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Does California require the same filing status for state returns that is used on the federal returns?

Yes, unless you have a Registered Domestic Partnership or a same-sex marriage.

Keep in mind that you can always amend later to switch to MFJ, but you can't amend to get to separate returns. At this point, filing the separate returns might be the path of least resistance, and you can consider changing your mind (or the client's minds) later.

--Peter
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