Divorce proceedings are comprehensive and begin with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. A case file is opened and a judge is assigned to the case when the Petition is filed. The petition and summons are subsequently served on the respondent, who has 30 days to file his or her response. “Summons” is a legal document that serves as notification that a lawsuit is pending.

Divorce in California

In divorce cases, the date the petition and summons served on the respondent is critical. Before the parties to a divorce can have their marital status terminated, there is a mandatory waiting period, a cooling off period which is 6 months. 

A conclusion is derived when both entities are involved in reaching a written agreement that incorporates into a judgment or when the court issues one post-trial, the case is considered close. 

Legal Separation in California

Though there are many similarities between divorce and legal separation, as mentioned below, the two actions have significant legal differences. Divorce, as opposed to legal separation, has far-reaching legal repercussions. 

Differences between a dissolution of marriage and legal separations

While there are many similarities between divorce and legal separation actions, as discussed below, there are also significant legal differences between the two. 

Parties who get a legal separation judgment are still legally wedded to each other, whereas parties who receive a dissolution of marriage decree are no longer married.

● There may be tax implications. 

● Benefits from Social Security. If the couple isn’t divorced but has a legal separation agreement, it’s a good idea to look into what, if any, benefits the other spouse may be entitled to.

● Issues with retirement accounts might arise.

● Beneficial issues may occur, similar to “death benefits”, including certain life insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc.

Similarities between a dissolution of marriage and legal separations:

● Both cases result in a judgment; a legally binding document.

● Both cases are initiated with the same document and filed in the family court where a summons is issued and the respondent is served.

● Both parties are required to disclose property details, investments, etc. 

● Similar hearings.

● Any one of the spouses involved can file for an RFO (Request For Order Hearings).

● Similar issues like child support and custody, spousal support, use and possession of the residence, etc.

Which one of these is ideal in California? 

In either case, you have to be prepared for being a part of a lawsuit. Some procedures may vary as others might be similar. A very minimal percentage of legal separations is observed as it has far too many negatives involved. Many of the perceived benefits of legal separation don’t hold water in reality. Both of these options have to be weighed down carefully as most parties end up divorcing after a legal separation as it is not an ideal situation as convincing as it may sound. 

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