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San Diego Family Law: I'm separated - do I have to get a divorce?
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The power of a Family Court Judge – If I’m separated from my spouse do I have to get a divorce?

San Diego Divorce and Family Law Attorney, Paul Staley, released a new YouTube video for people who are curious if: If I’m separated from my spouse do I have to get a divorce?

 Legally  Separated : The Basics

In many ways, a legal separation has all of the parts of a divorce — if you will — but for the formal dissolution of a marriage.

In order to obtain a legal separation, a person needs to file a petition or complaint in a court of  jurisdiction.  A petition to get yourself legally separated  looks very similar to a divorce petition.  The document will ask the judge to do things like divide property, set child support, set custody arrangements for the minor children (if there are minor children) and other such matters.  The petition will ask the judge to do everything but dissolve the marriage.

The division of the couple’s property issue usually is the most intricate and important subject in a legal separation case.  More often than not it is property and money issues that a couple who seeks a legal separation will have the most difficult time resolving.  (Of course, this can be a sticking point in many, many divorce cases as well.)

During a legal separation case, the court will also be called upon — as has been mentioned — to issue orders relating to the custody and parenting time relating to the children (should there be any children of the marriage who are still minors).

In the end, a judge in a legal separation case will issue a final decree or order.  This is the same sort of decree that is  also issued in a divorce case.  Once again, the only real, significant different between a divorce decree and order or legal separation rests in the fact that the marriage itself is not dissolved or ended.

Transcript of Paul’s Video


If you’re separated from your spouse, you don’t necessarily have to get a divorce. There’s no rule written anywhere that says: “spouses who aren’t living together have to ask for the court’s intervention to help redefine their legal relationship.” There are, however, reasons why one or the other spouse might actually want to get a divorce if you’re living separately. There are certain problems that can arise by remaining in the relationship legally, such as the other spouse taking on a whole lot of debt. I’ve typically seen this issue come up where one spouse has either a very bad shopping addiction or a gambling problem and then years down the road, they get into divorce court and it’s alleged that all of those debts are community debts. So that would be one reason why the if you’re separated you may actually want to pull the trigger on divorce.

 Call us if you think we can help – (619) 235-4095

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