January 7, 2011 By Paul Wallin

Unlike a divorce action, a judgment of legal separation in California does not terminate the marital status of the parties – they will still be recognized as husband and wife. A legal separation is an alternative for couples who do not wish to remain together, but for financial, religious, or personal reasons also do not want an outright dissolution of marriage.

Seeking a legal separation has the benefit of not entirely severing the marital relationship between the parties, which allows them to retain the rights, benefits, and responsibilities that are attached to their marital status. Parties undergoing a legal separation, for example, retain their eligibility for medical insurance that would otherwise be lost if they sought a divorce.

A legal separation is not a perquisite to divorce, so it can also be a convenient trial period for couples to work out the details of a separation before they dive into something as permanent and binding as a divorce. However, the parties to a legal separation cannot subsequently enter into a new marriage unless they dissolve their existing marriage through either the death of a spouse or dissolution of marriage.

Filing for a legal separation is not to be taken lightly; it does not merely entail moving out and spending time apart. A legal separation is a lawsuit the parties levy against one another that gives the family court the power to decide on matters such as property distribution, child custody, and spousal support. A legal separation can be maintained on the same grounds as a divorce action – only that the parties remain legally married and it does not have a residency requirement or a mandatory waiting period.

The process begins when a party seeking a legal separation files a petition with a court of proper jurisdiction. Both parties must agree to the separation; otherwise the proceeding will automatically turn into an action for divorce.

Like initiating any legal proceeding, you must act very prudently with thought and consideration. The best way to ensure that your interests are adequately represented is to retain the legal assistance of an experienced family law attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have been handling family matters for over 30 years and can help you achieve the best possible results in your matter. Call us today at 888-749-7428. We will be there for you when you call.

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