Legal Separation vs. Divorce in California

Researchers estimate that up to 50% of first marriages in the United States end in divorce, and for second marriages, that number goes up to 60%. Why is it so difficult for Americans to stay married?

Many experts believe that the divorce rates have a lot to do with the social acceptability of divorce, and the fact that women are more financially independent than they were in previous generations.

These days, people aren’t as embarrassed to get divorced as they were in the 1950s and 1960s. After all, everyone’s family has been affected by a divorce, or they know someone, if not several people whose lives have.

While divorcées claim that adultery, a “lack of commitment,” and constant arguing led to their divorce, research has discovered that the following factors increase the chances of divorce:

  • A lack of education (no college)
  • A low income
  • Marrying at a young age
  • No religious affiliation
  • Pregnancy before marriage (A “shotgun wedding”)

Despite the frequency of divorce in the United States, some unhappy couples seek out a legal separation as opposed to a divorce. However, legal separation is not available in all parts of the country, but in California it is.

When married couples break up, they’ll often say, “We separated,” but simply moving out is not the same as a legal separation. In California, a legal separation is a court action that is very similar to a divorce, but the couple is for legal purposes still married.

What a legal separation can do:

  • Make orders for child support,
  • Make orders for spousal support,
  • Determine how the spouses will handle marital debt,
  • Make orders for child custody and visitation, and
  • Order the spouses to take on certain obligations, such as health insurance, and paying the mortgage.

Essentially, when couples file for a legal separation, they get all of the benefits of being divorced, while enjoying all of the benefits of being married. However, the one aspect that sets a legal separation from a divorce is the spouses cannot marry someone else. In order for the spouses to remarry, they would have to obtain a divorce.

Why do spouses legally separate?

Spouses have different reasons for legally separating. Sometimes, they desire to test the waters and see if they want a divorce. Other times, couples want to remain married on paper for insurance, religious, or financial reasons. Sometimes, divorcing is simply against their religious or moral beliefs, so they physically and legally separate, but they remain married for years, if not the rest of their lives.

If you are considering a legal separation, contact Cutter & Lax to speak with an Encino divorce attorney. Our board certified family law specialist would be glad to give you the guidance you need.