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Separation versus divorce: Which is best for your family?

In California, there are three ways to end a marriage: divorce, annulment and separation. Annulment is an option for few couples, and if you are not quite ready for divorce, a legal separation agreement may be the most appropriate option. Legal separation allows a couple to live apart per the terms of a formally drafted agreement addressing custody, support and other concerns.

Divorce is not always the best choice, and for many reasons, financial and otherwise, some couples decide to delay this process. However, living apart can be complicated. A formal separation agreement can protect your interests and rights during a time of separation.

The elements of your legal separation agreement

As in a divorce, a legal separation agreement should address the important issues that may impact you, your spouse and your children. A separation agreement should include provisions for any the following issues:

  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Property division
  • Spousal support
  • Division of savings
  • Equitable division of marital debt
  • Parental rights and responsibilities
  • Medical benefits

Separation is not necessarily easier than a divorce, but a thoughtful, carefully drafted agreement can eliminate any stress and unnecessary complications from the process.

Separating without an agreement

You have the right to move into a different residence and separate from your spouse without a formal agreement. However, failure to have an agreement in place could lead to disputes as the terms of financial and custody matters may not be clear to both parties.

Even if both spouses are amicable, a legal separation agreement may still be necessary. It is always a worthwhile effort to protect your rights and eliminate potential legal complications. Should a dispute arise, lack of a formal and legally binding agreement could lead to legal battles and other stressful issues.

Why should you consider a legal separation?

Some couples are not emotionally or financially ready to divorce, and a separation allows them time to consider how to move forward. For others, religious reasons prevent divorce, yet legal separation allows a couple to separate with confidence and security.

Whatever your reasons may be for ending your domestic partnership or marriage, you will find great benefit in working with an experienced family law attorney in order to ensure the full protection of your rights and an explanation of your legal options. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to deciding to end an important relationship. If divorce or annulment is not the right choice, legal separation may be.

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