A legal separation is often the first step towards a divorce. Though a couple is still technically married, it allows spouses to live separately while retaining legal rights to property, child custody, and other agreements.
Steps to Legal Separation
Here are the steps you will take to acquire a legal separation:
- Decide on grounds for your separation. The grounds can either be: incurable insanity or irreconcilable differences that have caused an irremediable breakdown of the marriage.
- Fill out a Form FL-100 Petition that includes options for with a divorce (dissolution of marriage) or legal separation. You will also need to provide any information pertaining to minor children and property. This will allow you to ask the court to make orders regarding these things.
- If you have children under 18, you will need to complete Form FL-105/GC-120. This is a Declaration under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which provides information to the court that will enable it to establish if it has jurisdiction over a child. This will be relevant if a parent lives in another state and has already started proceedings for child custody in that state.
- Have your forms reviewed by a family law attorney or help-center.
- File Form FL-100 at your local county court and pay any necessary fees. If you receive public benefits or have low income, you might be eligible for a fee waiver.
- Serve your spouse with a copy of the court papers. There are various ways this can be completed – either through a lawyer or a process server. There will need to be proof of the serving.
Working with a Family Law Attorney
Working with a family law attorney can help ensure you do every step required for a legal separation. They will handle getting all the paperwork completed and filed, as well as any serving of papers that might be needed. Working with an attorney can help ease the process.
Source: Legal Zoom, How to File for a Legal Separation in California, 2014