A legal separation will do many of the same things that a divorce will do. A decree in a legal separation will determine custody of children, support for the children and/or spouse, and virtually every other issue that may arise in a divorce action. The difference between the two types of action is that a legal separation will not end your marriage. In addition, a separation recognizes the possibility that the couple may reunite. Thus, individuals who are legally separated may not remarry unless and until they are divorced. The terms of the separation agreement can be modified in the event of an actual divorce if necessary.
If you can’t (or don’t want to) get a divorce, you can ask the judge for a legal separation. If you get a legal separation, you can ask the judge for orders on things like child support and spousal support, custody and visitation, domestic violence restraining orders, or any other orders that you could get in a divorce. To get a legal separation, you follow the same basic process used for a divorce. If you ask for a legal separation, you may be able to change to a divorce case later if you meet certain requirements.
A legal separation action is also the appropriate action to commence when the filing party has not been a California resident for 6 months or has not been a resident in the county in which the party is filing for at least 3 months. In that case, the party can start the 6 month “jurisdictional clock” running by filing and serving a petition for legal separation and converting the proceeding to one for a dissolution of marriage once the party has met the residency requirements. When done this way, a decree of dissolution can be obtained in 6 months, rather than waiting 6 months to meet the residency requirement and then having to wait a minimum of 6 additional months to obtain a decree of dissolution.
In an annulment (also called “nullity of marriage”), a judge can say that a marriage is not legally valid. There are several other reasons why a judge may say that a marriage is not legally valid.
To get an annulment, you must be able to prove to the judge that one of these reasons is true in your case. This makes an annulment case very different from a divorce or a legal separation. “Irreconcilable differences” are not a reason for getting an annulment.
Getting an annulment doesn’t depend on how long you’ve been married. Even if you’ve been married only a very short time, you may not be able to prove to the judge that your case has one of the legal reasons that makes your marriage invalid.
When you ask the court for an annulment, you can also ask for orders on things like child custody and visitation, and child and spousal support.