If you no longer wish to be in your relationship, a divorce is not the only legal option. California also offers legal separation, an alternative to divorce that can come with unique benefits. Although legal separation does not dissolve a marriage, it can grant you certain rights and freedoms.
Like divorce, getting legally separated takes a specific legal process. This is why it is important to consult with a family law attorney before you file. At Schoenberg Family Law Group, our Redwood City legal separation attorneys are committed to helping individuals with all types of family law cases, including legal separation and divorce cases. We can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case while reducing the stress of the legal process.
Why Choose Us
- Our lead attorney, Debra R. Schoenberg, is a Certified Family Law Specialist, meaning she has been certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization.
- We provide effective legal representation in and out of court. Although most legal separation cases do not go to trial, we have the ability to go to trial for our clients, if necessary.
- Our law firm has over 35 years of experience representing clients in Redwood City and throughout California. We are a passionate and reputable group of attorneys and staff.
Why You Need a Redwood City Legal Separation Attorney
If you have a simple legal separation case, with no children and only minor assets, you may not need an attorney to represent you. If, however, your case involves any complications, hiring a lawyer to represent you can make an important difference to the outcome of your family law case. An attorney can help you work through issues connected to your legal separation while effectively protecting your rights. A legal separation lawyer can perform the following services on your behalf:
- Give you sound legal advice and answers to your questions.
- Guide you through the legal process in a way that is simple and clear.
- Help you with alternative dispute resolution (e.g., mediation or arbitration).
- Prepare legal separation paperwork and file it with the correct courthouse.
- Hire forensic accountants and other experts.
- Advocate for your rights during a legal separation trial, if necessary.
Hiring a legal separation attorney in Redwood City can make the entire legal process easier for you and your family. You can relax and focus on building a brighter future after your legal separation while your lawyer handles complicated legal processes for you. If you and your spouse reconcile in the future, your lawyer can help you terminate the legal separation. If you decide to turn your separation into a divorce, your lawyer can help you with this legal process, as well.
How Is Legal Separation Different From Divorce?
When you get divorced, it dissolves your marriage and breaks the union you had with your spouse. In the eyes of the law, you are single after a divorce. With a legal separation, however, your marriage remains intact. You can live separately and lead separate lives, but you will remain married on paper. Legal separation might be the right choice if you believe you and your spouse might reconcile in the future, if you do not meet one of California’s requirements for getting a divorce or if you wish to maintain certain benefits you receive from marriage.
Benefits of Legal Separation
There are many reasons couples choose legal separation over divorce in Redwood City. Preserving your marital status while living apart from your ex-spouse can come with several advantages, depending on your priorities and situation:
- You can have the time and space you need while still enjoying the benefits of marriage.
- You will not have to go against your religious or personal beliefs by getting divorced.
- You will still be eligible for certain benefits that you have through marriage, such as insurance through your spouse’s employer or tax benefits from filing jointly.
- Any income, assets or property you acquire after the date of separation will be your own separate property, not part of community property. This protects it from being divided with your spouse if you get divorced.
- If you and your spouse reconcile, you do not have to get remarried. This saves you time, money and stress if you and your spouse decide to get back together.
- If you and your spouse do not reconcile, having a legal separation can make the divorce process easier.
Keep in mind that you cannot remarry until you obtain a divorce in California. Go over the pros and cons of a legal separation vs. divorce with your ex-spouse and an attorney to determine which option is right for you. You can always decide to end the legal separation and reconcile or get a divorce in the future if desired.
Legal Separation vs. Physical Separation
It is important to realize that physical separation does not mean legal separation. You and your spouse might have been physically separated, living apart and leading separate lives, for many years, but unless you have made the separation official, you will not have been legally separated. This is an important distinction for legal purposes.
Legal separation means that you and your spouse have a legal separation judgment from the courts. You have successfully divided your assets and debts and created a parenting plan. Physical separation simply means that you and your spouse no longer live together but have never filed anything with the court to make it official in the eyes of the law.
Your date of physical separation is important, however, if you decide to get legally separated or divorced. The date of separation can be viewed as the date that one person expressed the desire to end the marriage or acts in a way that is consistent with this intent. Moving out and living separately is an example of a date of separation. For the most part, any debts or assets acquired after the date of separation are your own separate property, not community property. This can impact many elements of your divorce or legal separation cases, such as property division and spousal support.
How Does the Legal Separation Process Work?
To file for legal separation in California, you will need to fill out and submit the correct papers to the family courthouse in your county. You can get this paperwork online or by contacting the courthouse. If you need assistance filling out the paperwork, contact an attorney. Like a divorce, you and your spouse will need to work out the major elements of your legal separation before a judge will make it official. This includes:
- Child custody (parenting time)
- Child support
- Spousal maintenance (alimony)
- Property division
An attorney can help you arrive at a settlement agreement with your ex-spouse, which you will need before separating. Your settlement agreement decides matters such as property division and child custody if you have children. If you and your ex cannot reach a settlement, you will have to take your legal separation case before a judge in Redwood City. Most legal separations are resolved with settlements, however.
What if Your Spouse Doesn’t Want to Legally Separate?
According to California Family Code Section 2345, the courts cannot create a court order confirming a legal separation without the consent of both parties. The only exception is if one party has not made a general appearance. If your spouse fails to respond to your petition for legal separation, a judge will sign off on your request even without your spouse’s consent. If your spouse actively contests the legal separation, however, it will not be finalized by the courts. It is possible, however, to get divorced without your spouse’s cooperation. Learn more by discussing your case with a family law attorney in Redwood City.
Contact a Redwood City Legal Separation Lawyer
Planning your legal separation with a family law attorney can make the legal process easier for you and your family. Your attorney can identify issues you may encounter and help you properly handle them. If you wish to begin a legal separation in Redwood City, contact Schoenberg Family Law Group now to speak to an attorney.