The Differences Between a Legal Separation and a Divorce

Frequently a party seeking the advice of a family law attorney in San Diego will inquire about obtaining a legal separation as an alternative to a divorce. There are very significant consequences of obtaining a judgment of legal separation instead of a divorce, which is a judgment for a dissolution of marriage.  A San Diego family law attorney from our firm will be glad to meet with you and talk to you about your options and the differences between a legal separation and a divorce.

Legal Separation

In many ways, a judgment of legal separation offers the same remedies as a divorce.

As experienced family law attorneys in San Diego, we will explain to you that a legal separation may include some or all of the following:

  • Division of property
  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Spousal support

Both parties must agree to obtain a judgment of legal separation instead of a divorce.  If one spouse files a petition for a legal separation and the other spouse responds with a request for a divorce, the case automatically becomes a divorce, or dissolution of marriage, proceeding.

If the couple agrees to obtain a judgment of legal separation, neither party will be able to remarry.  However, if after the judgment of legal separation is obtained, one of the parties decides to get a divorce, he or she can do so, whether the other party agrees.  The terms of the judgment of legal separation will ordinarily remain in effect after the divorce, but once a judgment of dissolution of marriage is entered, either party may remarry.

Advantages of a Legal Separation

There may be tax benefits to a legal separation you will want to discuss with a family law attorney in San Diego. For example, it may be possible to file your taxes jointly.  Other considerations may include health insurance coverage, military insurance and death benefits that are generally not available in a divorce.

Reasons for a Legal Separation

Some couples may choose this option because of religious reasons, particularly when divorces are not recognized by their faith.

There are also couples who choose a legal separation as part of a possible reconciliation plan. They believe that living apart may allow each to focus on their individual concerns and have full control over their assets without actually terminating the marriage until both are certain they want to do so.