LEGAL SEPARATION ATTORNEY IN ORANGE COUNTY, CA
Many married couples experience turbulence in their relationships, and marriage can potentially be strained to a breaking point for countless possible reasons. However, divorce is not the only solution to such situations. Additionally, divorce may not be a viable option for some married couples who cannot divorce for religious or personal reasons.
If you and your spouse are having trouble in your marriage and feel your relationship has been strained to a breaking point, it’s vital to consider all of the options available to you aside from dissolution. Legal separation may offer the relief you and your spouse need, whether as an alternative to divorce, a springboard to a future divorce, or simply as a formal cooling-off period that allows you to reevaluate your needs and goals.
At times, a couple may want to maintain the marital status for religious reasons, or because of insurance needs, adverse tax consequences, or for any other reason. If you believe legal separation is a better option for you, Quinn & Dworakowski will assist you with the issues of support, custody and division of property and other assets associated with legal separation.
Why You Need an Orange County Legal Separation Attorney
While a legal separation entails similarities to divorce and requires addressing most of the same issues, it is an entirely distinct family law mechanism that will require the attention of an experienced Orange County legal separation attorney. It is technically possible to navigate a separation case without legal counsel, but it is likely to be far more complicated than the average person may expect.
Legal separation requires covering most of the same issues that a divorce would entail. Therefore, you need legal counsel with experience handling complex divorce cases. Your legal team can help you identify the issues you and your spouse must address to secure a legal separation order, guide you through your proceedings, and help you meet your goals with this alternative to the divorce process.
What Does Legal Separation Involve?
When a couple in Orange County, CA, files for legal separation, they must address several critical issues that they would also need to handle in a divorce, such as:
- Property division. Legally separated spouses will live separately, and they must divide marital property according to California’s community property law. Everything that qualifies as marital property is subject to division.
- Spousal maintenance. If one spouse is financially dependent on the other, or if one spouse controls substantially more separate property than the other and earns more income, spousal maintenance or alimony may be a necessary consideration for a legal separation order.
- Child custody. Separating parents who establish separate living arrangements must resolve custody and support terms for their minor children.
It’s important to note that while legal separation covers most of the same issues that a divorce would entail, the couple remains legally married and can still enjoy most of the benefits of married status. For example, they can continue to file joint tax returns, share health insurance, and minimize living expenses in some cases.
Why Choose Separation?
Legal separation can serve various purposes. For some couples, it is the only viable option when a marriage has become extraordinarily strained, but the couple cannot divorce for religious reasons. Many religions strictly prohibit divorce, and legal separation would allow a couple with strong religious convictions to live separately while maintaining their married status. This essentially provides the best of both worlds; each spouse will have the freedom and flexibility that divorce typically provides without incurring the financial disadvantage of divorce or violating their religious beliefs.
Other couples prefer to use legal separation as an opportunity to determine whether divorce or reconciliation would better suit their needs and goals. For example, if a couple has constantly been fighting and has not enjoyed married life together for some time, they could use legal separation as a trial run for divorce. The separation period would allow both to cool off and reevaluate the situation. As a result, they may decide after some time that they want to fix their marriage, or they could decide to transition to a formal divorce.
If the couple decides to reconcile, ending a legal separation is as simple as filing a motion to dismiss the separation order with the Orange County family court. If they decide to divorce, they will have already covered most issues that divorce proceedings would entail and can usually proceed with a more streamlined dissolution process.
FAQs About Legal Separation Law in Orange County, CA
For all practical purposes, they are very similar. They follow the same legal process – in both proceedings a petition must be filed and personally served, temporary and final orders, including child custody and visitation, may be issued by the court, and the division of assets and debts can occur. One of the big differences between legal separation and dissolution of marriage is that legal separation is reversible, meaning that if the parties wish to do so they may return to their married status by simply informing the court they wish to do so. Conversely, after a divorce decree is entered, there is no turning back. Parties who once again wish to be married to each must start anew. Another difference is that the parties cannot remarry while legally separated.
Generally, once the relationship collapses most parties want to cut all ties and choose the dissolution option. Some parties, however, go the legal separation route for various reasons: 1-there is possibility of reconciliation down the road; 2- the parties religious beliefs that prohibit divorce; and 3- financial reasons may also come into play, for example, must, if not all employers will drop coverage of the non-employee spouse following divorce. Also, many military benefits available to a spouse are terminated following divorce.
Yes, legal separation will protect you from debts acquired after the separation. Keep in mind, however, that any debts acquired during the marriage, but prior to the separation, are presumed to be community debt, for which both parties are responsible. It is important to note that while the community assets are to be separated equally between the parties, there are no such requirements regarding community debts, and the court may order one party to reimburse a bigger portion of the community debt.
In order to be legally separated, the courts must be involved. A petition must be filed along with other paperwork so that a court has jurisdiction to issue an order on the separation. Without a court order, the parties are not “legally separated,” but merely separated. Keep in mind that with the help of an attorney, you may be able to avoid having to personally appear in court. The divorce attorneys at Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, can assist you in your legal separation action.
Yes. The law does not require a lawyer to draft a separation agreement and the parties are free to agree to whatever terms they deem appropriate. Keep in mind, however, that separation agreements frequently involve such complex issues as child custody, support, division of assets, date of separation, and therefore have far reaching consequences and implications. So while one may legally draft a separation agreement without legal representation, it is generally considered unwise to do so.
No. a legal separation does not prevent a subsequent divorce decree. At any time, either party is free to file a petition requesting dissolution of the union, thereby ending the legally separation status.
No. Legal separation is not required prior to dissolution. In fact, most parties do not get separated prior to filing a dissolution action but immediately file for dissolution.
Absolutely. Legal separation offers the same remedies and options as a dissolution of marriage action.
Yes. Generally, health insurance coverage can continue following a legal separation. In fact, one of the most common reasons for choosing legal separation over dissolution of marriage is because it allows the non-employee spouse to continue receiving health insurance coverage.
Absolutely. Until a court issues an order stating you are no longer married, you remain legally married.
While dissolution of marriage is typically the preferred route, there are couples who choose to legally separate because of certain specific benefits it carries. For example, legal separation is reversible, meaning that if the parties wish to do so they may return to their married status by simply informing the court they wish to do so. Conversely, after a divorce decree is entered, there is no turning back. Parties who once again wish to be married to each other must start anew.
Other benefits include compliance with religious doctrine, as well as financial reasons such as the ability to continue receiving health insurance coverage by the other party’s employer, and spousal military benefits. Our attorneys at Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, can advise you as to whether legal separation is right for you.
What to Expect in an Orange County, CA, Legal Separation
Once you and your spouse have decided to separate, your Orange County legal separation attorney can guide you through the legal process. You will need to complete most of the same steps you would need to complete in a divorce, such as completing and submitting a financial disclosure statement that includes complete and accurate records of all your personal finances. You would then have the opportunity to privately negotiate your legal separation with your spouse or take the case to court and have a judge settle the matter.
It’s almost always worth investigating alternative dispute resolution. As long as both you and your spouse are willing to try it, you could both potentially save substantial amounts of time and money and secure more favorable terms than what a judge would deliver. Some issues cannot be resolved through alternative dispute resolution, however. Specifically, all matters regarding child custody and child support require the discretion of an Orange County family court judge. The family court system has a legal duty to ensure that any ruling issued by the court adheres to the best interests of the children affected by the ruling. You and your spouse can negotiate a parenting plan in alternative dispute resolution and submit it to a judge for review and approval, but you cannot reach any firm terms regarding custody or support through private settlement.
When you choose Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, to represent you in a legal separation case, we will help you determine the best approach to the situation and help you address all the issues your separation case entails. We can assist with your financial disclosure statement, gather the evidence you need to establish your case for custody, and help you assess any tax-related issues that apply to your separation. If you and your spouse are willing to try alternative dispute resolution, we can help you determine which method would best suit your respective needs and interests.
In every legal separation case that we accept, our goal is to guide our client to the best possible outcome. While no attorney can ever guarantee any specific outcome to a client in any case, we have the skills and resources necessary to address the most complex issues your legal separation entails. It’s natural to have lots of questions about your legal options when faced with a legal separation, and we can provide the clarity and reassurance you need in this situation. Contact Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, today and schedule your consultation with a compassionate Orange County legal separation lawyer.