Finding a Family Law Attorney in Riverside, County, California
People who call our office at Family Law Matters, often pose the question, “What is legal separation?” This is because you know that you cannot live together with your spouse anymore, because your relationship is no longer working. You and your spouse cannot even be in the same room without arguing. The problem is that you are not ready to give up on the marriage just yet. There still may be some way the two of you can repair your relationship.
Married couples often believe that a trial separation is a good idea. You heard about legal separation and maybe it is a good idea. The two of you can be apart for a while to see how things go. People frequently believe they need to hire a lawyer and file formal paperwork in order to proceed with a trial separation. What couples often do not understand is that they can be legally separated without having to file for a legal separation. There is a difference.
What is the Difference Between Being Legally Separated and a Legal Separation in Murrieta and Temecula, California?
Being legally separated is a state of mind. It is when one spouse in a marriage decides that the relationship is broken forever and cannot be fixed- no matter what happens. That spouse then takes some action to end the relationship- such as moving out or separating the finances. No formal documents are needed to be legally separated.
However, when spouses file for a legal separation- they are filing a lawsuit in the court. This action, called a “legal separation” is very much like a divorce. The courts issue orders for property division, debt division, spousal support, child support and child custody. The proceeding is very much like a divorce. The only difference is at the end of the litigation, the parties remain married and have to file new paperwork to end the marriage.
When people ask us about a legal separation, they often are asking about a trial separation. The question is, “Do I need to do anything legally if my spouse and I want to separate temporarily?” The answer is, “No.” You need not do anything if you are thinking about getting a divorce, but don’t know for sure if you want one. You and your spouse can live separate and apart without filing formal documents with the court.
Protecting Your Assets in A Legal Separation
Most people who consider getting a legal separation in California do so because they are not sure whether they really want to divorce their spouse. Sometimes, legal separation is an appropriate way to protect one spouse from being financially responsible for the other spouse’s debts. Since a legal separation separates the parties’ finances, the action is helpful when the parties do not want a divorce but are worried about some future financial liability. The filing of a legal separation could protect you under the following circumstances:
- One spouse is wants to be protected from the liability of the other spouse driving under the influence of a controlled substance
- One spouse is anticipating significant medical expenses and the other spouse wants to be protected
- One spouse is a compulsive gambler and the other spouse does not want to be liable for debts incurred as a result
- One spouse is a compulsive spender and is using community money to incur debt
Reasons for a Legal Separation in Temecula, California
A legal separation is just like a divorce. All the assets and debts are divided. Custody and visitation is decided. Spousal support and child support are ordered (if appropriate), but if one spouse wishes to go through with the divorce at a later time, he/she must file new paperwork with the court to have the marriage dissolved. A legal separation is only appropriate in a very narrow set of circumstances. The most common circumstances include:
- Religion: Your religious beliefs prohibit you from filing for a divorce
- Health Insurance: One spouse needs continued coverage on the other’s medical insurance due to health reasons.
- Retirement Benefits: You have not yet been married long enough to have a vested interest in the other spouse’s retirement benefits.
- Social Security Benefits: You have been married less than ten years and one spouse would like the right to collect derivative Social Security benefits from the other.