The pain of a marriage ending is one of the most difficult things most people will ever experience. It is a devastating life event that has the potential to ruin not only your relationships but leave you financially destitute. Divorce is one of the leading causes of depression and bankruptcy for good reason. It can quite literally rip your entire life in half and leave you to pick up the pieces.
Given how serious and irrevocable a step divorce is, you may be thinking about separation instead. Before making this decision, you must understand the differences between separation and divorce. The finality of divorce is well known, and at that time your legal relationship with your spouse will be fully dissolved. There may be some circumstances where this is not ideal. Many spouses have joint property or business ventures that would need to be sold and divided as community property, and that may be a financial move that would benefit neither partner.
A separation may be a good alternative to immediate dissolution of marriage if either or both parties have not given up on the chance of reconciliation. Many couples simply need to live apart for a time and outline a living arrangement that works for them both while disputes are resolved. Others may not be ready to sell and divide property. It may not be possible for you to yet envision what your life will be like without your spouse, and you may not know what you are going to do without them. A separation gives the opportunity to grow into mutual independence with less financial shock to the system.
The saying goes that marriages come and go, but divorce is forever. There is some truth to this. Even in the event of a reconciliation after a divorce that culminates in remarriage, this does not undo the divorce so much as enter into a completely distinct legal marriage agreement. It does not undo the financial and family turmoil that the original dissolution caused. If reconciliation is a possibility, even a remote one, a period of separation is something that you must consider.
On the other hand, if you are utterly convinced that divorce is the only option and your spouse feels the same, a separation may do more harm than good. Remaining financially and legally linked may cause further financial and legal damage as two spouses make financial decisions that are the best for them at the expense of their ex, running up debts and squandering assets. Actions such as this are among the leading causes of divorce anyway, and if this is the case a quicker dissolution may be called for.
California law requires a six month waiting period after you have served your spouse with a petition for divorce. This must be added to the time that it will take to prepare the documents, agree on financial agreements and parenting plans, and however long it may take for you to get a court date. With a lengthy separation added to this, the entire legal nightmare could drag on for years. An immediate filing for dissolution, and a commitment to competing negotiations on every point of dispute, can go a long way toward making your divorce go as quickly and smoothly as circumstances allow.
Divorce vs separation, whatever choice you make, remember that decision must take into account what is best for you and your children. Separation and divorce can be equally traumatic for children, but how difficult it has to be is still in your hands. Neither a separation nor a divorce is an easy step to take.