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What option is better for me Legal separation or Divorce in California?

Any married couples who are prepared to end a marriage may choose from several legal alternatives in California. Many people who are ending a marriage automatically choose divorce, but some prefer legal separation.

In general, there are three terms for changes in a marriage:

  • Separation
  • Divorce
  • Legal Separation

Separation for many can means living apart. You do not need to file anything with the Court to physically separate. The law does not require you to live with your spouse. However, separating from your spouse may affect your legal rights. You should discuss your decision to physically separate from your spouse with an attorney prior to doing so.

If you do physically separate, you will likely need to work out arrangements for the care of the children, support, and payment of expenses. A mediator or lawyer can help you and your spouse reach an agreement. A lawyer can advise you on your legal options, if an informal agreement is not possible. If you are not ready to file for a legal separation or divorce, but need the court’s help in getting child support or alimony (support for spouse) there is a process for pursuing those types of relief. You may also seek court orders about custody and visitation without filing for a legal separation or divorce.

Legal Separation is a major change in the status of your marriage. To get a legal separation you must file a petition in your Superior or Family Division Court. It is a distinct legal process rather than a first step to getting a divorce.


If you are going through a separation or divorce and you need answers to your questions, or you are seeking to learn your best options available, you can schedule a consultation to talk to one of our MTSA expert family attorneys.

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