Legal Separation in Washington

Marriage can be terminated by divorce and defined in a very different way by Legal Separation. Legal Separation is a technical legal status that goes well beyond a married couple deciding they no longer want to live together. 

Legal Separation is a legal process by which a married couple may choose to live separate and independent lives, but remain married for a variety of reasons. A legal separation is granted in the form of a court order after the couple has essentially completed the entire divorce process, except the final decree of dissolution.

Legal Separation is a legal status that may be appealing to individuals in certain situations, such as those who have religious beliefs that prohibit divorce, or in circumstances where the couple wishes to retain spousal benefits such as insurance coverage.  In some instances, a couple might choose Legal Separation as an alternative to divorce if they are hopeful of a reconciliation.

In cases where children are involved, a court order of legal separation will address temporary arrangements for the care, custody, and financial support of the children. Thus, part of the court order includes a parenting plan and child support schedule.  It also addresses all other issues normally included in a divorce such as property and debt division and spousal support.

Legal separation does not automatically lead to divorce. The couple might reconcile, in which case they do not have to do anything in order to continue their marriage because it remains legally intact. If the two do not reconcile, and they wish to proceed with a divorce, they must return to court and convert the separation into a finalized divorce decree.

If you have decided that you no longer want to live with your spouse, but you do not want to end the marriage, you can file for a legal separation. However, one or the other spouse simply moving out of the family home does not constitute a legal separation. The process is initiated by filing a Petition for Legal Separation.  The process, time involved, and cost for a legal separation is generally the same as a divorce.  We highly recommend that you discuss your goals with one of our attorneys to determine what the best approach to separation and divorce is for you and your particular situation.

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