How Long is a Legal Separation Good For?

Legal Separation Timeframe

What is legal separation

There is more to family law practice beyond a contested or uncontested divorce case. For some married couples, the best way for the family court system to protect their legal rights is to file for legal separation. Through this legal process, couples have time to resolve personal and financial issues while staying married to each other. It is important to note that spouses remain married during this period of being legally separated, which means neither can remarry.

Many people are confused about what the term dissolution of marriage means. A local attorney experienced with divorce and family law cases can give legal advice on the best path to take. Consult with credible Santa Rosa family law lawyers who can explain the pros and cons of legal separation agreements and filing divorce cases.


What is a Legal Separation?

This term refers to a legal action filed by a married person (or domestic partner) who wishes to stay married (or in the domestic partnership) and hopes to resolve other legal issues. While this may sound simple, the required forms and paperwork can be pretty confusing. Additionally, reliable legal representation is necessary for child support guidelines, child custody laws, and relevant state law on spousal support (alimony) to be strictly followed.

Unlike those going through a divorce, filers live separately from one another without changing their marital status. According to § 2310 of the California Family Code, one can pursue a legal separation based on either irreconcilable differences or incurable insanity. Since no two couples have the exact needs and goals, there are various ways to obtain a fair and equitable outcome from your filing, be it through courtroom litigation or negotiation and settlement. 


When Is It Ideal to File a Legal Separation Case?

A legal separation can be described as a court order that mandates the rights and duties of couples still legally married but living apart. It is often applicable for couples who are not ready to terminate their marriage but want to be considered separate, particularly for legal and tax liability purposes. When you and your spouse decide to legally separate, you can use a separation agreement to work on the division of property (marital property division) and assets, debts, and other financial liabilities. Unlike in divorces, however, filing for legal separation will not terminate any life or health insurance, which will likely be in your best interests.

Technically speaking, a legal separation does not end a marriage. It is possible, however, that couples can convert a legal separation into a divorce petition. Some spouses may choose this option when they are unsure of completely severing the marriage since it is not a legal action with as much finality as a divorce filing. However, if a marriage has not been dissolved through divorce, neither of the spouses involved can remarry or enter into a domestic partnership.


How Long Does a Legal Separation Last?

It is estimated that the majority of married couples who legally separate get divorced within three years.  On the other hand, approximately 15% is legally separated indefinitely, for ten years or even more. Some experts argue that a long, indefinite period of legal separation may lead to a communication gap and a build-up of mistrust and resentment on the other party. However, this period of time can give both parties time to cool off, proceed with reasonable decision-making, and recover from past experiences that led to the marriage breakdown. 

As previously mentioned, a legal separation is reversible but can also be a prelude to a divorce. If the spouses decide to get divorced eventually, the court may convert the separation judgment after six months. Whether you are looking at marriage restoration or the possibility of getting divorced, a maximum of one year is recommended as a healthy separation. A Santa Rosa family law attorney can explain these further.


Seeking Legal Help from Santa Rosa Legal Separation Attorneys

Two of the most common reasons a couple would file for a legal separation rather than proceeding with a divorce are religious principles and failure to meet specific requirements under the divorce law. 

Additionally, California family law requires at least one person in a marriage to have been a resident of the state for a minimum of six months and a resident in the County where they file a legal action for a minimum of three months. Some couples who do not meet residency requirements may choose to initiate a legal separation since no residency requirement is involved.

Legal separations emerge as a better choice for those who feel that divorces can gravely affect personal and financial aspects of life. In general, you may remain legally separated from your spouse for as long as the two of you desire. How long you can be legally separated is your judgment call.

If you are considering a legal separation, contact a trusted Santa Rosa family law firm who can assist you and help you find the most appropriate course of action to take. Call us at Embolden Law PC LLP and consult with our hands-on Santa Rosa family law attorneys. We will work personally with you, discuss your current situation, and guide you as you decide on these matters.

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