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San Diego Legal Separation Attorney

What Is the Difference Between Separation & Divorce?

If you and your spouse have started to run into marital issues, you may be wondering if divorce or separation may be the answer.

Legal separation is often most appropriate for couples who wish to work toward an eventual resolution or are not ready for the step of divorce. It may be the step that you and your spouse need to work out your issues.

At Gordon D. Cruse, APLC, our legal separation attorney often encourages our clients to pursue separation rather than filing for divorce right away.

Why Hire a Legal Separation Lawyer?

A lawyer can simplify the process of legal separation, taking care of the legalities so you don't have to. That includes walking you through all the steps and preparing the paperwork.

Gordon D. Cruse, APLC is prepared to handle virtually any issue that may arise during a separation. What's more, our San Diego legal separation attorney has more than 35 years of experience handling matters of family law and helping couples determine if they are ready to file for divorce.

Are you considering legal separation? Contact our San Diego legal separation attorney online or call us at (619) 431-4523 for a consultation.

What to Know About Legal Separation in San Diego, CA

In California, a legal separation is similar to a divorce, but it allows a couple to live separately and divide their assets and debts without ending their marriage. The process for filing for a legal separation is much like the process for filing for divorce.

Learn more about dividing assets through high-net divorce cases.

Going through a legal separation requires discussing the same elements as in divorce, including:

Should I Choose Legal Separation or Divorce?

Many couples are often unsure of whether they should choose divorce or legal separation. Making this decision requires careful consideration of many personal and financial issues. For some couples, legal separation may be something they do to "take a break" from each other while others go through legal separation in preparation for an actual divorce.

Reasons to choose legal separation

  • You can still maintain health insurance benefits and other benefits;
  • You may still benefit from the tax advantages of filing as a married couple;
  • Sharing the same household may be better financially;
  • You can limit your financial liability if your spouse starts building up debt;
  • Your religion looks down on divorce;
  • You believe there is a chance of reconciliation in the future; or
  • You have children and want to maintain the same lifestyle for them.

Reasons to choose divorce:

  • You know for sure that your relationship is over and there is no chance of reconciliation;
  • You feel that divorcing would make more sense for you financially rather than having to go through legal separation first; or
  • You want to remarry and being legally separated will not allow you to do that.

Talk to an experienced legal separation attorney to help you decide the right avenue for your family.

What Should You Not Do During Legal Separation?

During the legal separation process in San Diego, CA, it is important to be mindful of certain actions and behaviors to avoid potential complications and negative consequences.

Here are some actions you should be mindful of during the legal separation process:

  1. Do not disregard court orders.

    • It is crucial to comply with any court orders issued during the legal separation, including those related to:

      • Child custody

      • Visitation

      • Spousal support

      • Property division

  2. Do not hide assets or withhold financial information.

    • Full and honest disclosure of assets, debts, and income is essential during your legal separation. Attempting to hide assets or withhold financial information can jeopardize the integrity of the process and potentially lead to allegations of fraud. It is important to be transparent and provide accurate financial information.

  3. Do not engage in contentious or hostile behavior with the other party.

    • It is important to maintain a respectful and amicable approach during a legal separation. Avoid engaging in arguments, confrontations, or any behavior that could be perceived as hostile or aggressive. Such behavior can escalate tensions, complicate negotiations, and hinder the overall process.

  4. Do not involve children in disputes.

    • Shield children from any disputes or conflicts arising from the legal separation. Avoid using them as messengers or involving them in adult matters. Protecting their emotional well-being should be a priority, and involving them in disputes can have a negative impact on their development and relationship with both parents.

  5. Do not rely solely on advice from friends or family.

Navigating a legal separation can be a complex and difficult time, so it is essential to consult with a qualified San Diego legal separation attorney who can provide personalized advice, protect your rights, and guide you through the process effectively.

How to File for Legal Separation in California

The process to file for legal separation in California involves several key steps:

  1. Residency Requirement: To file for legal separation in California, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least six months and a resident of the county where the filing is done for three months.

  2. Filing the Petition: Similar to divorce, the process begins by filing a petition for legal separation with the appropriate California family court. The petitioner, who initiates the process, outlines the terms they are seeking, including child custody, spousal support, asset division, and other matters.

  3. Serving the Other Spouse: After filing, the petitioner must serve the paperwork to the other spouse, providing them with a copy of the filed petition and summons.

  4. Response: The responding spouse has a specific period to respond to the petition, usually 30 days. They can either agree to the terms or contest them, proposing their own terms.

  5. Negotiation and Agreement: Both parties work to negotiate and reach an agreement on the terms of separation, which is then presented to the court for approval.

  6. Court Approval: If both parties agree on the terms, the court reviews the agreement to ensure it's fair and then issues a judgment of legal separation.

Legal separation in California allows couples to lead separate lives while still maintaining certain legal and financial obligations. It's advisable to consult with an experienced San Diego legal separation attorney to navigate this process smoothly and ensure your rights and interests are protected.

Rights and Responsibilities During Legal Separation in California

In California, legal separation provides couples with an alternative to divorce, allowing them to live separately while remaining legally married. While the couple continues to be legally married, they are accorded specific rights and responsibilities throughout the separation period.Here are some of the key rights and responsibilities during legal separation in California:


  • Property Rights: Each spouse retains their individual property acquired before and during the marriage. Any property acquired during the separation is also considered separate property unless otherwise agreed upon.

  • Child Custody and Visitation: Both parents are entitled to pursue custody and visitation agreements for their children. The court establishes these arrangements considering the child's best interests.

  • Financial Support: Each spouse has the right to seek spousal support, also known as alimony, during the legal separation proceedings.

  • Legal Counsel:Each spouse is entitled to legal representation to safeguard their rights and interests during the legal separation proceedings.


  • Financial Obligations: Both spouses are responsible for their individual debts incurred before and during the marriage, as well as any debts accrued during the separation.

  • Child Support: Both parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children. The court determines the amount of child support based on the parents' incomes and the needs of the children.

  • Cooperation and Communication: Both spouses are expected to cooperate and communicate effectively, especially when making decisions regarding child custody, visitation, and financial support.

  • Compliance with Court Orders: Both spouses must comply with any court orders issued during the legal separation proceedings, such as custody arrangements, spousal support orders, or property division orders.

Understanding the rights and responsibilities during legal separation in California is crucial for both spouses to navigate the process effectively. Consulting with an experienced San Diego legal separation attorney can provide guidance and support in addressing these rights and responsibilities and ensuring a fair and equitable legal separation.

Call a San Diego Legal Separation Lawyer

If you have decided legal separation is right for you or you would like to discuss your options with a legal separation attorney from our team, turn to us for a consultation. We would be pleased to meet with you to discuss what you can expect from the process and learn about your goals.

You can rely on our San Diego legal separation lawyer to be there for you and offer you the support you need to get through this time.

Contact our legal separation attorney in San Diego now at (619) 431-4523 for an initial case consultation.

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