Ending things with your significant other is complicated—even legally. Marriage, for one, has several implications on your finances, estate, taxes, and benefits. Therefore, people must choose a suitable legal path to officially end a marriage or relationship.

That said, divorce and legal separation sound like they could give you the same legal benefits. However, they're distinct under California family law for a reason.

Here are their similarities and differences, as handled by our prescreened Pomona family law attorneys in California:

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Reviewing Your Options On Family Law In Pomona, California

How Are They Similar Under California Family Law?

There are many parallels between divorce and legal separation in California. Here are some instances of how divorce and cases of legal separation are comparable:

  • A legally binding document results from both legal separation cases and divorce proceedings.
  • The same legal document, a "Petition," is used to start legal separation and dissolution cases.
  • Both cases are submitted to the Family Court, and a summons is issued. The respondent is always provided in the same way in each instance.
  • A "Declaration of Disclosure," which consists of an Income and Expense Declaration and a Schedule of Assets and Debts, must be served on the opposite party in divorce and separation cases.
  • The same hearing formats are used in divorce and separation cases. There are usually "status" or "case management" hearings in both types of cases, followed by "required settlement" discussions.
  • Any party to a divorce or legal separation may submit a "Request for Order."
  • The same concerns arising in a divorce or legal separation case about property division, child custody and parenting time, child support, spousal support, exclusive use and possession of real estate and other matters may also apply.

However, how you go about them also differs in many ways. If you're unsure about the next step, consult prescreened California Family Law Attorneys to know your best legal options.

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The Main Differences Between Divorce And Legal Separation

While divorce and legal separation have many similarities, they also have significant legal differences. Listed below are some of the variations:

  • Legal separation ends the couple's physical union; it does not end their marriage. However, a dissolution of marriage decree dissolves the parties' marriage.
  • There can be tax ramifications. Even though they are still legally married, a couple may pay taxes together if they have a legal separation agreement, for example. In addition, a married pair may also owe taxes if one member cannot file or pay taxes.
  • Benefits received from Social Security can change. For example, if they have been married for ten years or more, the spouses may be qualified for "derivative" payments from the other spouse's accrued social security benefits.
  • "Death benefits" may have some issues. For instance, if one of the parties dies after the decision, there may be legal ramifications because the parties to a formal separation action would still be legally wed.
  • Retirement and beneficiary designations vary. Therefore, depending on the type of account, there may be problems with the beneficiary designation and how a retirement account is regarded for tax purposes when couples are formally separated.
  • Issues concerning your benefits. Certain life insurance plans, retirement accounts, and other financial accounts allow the option of a beneficiary, similar to the "death benefit" stated above. Couples who divorce are no longer legally wedded to one another, so their beneficiaries may change. Imagine a situation where the pair has formally filed for legal separation even if they are still married.

Having said that, these distinctions are crucial to your current situation and future decisions. Since no two cases are identical, the best legal solutions may not always be evident from general legal writings. Speak with your Pomona family law attorney for more thoughtful and precise legal advice.

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