and your spouse would determine living situations, financial support, and bills, and how to navigate custody of children. While you may employ the services of a marriage counselor to help you both traverse this arrangement, ultimately, you and your spouse are responsible for negotiating the ground rules for your trial separation. In simple words, a trial separation is not a legal process.

A legal separation is similar only in the fact that you and your spouse are still legally married. Where a counselor would help you navigate the ground rules for a trial separation, a judge will determine the ground rules of a legal separation.

The Basics of Legal Separation

A legal separation is a legally assisted arrangement. The court will divide your property and debts and arrange financial support. If you and your spouse have children, the court may help determine their supervision and support.

You can ask the judge to arrange child support, an obligation not only suited for divorcees.

If you have legal representation, such as the compassionate attorneys of Argyris Mah, LLP, you can also have the court determine who is responsible for the legal fees.

While in a legal separation, you can not marry someone else or enter a domestic partnership.

Why Choose a Legal Separation Over a Divorce?

People may choose a legal separation for several reasons. Sometimes, a legal separation is the only option because the couple is not able to divorce, perhaps because of residency laws. In California, one of the spouses must have lived in California for the past six months and in the county where the case is filed for at least three months. Since there is no residency requirement for a legal separation, it can often be the best option for a couple who is determined to divorce before meeting resident laws.

Some couples settle on a legal separation because of financial reasons. It is no secret that a divorce can result in excessive expenses. A legal separation can be a temporary solution while both parties assess their finances. Since you are still legally married while on a legal separation, you or your spouse can still maintain the benefits of an insurance or benefits plan while separated.

Sometimes, a legal separation involves personal choice, such as religious beliefs.

What is a Dissolution of Marriage?

Dissolution is the formal, legal ending of a marriage by a court. It is more commonly called a divorce. When a dissolution of marriage is completed, it ends your legal relationship with your spouse and ends the marriage.

A dissolution of marriage is not an annulment. Where an annulment completely undoes a marriage, treating it as though it never existed, a dissolution is considered the legal close of a marriage.

The Dissolution Process

In California, you get a divorce by starting a court case. California is a no-fault state when it comes to dissolution. This means neither spouse has to prove the other did something wrong leading to the divorce. In California, you can get divorced even if the other person does not want one.

Whereas a legal separation means you and your spouse are still married while separated, a dissolution of marriage ends the marriage.

To file for a divorce in California, you or your spouse must have lived in California for the past six months and in your current county in California for at least three months.

When filing for a divorce, you must start the case and pay a court fee of $435 to $450. You can apply for a fee waiver if you can not afford this fee. After your papers have been filed, you must have them delivered to your spouse.

As you finish the divorce process, you must share your financial information with your spouse, make agreements about splitting property, debts, and finances, and determine custody and support for your children if you have any. If these issues can not be arranged amicably, the court can decide for you.

California has a waiting period of at least six months before a divorce is final.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

While a lawyer is not necessary for filing a divorce or a legal separation, it is always good to have legal representation as soon in the process as possible. The attorneys of Argyris Mah, LLP are available to help you during this complicated process. Please call 408-214-6366 today to schedule your obligation-free consultation. You can also contact us online.

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