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How does a legal separation differ from a divorce in Washington?

On Behalf of | Apr 8, 2022 | Uncategorized

For people in Kirkland, family law concerns can impact anyone. This is true whether they are white collar professionals, blue collar workers and in any age range and financial situation. For couples who are thinking about their future and have a struggling marriage, they might want to legally separate before moving forward with a divorce. There are similarities to how the case is handled, but it is imperative to understand the differences as well. From the beginning, this is a vital part of achieving a reasonable outcome and avoiding a long, drawn out dispute that is costly personally, financially and emotionally.

Key facts about legal separation and divorce

A legal separation is a process that allows the parties to live separately and have rights, but it is not a divorce. If, for example, a finance professional is having marital strife with his wife who is a teacher and they have two children and own a home, there is much to sift through. This can lead to challenges if they are going to live apart as they weigh the value of trying to fix their marital troubles compared to what it would mean to divorce. Although they have a reasonably good relationship, they still want to be protected should their situation worsen. A legal separation can provide that break with protections. One party or the other – or both – can then decide to move on with the divorce.

With legal separation, there is a parenting plan, property division, child custody and other key aspects, it is a final order. After the couple has had the legal separation for six months, either side has the right to simply convert it to a divorce. There is no need to reopen the custody, property and parenting plan agreements. If a couple chooses to divorce and does not want to have a legal separation, they must show that the marriage cannot be salvaged and is subject to irretrievable breakdown. For people who are still on reasonable terms, they can negotiate an agreement regarding the fundamental parts of the case. If not, the court can decide. In Washington, there is no need to show the other party did anything wrong like commit adultery to get the divorce. It is no-fault.

Help might be needed when deciding on legal separation vs. divorce

Obviously, the circumstances will largely dictate what the couple prefers when parting ways. Perhaps they want to see how their relationship handles being apart for a brief time before making it permanent, but they want recourse to ensure child support, spousal support, parenting time and other factors are under legal scrutiny. In some family law cases, they rekindle their relationship and resume the marriage. In others, they move on and divorce.

For couples who do not see any reasonable way for the marriage to be saved, just getting divorced might be the preferable strategy. No matter what, it is useful to know the differences and how the case will be impacted by a legal separation prior to a divorce. It is wise to discuss all the alternatives with experienced and caring professionals who prefer to forge workable solutions that benefit everyone but can still do what is necessary in court to achieve a fair outcome.