Dear Famularo & Associates
My husband and I have a judgment for legal separation. I no longer want to remain married to him, and want to get a divorce. How do I turn my judgment for legal separation into a divorce?
A legal separation in the state of California is similar to a divorce in that it is a court action which alters a parties' legal relationship. A lawsuit for legal separation includes orders for child custody, child support, visitation, spousal support, division of property and division of debts. All of the same orders in a divorce are made in a legal separation, except at the end of the lawsuit the parties are not divorced. All property and all debts accumulated after the date of separation are not shared by the parties, but are owned solely by the party who accumulated that asset or debt.
After a judgment for legal separation has been entered, you can still obtain a divorce. However, that divorce judgment is obtained depends on the terms of the legal separation. If the judgment for legal separation specifically reserves jurisdiction over the status of your marriage, you can simply file a motion to terminate your marital status and submit a divorce judgment to the court. If, however, status was not reserved in the judgment for legal separation, you must file a whole new divorce action. The new divorce action will be for status only, and you will not have to relitigate the terms of the legal separation. Thus, all orders made in the judgment for legal separation will not be affected by the filing of a request for a status only divorce.