For most spouses initiating marital actions in California, the choice is either a dissolution or a legal separation California. The difference between legal separation and divorce is the judgment for divorce terminates the marriage and restores the parties to the status of unmarried persons, but after the legal separation California parties are still marriage. Legal separation California is an appropriate choice for spouses who wish to separate their lives just as formally as parties to a divorce do, but who want to remain legally married, whether for religious, maintenance of medical insurance coverage, qualification for derivative social security benefits, eligibility for certain benefits accorded to military spouses. A judgment of legal separation basically determines the same issues that a judgment of divorce does except that it does not set a date for termination of the marital status. At any time after a judgment of legal separation is granted, either spouse may file a separate divorce action to terminate the marriage. Fam C §2347. However, issues adjudicated in a legal separation California proceeding are res judicata and shall not be reopened in a subsequent divorce proceeding.

When parties want a judgment of divorce,  but the they have not met the residency requirement of Fam C §2320(a), a petition for legal separation California could be filed and  when the residency requirements are met, amended to request a judgment of divorce. Legal separation California  procedure lets the spouses to start the minimum 6-month period before their marital status may be terminated, without waiting until the residency requirement is met. A judgment of legal separation may be granted only if both spouses consent or the respondent does not appear and the petition requested a legal separation. Fam C §2345.

Legal Separation California and Health Care Coverage

An important point in different between legal separation and divorce is health care coverage. Clients assume that a legal separation, which preserves the status of the marriage, automatically protects health care coverage for the non employee spouse. A judgment of legal separation is a “qualifying event” entitling a spouse to COBRA or Cal-COBRA coverage (but only Cal-COBRA, not COBRA). Many governments plans allow a spouse with a judgment of legal separation California to remain a dependent on the employee spouse’s health coverage. prudent to confirm that policy directly with the plan.

The “covered employee or qualified beneficiary” is responsible for notifying the plan administrator of a divorce or legal separation within 60 days after the date of the divorce or legal separation. 29 USC §1166(a)(3). The plan’s procedures for providing notice in the event of a divorce or legal separation should be set forth in the summary plan description or in a separate notice provided within 90 days of the date on which plan coverage commenced.