I am currently separated from my husband of six years. He left our home with most of his belongings, including valuable music equipment. I would like to document the time he left our home so that it is clear when we separated, however not ready to file for divorce yet. Is there any benefit in filing a separation? I also wonder if I stay legally married in this separated state does it add more "time" to the marriage? Meaning if we are separated 2 years before we file for a divorce, will it make the length of our marriage 8 years? Or will that time be calculated based on the date we separated? I am concerned about alimony. We have children separately, however no common children.
I agree with the previous answer. When you decide to file for dissolution (divorce), the date of separation will be the date in which you physically separated and communicated that the marriage was over. one thing that you should keep in mind is that you are still married and it might be a good idea to at least file for a legal separation because if any debt is incurred by your husband this might also be your debt since you are part of the community (or marriage).
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The difference between a legal separation and dissolution is simple. In the first, you are still married. In the second, you are not. Everything is essentially the same. The date of separation is when the two of you no longer lived together as man and wife. Filing a legal separation does not add more time to the marriage. The date of separation is the same date for a disso or a legal separation. If you file for a legal separation, you can obtain a judgment, just like a dissolution, with court orders about division of property and debt and support,
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The general reasons for filing for legal separation versus filing for divorce are  religious reasons (disapproval of divorces),  health insurance coverage (for a spouse that has pre-existing conditions like cancer, health insurance coverage would be very difficult to get on their own and health insurance coverage on the other spouse's insurance plan otherwise usually ends when divorce is finalized), and  jurisdictional issues (someone is not yet a resident of California, i.e. less than 6 months living in CA. If you are going to file a case that otherwise does not meet these limited scenarios, it is more practical to file for divorce than legal separation because if you finalize a legal separation case, you are still married at the end of the day. However, that is a decision only you can make.
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