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How does a legal separation differ from a divorce?

Very recently, two popular California actors made their decision public to file for legal separation. Anna Faris and Chris Pratt have been married for eight years and share one young son. This week, they announced through social media that they have been unable to sustain their relationship and that separation is their next step.

While some couples choose to informally separate, Pratt and Faris' decision shines a light on an option some California couples may forget they have. While many unhappy couples immediately choose to file for divorce, legal separation is possible for those who qualify for the process.

A legal separation involves living separately from one's spouse but still being married. It involves going through a host of divorce-like negotiations to settle spousal and child support matters, work out child custody decisions, separate property per the state's community property laws, and other important issues.

Legal separation may be a good choice for a couple for several reasons. It may benefit couples who need time apart to decide if they want to continue their marriages or if they want to end them permanently through divorce. It may allow couples to retain certain benefits of marriage while finding independence from each other.

Legal separations do not serve the family law interests of couples who would truly benefit from divorce and those couples can work with family law attorneys as well to accomplish their legal needs. Because legal separation is recognized by the California courts, individuals who wish to pursue it do need to file the appropriate paperwork to have their new legal status honored. To do so, those with questions should consult with divorce attorneys who also handle legal separation cases.

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