Legal separation in California is an alternative to divorce. Since legal separation and divorce decisions can have extremely serious consequences for both the parties and their children, it is usually a good idea to involve an experienced attorney in the process. An attorney can safeguard all of your legal rights while your case is pending and can assist you with drafting a valid and workable separation agreement.
Legal separation negotiations can take place – and agreements can be drafted – at the parties’ home, during mediation, or in a law office where the attorneys for both sides play a key role in the negotiation process. Fresno attorney Rick Banks has been representing clients in divorce and legal separation proceedings for many years. He can answer all of your California divorce and legal separation questions and can help to streamline the entire process for you.
Legal Separation in California versus Divorce
Once a California judge signs off on a divorce decree, the parties’ marriage ends forever. Unlike divorce, however, a legal separation in California does not end the parties’ marriage completely.
There are many reasons why some couples choose legal separation over divorce. Some parties may choose legal separation for religious reasons, while others may have more practical reasons for their decision, such as remaining on a spouse’s health insurance plan throughout a period of separation.
Steps for Obtaining a Legal Separation in California
In order to obtain a legal separation in California, you will need to follow many of the same steps that you would follow in a divorce case. For example, you will need to file a petition with the court; make decisions about child custody, support, alimony, and property division and distribution; and obtain a final judgment of legal separation from the court. Once a California judge signs off on an order, the legal separation becomes effective.
Many legal separation decisions, such as those pertaining to child custody and support, as well as martial property division and distribution, may be agreed upon by the parties beforehand or decided by the court.
Drafting a Separation Agreement
When spouses in California decide to separate rather than get a divorce, they may enter into a separation agreement. A separation agreement, like all agreements, is a contract which is binding on both spouses. As such, all of the rules of contract law apply to a separation agreement.
The separation agreement resolves all issues pertaining to the separation, child support and visitation, property division, and alimony (i.e. spousal support). It is not necessary for the parties to attend a court hearing in order to enter into a valid, binding separation agreement.
An agreement for legal separation in California may provide for some or all of the following:
- The location where the minor child or children will reside
- When and where the children will spend time with each parent
- How the couple will pay their bills and expenses while they are separated, including rent, mortgage, loans, and car payments
- Whether either spouse will pay spousal or child support to the other over the course of the separation, and if so, how much and when
- How the couple will manage their assets, including bank accounts, stocks, bonds, retirement accounts and other investments, over the course of their separation
- Whether the couple will divide or sell any of their property while they are separated, and if so, how the proceeds will be distributed
- How the couple will deal with post-separation income – or income that goes directly to one of the spouses after the parties have signed off on a separation agreement
It is important that a separation agreement be reduced to writing, so that there is no question as to either party’s wishes. A written separation agreement is also helpful if and when disputes arise over the course of the parties’ separation.
Contact a Fresno Lawyer Today for More Information about How to Obtain a Legal Separation in California
In cases where spouses have minimal property and no children, many legal separation disputes can be resolved by the parties themselves. However, the average layperson would have difficulty negotiating and drafting a comprehensive separation agreement that would pass legal muster and hold up in a California court of law. Therefore, it is advisable to retain legal counsel for representation throughout complex separation proceedings.
If you are considering legal separation in California, Attorney Rick Banks can be your advocate in negotiations with the other side and can work with opposing counsel to draft a separation agreement that fully resolves any disputed issues. You can reach attorney Rick Banks at any time by calling (559) 222-4891, for a free initial consultation about how to obtain a legal separation in California.