Is Legal Separation in California Right for You?

You’re trying to save your marriage but concerned about your spouse’s behavior and how it could jeopardize your shared assets. Perhaps your spouse has mental health struggles and engages in irrational spending. Or maybe your spouse is secretive about community account information, refuses to share account access with you, and you’re seriously worried about your future. Or perhaps you can’t consider a divorce at this time because of your children, your spouse’s immigration status, or your religious beliefs, but you need control over your share of community property.

Suppose you’re not ready to end your marriage but want to protect and have exclusive control of your share of community assets. In that case, legal separation in California may be right for you.

Differences Between Filing for Legal Separation in California Versus Divorce

Legal separation in California is both like and different than divorce. Like divorce, legal separation in California provides for the division of marital assets and liabilities. Couples who are legally separated no longer accrue marital assets or liabilities unless they otherwise agree to do so. Unlike divorce, a California legal separation doesn’t terminate your marriage. In other words, your assets and liabilities are divided, but you and your spouse remain married. Many couples live together after they file for legal separation in California and continue working on their marriage. Often, money management is a significant point of contention between couples. A California legal separation allows each spouse greater control over investing and spending and can sometimes reduce conflict.

Other Benefits of a Legal Separation in California

If you file for legal separation in California, the benefits include more than just protection of and exclusive access to your share of community assets. You can continue to be covered under your spouse’s health insurance plan and take financial advantage by filing a joint tax return. Suppose you need to stay married for a set period so your spouse can receive Social Security and military benefits. In that case, a California legal separation can bridge the gap. A legal separation in California can also establish a physical and legal timeshare of your children and set both child and spousal support.

Legal separation in California also has benefits in terms of logistics and timing. Couples seeking divorce must satisfy California’s residency requirement, where at least one spouse must live in the state for six months before filing the Petition for Dissolution. After filing, there is an additional six-month mandatory waiting period before your divorce can be final. Therefore, your divorce could take at least 12 months to finalize if you are new to California.

For couples undergoing a legal separation in California, there is no residency requirement and no mandatory six-month waiting period. In other words, your California legal separation can be final as soon as you and your spouse agree. Legal separation in California may be the best route if you’re in a rush to have the protections of an enforceable agreement. If you file for legal separation in California and then decide a divorce is what you want, you can easily convert your California legal separation into a divorce by simply amending your divorce Petition.


Marriages come with certain rights and responsibilities not terminated in a legal separation in California. For example, separated spouses are still responsible for making medical decisions if one spouse becomes incapacitated. Similarly, if one spouse dies, the surviving spouse maintains the same inheritance rights they had before your California legal separation. Inheritance rights may be necessary if you have minor children to support.

If you or your spouse wish for a California legal separation, an attorney from Laughlin Legal, PC can help you achieve this goal. We’ll protect your rights and guide you through each step of the California legal separation process. Contact us today to request your consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced California legal separation attorney.

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