What is the difference between divorce and legal separation?


In California Courts, there are three primary ways to end a marriage: annulment, legal separation, and divorce. If one spouse wants to end the marriage, the other spouse cannot stop the process by refusing to participate. Additionally, to end a registered domestic partnership, domestic partners must also file for either an annulment, legal separation, or a divorce to end their relationship.

California is a “no fault” state. This means that if one spouse wants to get a divorce, they do not have to prove that something went wrong to end the marriage.

Divorce is the legal action taken to dissolve a marriage. The divorce process determines division of the party’s property acquired during marriage. The divorce process can also determine spousal support, child support and child custody, if applicable.

Legal Separation has no jurisdictional requirement, so there is no need to live in CA for 6 months before filing. Legal separation has the same financial effects as filing for divorce, so anything from the date of separation moving forward is each party’s separate property. At the end of a legal separation case the parties remain married and cannot remarry.

Divorce or legal separation can be one of the most confusing and emotional times of your life. To know what you can expect, read our step-by-step breakdown of the divorce process in Santa Barbara (under the Family Law tab), then contact Morales Law, P.C. for experienced and compassionate legal counsel. We offer free consultations.