What's Decided in Legal Separation?

Though a legal separation does not mean the end of a marriage it allows spouses and domestic partners a chance to have a break from each other. During this time it’s important to protect yourself legally. So signing a formal legal separation agreement is smart. This legally binding agreement decides all aspects of a marriage, including: child support and visitation, property division, and spousal support. Even if a legal separation does not end in a divorce, it is still smart to protect yourself during this time.

What’s Decided in a Legal Separation Agreement?

Below we outline what should be contained in a legal separation agreement.

Child Matters

Child custody and visitation, as well as child support, may be decided as part of the legal separation. A spouse is also able to ask the court for a protective order if he or she feels the other spouse is a threat to the child.

Residency Requirements

Remember that if you want to move forward with a divorce, one of the spouses must have resided in the county where the action is filed for at least three months and within the state for at least six months prior to filing. But if you are seeking a legal separation you are not required to meet these requirements. You will still need to meet the requirements of divorce if you decide to move forward with divorce after your legal separation.

Immediate Effect

Legal separation takes effect immediately after it has been ordered.


If you’re in California you have another option for a separation agreement. This is a legally-binding contract, just like a legal separation agreement, but does not require court involvement.


It’s important to remember that legal separation does not mean the termination of the marriage. The spouses are still legally married. Legal separation is a great tool for spouses that are unsure about divorce. This is also a good option for spouses who need to maintain their married legal status in order to still receive health care or other rights.

Source:, What a Legal Separation in California Means to You, 2015

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