What To Do If Your Spouse Files for Legal Separation: It’s scary to receive service of legal documents, especially if you weren’t expecting them. And when a spouse files for legal separation, there is also an emotional component that can cloud your judgment and lead to critical consequences. A San Diego divorce lawyer can provide the expertise and experience to protect your rights and help you obtain a fair settlement.
A legal separation is similar to a divorce in that it divides property and debt and determines custody, visitation and support issues for children of the marriage. The most significant difference is that parties are not free to remarry. It will be necessary to obtain a divorce in order to remarry and many do not want to go through the procedure twice.
Your first step is to carefully read the papers you were served. What is your spouse asking for? Are the demands reasonable? Your next step should be to call an attorney immediately for the most appropriate strategies and techniques for your individual case. Your lawyer will review the papers and talk with you about the facts of your situation. The attorney will be able to advise you about the best course of action for you to take.
As the legal separation proceeds, you will be required to provide a Declaration of Income and Expenses as well as a Schedule of Assets and Debts. It’s a violation of the law to attempt to conceal assets and there can be severe sanctions and punishments for a willful concealment
Many spouses respond to a legal separation action by filing for divorce. This may give you the advantage of making the break clean and complete and not having to file again for a divorce. California is a no-fault divorce state; therefore, allegations of wrongdoing such as infidelity are usually irrelevant. However, financial wrongdoing such as breach of fiduciary duty or failure to disclose assets can impact the terms of the property settlement. Another important thing to remember is that neither party can stop the divorce unilaterally. All they can do is delay the proceedings, which can also result in substantial penalties if the court determines that delaying tactics were used.
The best way to decide how to proceed is to consult with a qualified attorney. By letting an attorney review the facts of your situation, he can help you determine how to proceed.
Is there anything you shouldn’t do? As a general rule, you shouldn’t sign any agreements without letting your attorney review them first. Strictly follow any court orders. For example, if your spouse has obtained a protective order banning you from the family home, do not go to the home without the court’s permission, even if invited by the spouse who obtained the protective order. Finally, you shouldn’t place children in the middle of the dispute with your spouse, no matter what circumstances exist.