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The decision to divorce is a tough one to make, as once a couple makes the decision there is no going back. Many California couples are not ready for that kind of finality. If you and your spouse have decided that you need a time-out but are not quite sure if divorce is what you want, you may consider legal separation.

In some states, legal separation can be just as permanent as divorce, but not in California. In the Golden State, legal separation does not end a marriage or domestic partnership. However, according to FindLaw, it does result in enforceable court orders that help couples facilitate still-connected aspects of their lives. For instance, if you and your spouse share a bank account, children and a health insurance policy, an enforceable court order may separate your finances and direct the custody and support of your children. It may also contain language that ensures that both parties have access to health care benefits via the shared plan.

If and when you and your spouse agree that a legal separation is a viable alternative to divorce, you need to then determine if you are eligible. In California, there are two legal grounds for separation:

  1. Irresoluble differences which have resulted in the breakdown of the union
  2. Permanent legal incapacity to make decisions 

While the second reason is self-explanatory, the first is often open to interpretation, as irreconcilable differences can be different for every couple. That said, a judge will typically grant a legal separation when one spouse communicates his or her desire to end the marriage, or when one spouse engages in conduct consistent with a desire to end the marriage. Such conduct may include infidelity or moving out of the family home  

Bear in mind that if you do opt for a legal separation, you must still file a petition and pay the necessary legal fees. Though the process does not result in permanent legal separation, it is similar in many ways to an actual divorce, the only real difference between the two being that you are still married on paper.

This information provided in this post is intended for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice.