The Process of Pursuing a Legal Separation in California
More and more people are choosing a California legal separation over a legal divorce. Why? Well, if you are granted a legal separation, you enjoy most of the benefits of a divorce, but you still remain legally married. This is a good alternative for certain couples who, for their own reasons, do not want a formal, legal divorce. Legal separations are also a quicker alternative to divorce. California law places a requirement that couples wait at least six months from the day they file to the day they finalize the divorce. California does not place such a requirement on legal separations. This means that you can have that order in hand more quickly.
The processes of filing for divorce and legal separation in California are similar. This is logical; at the end of the process, the only key difference between the two is that if you pursue a separation over a divorce, you will still retain a legally “married” status.
Pursuing a California Legal Separation
There are generally five parts to filing for a legal separation in California. The various parts and a more detailed accounting of what is required at each step are discussed below.
Part One: Filing the Petition and Summons
You should anticipate that the first step toward being granted a legal separation is to complete and file the official Petition and Summons with your appropriate California court. The Petition and Summons explain the action you are pursuing and act to inform your spouse that the request for separation has been made.
If you and your spouse share minor children, then you will also need to file a declaration to satisfy the requirements of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
Part Two: Serving Your Spouse
If you file for the separation, then your spouse must be served with copies of the filed forms and a copy of the marriage/domestic partnership form. You can have an adult over the age of 18 serve your spouse. If a server cannot locate your spouse and cannot serve them with these papers, then the server may be able to file a proof of service form. This form can act as a kind of substitute for serving your spouse if they cannot be located. Your spouse is granted 30 days to reply to the documents after they have been served.
Part Three: Financial Disclosures
The court requires that the spouses disclose financial information in order to ensure that a just settlement takes place. The financial disclosure will also be utilized to determine potential issues concerning child custody and child support.
The spouse who files for separation must complete their financial disclosure within 60 days of filing for the separation. If you were served with a separation notice, you must make your disclosure within 60 days of the date you filed your response. You must also remember to file a Declaration Regarding Service of Disclosure with the court.
Part Four: Decision Time
If a couple comes together and forges a reasonable agreement on issues, the court will ordinarily defer to the couple’s wishes. A trial or final hearing will only be heard in order to settle any contentious issues that the couple has been unable to come to an agreement about.
Please note that it is very likely in both spouses’ best interests to come to an agreement on as many issues as possible outside of court. A judge is an outside person who does not understand the nuances of your situation or family. If you and your spouse cannot craft an agreement amongst yourselves, you defer your power over to this outside entity to make the decisions on how your life and your family will operate moving forward
Part Five: Finalize the Separation
If a couple comes to a reasonable agreement on all required points, then the California court does not require the couple to submit to a formal hearing or trial before granting a legal separation. If the couple cannot come to an agreement on all points, then the court will schedule a hearing during which a judge will hear both sides of the case and issue a final judgment on the remaining issues.
Contact the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler
Whether you find yourself facing a legal separation or divorce, contact the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler to speak with an experienced and elite California divorce and family law attorney.