What Is the Difference Between Divorce and Legal Separation in California?

December 27, 2019
PIcture Of Family problem, issues concept. Father leaving his child and wife. Divorce, separation.

There are a couple of different ways to end your marriage or domestic partnership in California. The two most common ways are divorce and legal separation. However, you may not know the differences between them. Our San Jose divorce lawyer explains the difference between divorce and legal separation in California. If you have additional questions about divorce, please contact us.

What Is a Legal Separation in California?

A legal separation may be the best option for you if you cannot or do not want to end your marriage or partnership. Generally, a legal separation is a court order that describes the duties of a couple while they are still legally bound but living apart. Similar to a divorce, you can request the court to consider important family matters, such as:

  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Property and debt division

Differences Between Divorce and Separation

The main difference between divorce and legal separation is that you are still married or in a domestic partnership under a legal separation. Your marriage or partnership legally ends in divorce. 

A few differences that stem from this basic difference include:

  • Marital status. You cannot remarry or enter into a new domestic partnership if you are separated. 
  • Healthcare. Separation allows for the retention of healthcare and other similar benefits. Certain benefits, like Social Security will often end after a divorce.
  • Decision-making. Separated spouses are still considered next of kin who can make financial or medical decisions. Divorced spouses, however, are no longer next of kin.
  • Financial debts. Separated spouses can still be liable for the debt of the other. However, you may request the court to make an order about debt division. In a divorce, your debts are handled through the dissolution process.
  • Remarriage/reconciliation. Divorce cannot be undone. You would have to remarry after a divorce if you want to be together again. Reconciliation is easier with legal separation.

Are You Considering a Divorce or Separation in California?

Our San Jose divorce attorney represents individuals and couples dealing with divorce or separation issues. If you have questions about your legal options, feel free to call our office for a free consultation. Contact us at (408) 404-8656 or fill out our online form and we will be in touch with you soon.