Marriage Separation: If It’s Not Divorce, What Is It?

marriage separationTwo months into 2018 has already seen sad moments, such as when married couples in love decide to separate. Modern Family’s Julie Bowen, who portrayed Claire Dunphy, and realtor investor Scott Phillips announced their separation after 13 years of marriage. But they are not the only one. Jennifer Aniston, known for her roles on the hit sitcom Friends and the comedy We’re the Millers, and actor Justin Theroux, who had a role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi also announced their separation after two years of marriage. Notably, both couples announced their separation, not divorce.

What is marriage separation? How does it differ from divorce? Are there benefits to being legally separated as opposed to divorced? These may be questions rolling around in your head if your marriage is on the rocks.

What Is Marriage Separation?

Marriage separation, or legal separation, is not divorce. In California, divorce terminates a marriage or domestic partnership. Marriage separation, on the other hand, permits married couples to live individual lives and live apart without ending the marriage. By legally separating, the couple can rely on the court to help resolve disputes. Courts may have the authority to decide the following:

  • Property division
  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Spousal support
  • Restraining orders

Arguments and hostility could be limited when the court makes these decisions. And when the couple cannot come to a mutually agreeable solution, the court ensures that the resolution is reasonable, fair and neutral.

Marriage separation is often the precursor to divorce, but it can also help bring couples back together. Spouses are given time to re-evaluate their lives and futures, including their emotions towards the other person.

What Are the Benefits to Legally Separating?

Similar to divorce, when a couple legally separates, they live apart, divide assets, determine child custody, decide child and spousal support, and rely on other legally-binding court orders to resolve other aspects of their marital lives. So, why separate rather than divorce? The primary reasons are: time and marital benefits.

Firstly, marriage separation permits spouses to see if being apart is what the couple truly wants. It can be used as a trial test to see what divorce life is like. It gives the couple needed time, room, and space to re-evaluate their relationship and future without the pressure or stress of divorce.

Secondly, legal separation does not extinguish a marriage. Married couples enjoy benefits like health insurance, retirement benefits, tax breaks, and insurance discounts. While legally separated, couples can still reap these benefits, until they divorce.

How to File for Marriage Separation in California

Filing for legal separation is similar to filing for divorce:

  • Complete all required forms, including the Summons (FL-110) and Petition (FL-100).
  • File your request for legal separation with your local court. State that the reason for the separation is irreconcilable differences.
  • Serve your spouse a copy of your marriage separation documents.
  • Wait for your spouse to file a response.

If your spouse agrees to the separation, you can file an Appearance with the court, along with your Stipulations and Waivers form (FL-130). Once the court executes the documents, if the terms are acceptable, your separation will be legal and official.

If your spouse opposes the separation and/or your proposed terms, you and your spouse may need to attend mediation. A mediator can help you both come to mutually agreeable terms. Otherwise, the court will determine the disputed matters.

Considering Marriage Separation?

If you have questions regarding legal separation, contact a knowledgeable marriage separation attorney with the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks at (555) 222-4891.

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