What’s the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

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    The end of a marriage is often one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. Not only are you potentially starting over in several areas of life, but you also must deal with bureaucracy as you painstakingly untangle yourself from your partner. That’s a lot of paperwork. To cut down on the unnecessary pencil-pushing, it always pays to discuss the best way to proceed legally with your spouse (or soon-to-be-ex). Contrary to popular belief, the end of a relationship doesn’t always mean divorce is the best course of action. Legal separation can sometimes be a preferrable alternative to divorce, depending on your situation.

    What Makes the Filing Process Different?

    The filing process for both legal separation and divorce are similar, but the finality of a divorce makes the proceedings much longer. Divorces in California require a six-month waiting period before finalizing whereas a legal separation agreement is actionable immediately.

    Legal separation paperwork is very similar to divorce paperwork. The couple must negotiate child custody and visitation, alimony, division of assets, and more. Some couples choose to file for legal separation as a gateway to divorce. This may help if they are waiting for benefits to activate, one spouse needs health insurance, or if they need to pool resources to ensure one spouse isn’t financially stunted once the divorce is finalized.