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Can A Legally Separated Couple Get A Divorce In California?

On Behalf of | May 26, 2023 | Divorce

Divorce is often a choice made only after a lengthy attempt to resolve the issues affecting a marriage. Some couples go so far as to legally separate, thereby ending financial obligations to each other and largely severing their legal ties. Some couples in California choose to legally separate instead of divorce.

They may do so because they have children or because they belong to a religion that disproves of divorce. Legal separation allows people to maintain two households and separate financial circumstances despite technically remaining married. Of course, a legal separation does not end the marital relationship and therefore does not give people the same freedom that divorce does.

Someone who is legally separated may eventually want to remarry or pursue opportunities that they cannot while still married. Can those who have already legally separated in California file for divorce?

Legal separation does not prevent divorce

Couples who decide to separate may have hopes of reconciling in the future after spending time apart or undergoing counseling. However, many couples who legally separate never recombine their households or reestablish their relationships. Instead, they spend years living separately while still technically tied to one another in a legal sense.

At any point after a legal separation, either spouse could potentially file a petition with the California family courts to formally divorce. The approval of the other spouse is not necessary, as the state will not compel someone to remain married. Legally separated spouses have the same right to complete the dissolution process as spouses who file for divorce while already certain they will never reconcile.

Divorce after legal separation could potentially be faster and less expensive than simply divorcing when the relationship begins falling apart. Couples will already have an established custody order if they share minor children and will have largely divided their assets when they began living in separate households. Their social lives will have already adjusted to the change in living arrangements in many cases, so the divorce process will simply put an end to a marriage that ceased working long before.

Moving forward with a divorce after a legal separation could be the best option for those who have long lived separately from the person they married. Seeking legal guidance is often a good place to start.