While some states do not offer the option of legal separation, California does. The process is similar to a divorce, except that you are not legally ending your marriage. That binding contract still remains.
However, through the process, you can divide assets and set orders for child custody and support and spousal support. You may wonder why you would consider a legal separation when it is so similar to a divorce. There are a few distinct reasons why you may decide to separate instead of ending your marriage.
To get a divorce in the state, you must meet residency requirements. The law requires that at least one of you must have been a resident in the state for at least the six months prior to filing the divorce petition. In addition, that person must live in the county in which he or she wishes to file for at least three months. If neither you nor your spouse meets these requirements, then you cannot ask for a divorce in the state.
This could be an issue if you need to settle issues and separate. For example, if you are living in another state and want to set up child custody, or if you need to divide your property because you are no longer living together, then a legal separation could help you avoid the residency issue and handle what you need to know. You can divorce once you meet the residency requirements.
While residency is a common reason to opt for a legal separation, some people do it for other reasons. They may have a religious or personal objection to divorce but no longer wish to remain in the relationship. In these cases, the separation will provide protection and help one spouse leave the relationship without having to go through a divorce.
Some people may also separate for financial reasons. This can be complex, but it does happen.
A legal separation is not the solution for every couple, but it may be worth considering, depending on your situation.