The main difference between divorce and legal separation is that a divorce ends your marriage or domestic partnership and a legal separation does not. After you get divorced, you will be single, and you can marry or become a domestic partner again. When you are legally separated, you cannot remarry.
California is called a “no-fault” divorce state, which means there is no “guilty” or “non-guilty” person, from the court’s point of view. When you start a divorce case, you can ask the judge to make orders about custody and visitation, child or spousal/partner support, the division of your property, and who will be responsible for paying debts. This process is the same for a legal separation.
Reasons for choosing either process differ as well. Couples choosing divorce are sure they want to end the marriage and separate from each other in every possible way. Typically, couples decide they want to file for legal separation instead of divorce because of religious/personal reasons or they do not want to get a divorce but want to live apart and get orders from the court about money, property, and parenting issues. Another reason for considering legal separation is when couples do not meet the required residency requirements to file for divorce in California, and they cannot or do not want to wait to get the process of separating started. For divorce, one of the parties must have lived in California for 6 months whereas for legal separation, at least one of you has to live in California, length does not matter. Time is also a different for each case, the divorce process takes 6 months, or longer, from the date the person filing for divorce officially lets his or her spouse or domestic partner know about the divorce.
If you are unsure of your situation, and whether you want a divorce or a legal separation talk to a lawyer. Contact Thorsteinson Law Group to help you with understanding the divorce and separation processes. We provide complimentary consultations, and are dedicated to helping you.