What is Legal Separation?

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What is Legal Separation?
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 7/6/2020

Many couples feel like their marriage is over, but for one reason or another do not feel that divorce is appropriate for them. Whatever the reason, oftentimes husbands and wives do nothing because they feel there are no options right for them. Fortunately, Washington has a solution. Instead of a divorce, parties can seek a legal separation.

Legal separations are described in the same Washington statutes as divorce. In fact, Chapter 26.09 of the Revised Code of Washington is even called “Dissolution Proceedings – Legal Separation.” The courts will allow a legal separation in any situation where a divorce would be appropriate, but the parties do not wish to have the finality of a divorce. Just like in a dissolution, however, the separating partners will need to ensure their interests are protected. As part of the final separation ord

ers, the court will consider parenting plans, child support, property division, and even spousal support (alimony).

So if a legal separation provides final orders that consider the same questions that a final divorce order provides, then what is so different about a legal separation? Practically speaking, the only major difference between a divorce and legal separation is that the marriage is not permanently terminated as part of the legal separation. There are many reasons a couple might choose a legal separation. 

Here are a few:

  • It may allow a couple time apart to attempt reconciliation.BLOGPOST_Whatislegalseparation.jpg
  • Many religious doctrines do not accept divorce but will allow separation.
  • A legal separation allows one partner to stay on the other’s health insurance.
  • It provides a legal allocation of property and debt along with all other facets of a divorce without the negative connotation of dissolution.

Just like a divorce, the parties must either come to an agreement on these issues, or they will ultimately end up in a trial allowing a judge to make findings and conclusions. If they are able to come to agreements, they must go through a near identical process as if they were moving towards divorce. The process starts with a petition. The parties must then wait at least 90-days. After that time period, assuming they have reached agreements, the parties may then execute final documents that will be signed by a judge.

Conveniently, the law also allows conversion of a legal separation to a divorce. After waiting 6-months, one former spouse may file a Motion to Convert the Legal Separation to a Divorce. The Court will not allow objection, which means that it is a simple and effective way to transition to a dissolution if the legal separation proved insufficient. The qualified and experienced litigators at the Law Offices of Magnuson Lowell, PS provide effective representation for Legal Separations in Washington. If you have family law questions, call today for a free case evaluation.

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