Sometimes, when a divorce seems imminent, a married couple inquires about the possibility of "legal separation". Some states refer to legal separation by other names, such as "separate maintenance".
Usually, when people use the term "legal separation", they are referring to a situation where a court has entered an order governing what will happen while the parties are separated, perhaps covering issues such as child custody and support, and spousal support (alimony).
Typically, a court will have the power to resolve as part of a "legal separation" any and all issues that would normally be resolved in a divorce. The exception is that when the final order is entered by the court, the parties remain married.
Also, most jurisdictions require a waiting or "cooling off" period before a court will issue a divorce judgment, but there is not ordinarily a waiting period before a court may issue an order of "legal separation" or "separate maintenance".
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For more information, contact the Family Law Offices of Renee M. Marcelle at (415) 456-4444, or online at http://www.familylawmarin.com/