Divorce vs. Legal Separation: What You Need to Know

When you come to the conclusion that your marriage is failing, the future may look a lot like a giant question mark. What next? How do you proceed? In California, you have a few paths that you can take: divorce, legal separation, or annulment. Annulment only occurs when your marriage was never legally valid to begin with — for reasons like incest, bigamy, fraud, or force — so in today’s blog post we’ll focus on the differences between divorce and legal separation.


Divorce legally dissolves your marriage. After a divorce is complete, you are legally single and have the option to get married to someone else (or the same person again — it happens!). California is a no-fault state, so you don’t have to have a reason like abuse or infidelity in order to get divorced. Instead, you are able to get divorced on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences,” which could conceivably be almost anything.

When you get divorced your assets will need to be split and you will need to make arrangements for things like:

  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Spousal support (alimony)

You will have the option to make these arrangements by agreement with your soon-to-be ex, but most couples find it difficult to agree and call upon California family courts to make orders.

Legal Separation

Legal separation does not end your marriage. This means that if you are legally separated, you cannot get married to anyone else.

Couples can separate without involving the courts by simply moving into separate residences, but legal separation gives you the chance to have a judge make legally-binding orders regarding things like custody and support.

Legal separation is a good option if you need to test out being apart from your spouse to decide if divorce is the right next step. People also get legally separated when they don’t want to get divorced for religious reasons or due to personal beliefs, but do not wish to continue living as partners. Legal separation may also be useful if neither partner is interested in remarriage and one would benefit from keeping the other’s health insurance or other benefits.

Who can help?

Whether you’re seeking divorce or legal separation, it is a good idea to partner with a California family lawyer. An experienced attorney can help you protect your interests as you face this major transition. If you’re ready to get started, contact KL Family Law today by calling (714) 372-2217.

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KL Family Law

At KL Family Law, we understand that your primary concern is the well-being of your children. We strive to offer tailored solutions for your family law needs and help you move forward through this difficult transition.

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