Ask a California Divorce Attorney What Is a Legal Separation

Ask a California Divorce Attorney: What Is a Legal Separation?

Sheila found herself facing a difficult decision – should she end her marriage or not? Things hadn’t been going well, but Sheila had always been an optimist. But this time, she needed more than platitudes and motivational messages. She needed a course of action that might help her move forward. Sheila could ask a California divorce attorney whether legal separation was the answer.

Three Ways to End a Marriage

Generally, there are three ways to end a marriage in California:

  • Annulment,
  • Divorce, and
  • Legal Separation.

But each of these options is different. Annulment is not for everyone because it involves particular situations, like someone who is forced or coerced into a fraudulent marriage. Divorces completely end a marital relationship and might include dealing with issues like property division, child custody, and spousal support.

Legal separation might be the most mysterious of the three options. In fact, some states do not even recognize the concept of legally separating from a spouse. California, however, does allow couples to get a legal separation. Before taking this step, it’s crucial that you talk to a California divorce attorney to make sure this is the right step to make. Legal separation is not for everyone.

What Legal Separation Can and Cannot Do

It’s crucial to understand how this legal process can help you. It’s also crucial to understand situations it will not resolve.

Marital status is the first issue. A legal separation does not end your marriage but just sort of puts it on hold. You will still be married to your spouse. This means that you cannot marry anyone else. Your marital status might affect other legal situations, so make sure you discuss this with your divorce attorney before proceeding. For example, you might still want to file federal taxes as a married couple without having to live with each other.

Some people want to divorce but cannot meet California’s residency requirements. Before filing, you must have lived in California for at least the past six months. You also must live in the county where you want to file for at least three months before filing. If you cannot qualify for divorce, a legal separation can help until you are eligible.

In California, your spouse does not have to agree to the divorce. However, the same is not true for legal separations. If your spouse will not agree to separate, you might have to move forward with a divorce.

Finally, the decision to file for divorce is difficult. Becoming legally separated gives people time to decide whether they should file for divorce. It may also give you time to try out being on your own, away from your spouse. Some people may discover their marital problems were temporary and reunite with their spouse. Others may find that divorce provides the fresh start that they need.

Find Out if Legal Separation Is the Answer for You

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in divorce and the dissolution of registered domestic partnerships. Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Southern California Coast.

Dividing Business Interests in a Divorce

Dividing Business Interests in a Divorce

Many couples own business interests. These can take the form of a business they own, operate, or hold a significant share. When couples decide to divorce, dividing business interests usually becomes a huge issue. After all, property division, which is itself very complicated, becomes even more complex when business assets are involved.

The Preliminaries of Dividing Business Interests

First, it’s essential to know what you are dealing with. Trying to divide property between spouses is impossible without certain information, including:

  • Are the business interests separate or community property? In a community property state like California, most marital property and debts split roughly 50-50. However, is your business separate property – owned by one spouse – or community property – owned by both spouses? In most cases, separate business interests remain with the spouse who owns them.  Community business interests are dealt with differently.
  • Are there any agreements that affect property division? For example, did the couple sign pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements? If so, those agreements may address any business assets. Likewise, a buy-sell agreement may address how to handle business assets in the event of a divorce.
  • How much is the business worth? Valuation of business assets is challenging and should not be attempted on your own. You and your divorce lawyer will discuss how to handle valuation, but you will probably need to hire an expert. Undervaluing your business is literally leaving money on the table.

After working through the issues mentioned above, along with any others that apply, you and your spouse can begin dividing business interests.

The Final Decision

Often, couples will use one of the following methods of dividing their business assets:

  • The Buy-Out. One party can buy the other party’s interests rather than dividing them. In some cases, one spouse might be more vested in the business. The problem here is that the purchasing spouse must be liquid enough to complete the purchase.
  • Dividing. The parties could divide the business equally. For example, if the couple owns 80% of the company’s shares, each spouse could take 40%. Alternatively, the couple could split the equipment, accounts receivable, and real property. This might work especially well for parties who own a professional services business.
  • Selling to a Third-Party. In this scenario, the couple receives the cash instead of dividing their actual ownership interests. It’s still necessary to properly value the business.
  • Continuing as Co-Owners. Some ex-spouses may remain so amicable that they simply continue owning and operating their business. This is rare and could be very risky. If the spouse’s relationship becomes rockier after the divorce, they may have to return to court to split the business for good.

Learn More About Dividing Business Interests

Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys. Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.