Wahington State Legal Separation and Divorce

For couples experiencing marital challenges, an alternative to divorce is legal separation. Some couples choose to pursue legal separation, giving them time to see if they can reconcile, or because divorce violates their religious beliefs. If you are considering separating from your spouse, it is important to understand the specifics of legal separation.

In Washington State, legal separation formalizes a separation while remaining legally married. Legal separation is accomplished through a court order and is a legally binding consent decree. Legal separation is not a requirement before filing for divorce, and some couples reconcile during this time.

One of the most common reasons couples choose to pursue a legal separation is that it allows them to make financial arrangements, such as deciding who will pay the bills, how child custody will be divided, and who will retain property, possessions, etc. When the court is involved in the separation, temporary arrangements are made for the following:

  • Shared child custody
  • Child support
  • Division of community assets and debts

If you are considering legal separation or divorce, carefully consider the following information and contact an experienced professional who can guide you through this complex process.

Common Myths about Legal Separation

Legal separation can be an appropriate choice for couples who no longer wish to share their lives and finances, but who aren’t yet ready to proceed with divorce. Following are a few common myths and misunderstandings regarding legal separation in Washington State:

Myth #1: You Have to Move Out in Order to Be Legally Separated

When you or your spouse moves out of the house, you are informally separated. To have an official legal separation, legal paperwork must be filed in court. Some couples may benefit from simply separating physically but not legally, while others prefer to legally separate, especially for financial reasons. 

Myth #2: Legal Separation is Exactly Like Divorce

Legal separation and divorce are similar, but there are a few key differences. In a legal separation, you are still married to your partner in name, and you can still share some of the benefits that married couples have, such as health insurance and retirement benefits. In addition, you may still be considered married by your church.

In Washington State, legal separation formalizes a separation while remaining legally married. Legal separation is accomplished through a court order and is a legally binding consent decree.

Leah Hill, Founder + CEO, Divorce Strategies Northwest

Myth #3: If We Are Legally Separated, We Can’t Live Together

Being legally separated does not require you and your spouse to live separately. However, many legally separated couples choose to live apart for a number of reasons. Some couples may live apart while determining if divorce is the right next step, while others may find it easier to separate their finances while living apart.

Myth #4: If We Are Legally Separated, We Have to Eventually Divorce

Many couples who legally separate eventually divorce. However, some couples remain legally separated permanently, while others decide to reconcile their marriage. It is important to understand that because couples choose legal separation for a variety of reasons, their options during legal separation differ. 

Myth #5: There’s No Good Reason To Pursue Legal Separation in Washington State

For many couples, legal separation is not the best option. Couples may choose legal separation for religious reasons, or if one spouse needs medical support and the other spouse’s health insurance covers both parties. If couples are considering divorce but would prefer to start with a less permanent option, legal separation may be a good option.

Myth #6: Filing for a Legal Separation

In a legal separation, you need to divide your assets and debts with your partner and come up with plans regarding your children, retirement, and living arrangements. If you have been married for a long time, have complex assets, work with an experienced professional who can help you understand the details of the legal process.

Although some legal separations are simple, others are not. Similar to divorce, you may not know what you are entitled to and have questions about asset division. A skilled professional can help you decide whether legal separation or divorce are the better choice for you and your family.

Five Reasons Couples Choose Legal Separation

The differences between divorce and legal separation in Washington State can be subtle, but are extremely important when it comes to property, children, relationship, and your future. While legal separation is not for everyone, it is a good option for some couples as they consider their future.

Five Reasons That Legal Separation May Be Appropriate For You:

  • Separation gives couples a chance to continue to work on their marriage. While divorce is permanent, legal separation can serve as a trial run for couples that are unsure about their decision to end their time together, or who would like the option to reconcile down the road.
  • Separation preserves important benefits and insurance policies that would be severed in a divorce. If you and your spouse want to maintain your current health insurance, life insurance, investments, or other financial plans in place while severing other financial ties, legal separation may be the best choice for you at this time.
  • Separation provides an intermediate step between being together and getting divorced. The effects of divorce can be shocking for a family. Legal separation gives everyone a chance to adapt to a new life without suddenly being thrown into a the stress of a new family structure.
  • Legal separation may be more accepted in your church. Some couples choose legal separation because their religious values make divorce difficult.
  • Legal separation makes it possible to live separate lives, but still be connected in some ways. Some couples want to live separately but do not want the option to remarry. Others might want to move on but are uninterested in dissolving their marriage. In these cases, a legal separation is a good option to consider.

Your Trusted Partner

Whether you’re contemplating a divorce, have already started the process, or are far into the proceedings, do you wish you had someone to share with you the inside scoop on how to save money, time, and emotional energy on your divorce?

Our team is available for Support On-Demand to discuss the many scenarios, options, and implications of separation or divorce, via telephone or videoconference during this time. Feel free to get in touch with us; we are here for you!

Leah Hill Email Signature | Divorce Strategies NW

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