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Trial vs. legal separation: What’s the difference and which is right for you?

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If your marriage has hit a crossroads and you’re contemplating divorce, your first thought may be to try a separation from your spouse first.

However, did you know there are differences between a trial separation and a legal separation? And in some circumstances, decisions made during either a trial separation or a legal separation can affect the terms of your divorce.

The terms “trial separation” and “legal separation” are not interchangeable. If you (or your spouse) move out of your home or take steps to attempt a trial separation, but don’t file any formal declaration, that’s considered a trial separation. However, if you (or your spouse) file a petition for legal separation, you’re considered legally separated.

In both cases you’re still considered married, but a legal separation can include the court making orders if a Request for Order is filed.

When a trial separation is right for you

If you’re considering divorce, but aren’t ready to take legal action, a trial separation may be the most viable option. A trial separation will allow you and your spouse to take some time to “cool off” and to see what life may be like without each other. During this time, you may realize that you don’t want to get a divorce and you want to work on your marriage. Like other couples going through a trial separation, you may wish to pursue marriage counseling or to find other solutions to your marital problems.

When a legal separation is right for you

Filing for legal separation establishes an official date, where after each spouse is protected from newly acquired debts by the other spouse. You also protect any new assets or income from becoming part of the marital estate affected by California community property laws (if you did not use funds earned prior to the legal separation and during the marriage). Of course this is subject to the context of a legally-binding pre-marital or post-marital agreement.

You may also consider a legal separation because you want some time to decide if you want a divorce. Or you might consider a legal separation if circumstances prohibit you from filing for divorce. If you opt for a legal separation, these details may be used by a judge to create the terms of your divorce. So if you file for a legal separation, be sure you can live with the agreement.

Garwood Family Law & Mediation can help. If you’re thinking about legal separation or divorce, call us to strategize and obtain assistance. As an acting settlement judge, skilled mediator and Certified Family Law Specialist, Julia M. Garwood has more than 30 years of experience settling cases amicably among both parties. Our firm is also skilled in litigation when matters need to be taken to court. Whether an agreeable, uncontested divorce or a difficult, contested divorce with child custody, we work to obtain a successful outcome for our clients. We proudly consider our firm as your Advocate for a new life. GarwoodFamilyLaw.com or (619) 692-8100.

-Submitted by Garwood Family Law & Mediation

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