In California, a legal separation will not end a marriage or domestic relationship. However, it will allow the two parties involved to legally separate and live apartwith clarified obligation toward one another and while still retaining certain rights, such as child custody and certain assets that require a marital relationship. If you are thinking of separating from your spouse, it is important to work with a Salinas family lawyer that can protect your rights.
The legal separation process is a complicated one, particularly when issues such as child custody, property division, or spousal support are involved. A family law attorney can help you understand what you are entitled to, and advise on the things you should and should not do during the period of separation.
The legal separation process starts when one spouse files the separation petition with the court. Along with the petition, you will also have to file a Summons. If there are children involved, you will also have to file additional paperwork.
After the respondent receives the paperwork filed with the court, they have 30 days to respond. Within their response, they can confirm or deny any of the allegations made within the petition. If the respondent does not answer, the petitioner can ask the court for a default judgment.
During the legal separation process, property division and custody issues must be resolved, just as they are during divorce. You and your spouse can reach an agreement on these issues but if you cannot, a judge will make the final decision.
The petitioner must fill out and serve the respondent with a Declaration of Disclosure Form, Income and Expense Declaration, and a Schedule of Assets and Debts or Property Declaration form. These forms may be served to the respondent at the same time the original petition is served, or within 60 days of filing the petition. These forms allow the separating parties to fully disclose what they own and what they owe, so assets and debts can be divided fairly.
The majority of divorce and legal separation cases settle outside of court after the two parties have negotiated with each other. Through negotiation, both sides can reach an agreement that is fair for them, without the need for a potentially lengthy and costly trial. Many people do not know how to successfully negotiate with their spouse, but a family lawyer will know how to help you secure a fair settlement.
If the case ends in a settlement, an agreement is drafted and submitted to the court for final approval. Many times, people do not even have to appear in court after they settle. If you and your spouse cannot agree to the terms, you will have to go to trial, where a judge will make the final decisions.
After the legal separation has been finalized by a judge, any orders issued become legally binding. A party can appeal these decisions but until an appellate decision is made, they must continue abiding by the orders. In certain instances, one party can also seek a post-decree modification from the court.
When one party fails to comply with the separation orders, the other party can petition the court to enforce it, which may include a number of penalties for the non-compliant spouse. When there is a significant change in circumstances, one party can also petition the court to modify the agreement.
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