November 29, 2012 By Paul Wallin

A judgment of legal separation settles the parties’ property rights and financial responsibilities as between themselves and to their minor children; to that extent, the judgment is “res judicata.” “Res judicata” is a  Latin term that continues to be used in the legal field and means the same parties cannot re- litigate the same cause of action between them; you only get to decide the issues once.  Whether a cause of action is within the res judicata bar is tested by whether it involves the same primary right as that involved in the prior action.

In the matter of a Judgment of Legal Separation between married persons and a Judgment of a Dissolution of Marriage the primary rights determined by the court are the same: 1) child custody, visitation and support, if applicable, 2) date of marriage and date of separation; 3) temporary and permanent spousal support, 4) division of separate and community property assets and debts, and 5) attorney fees. Of course, the only difference between the two actions, is that with a Judgment of Legal Separation the parties continue to be married in title only and with a Judgment for Dissolution, the parties are no longer married to each other.

While many reasons exist, there is one predominant reason spouses choose to obtain a Judgment of Legal Separation instead of a Dissolution of Marriage, religious.  For some spouses the possibility of divorcing is not religiously permissible, but the need to end the marriage for all practical purposes remain, thus the Judgment of Legal Separation.

Often times, the parties who agree to a Legal Separation Judgment do so freely, telling themselves they never plan to re-marry anyway.  However, people change their minds, so be sure to put a clause in your Legal Separation Judgment that should one party later file for Dissolution of Marriage that the Judgment of Legal Separation is to be incorporated in the Judgment of Dissolution action.  This way, everything remains the same, except at the end the parties are no longer married.

Please be mindful that if a party changes his or her mind, he or she must file a new action for Dissolution, pay the new set of court fees, personally serve opposing party, obtain signatures on the new paperwork if the parties are in agreement and wait six months for the divorce to be final.   To be clear, you are filing to dissolve your marital status only since that is the only issue left unresolved, but you still have to go through the process.

We hope this gives you a basic understanding the differences between Judgment of Legal Separation and Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.   If you or a loved one needs help with a legal separation matter or any type of family law matter, call Wallin & Klarich today 888-749-7428. The Wallin & Klarich team of highly skilled, aggressive family law attorneys are ready to take your call 7 days a week, 24 hours a day!  Wallin & Klarich has been in the business of helping people for over thirty years and we would like to help you. We have offices in Victorville, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange Counties. We will be there when you call.

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