Legal separation in Washington State

Legal separation vs. divorce

What is legal separation in Washington State and how is it different than divorce? Legal separation allows a couple to remain legally married while at the same time allowing both individuals to engage in most activities in the legal capacity of a single person.

A decree of legal separation does the following in Washington:

  • Divides assets and debts
  • Addresses parenting issues, spousal maintenance, and child support

Pros and cons — legal separation vs. divorce

People asking “what is legal separation?” are probably also wondering “why legal separation?” Are there are any specific benefits associated with it?

  • Pros - One of the benefits of a legal separation is that you are sometimes able to stay on your spouse’s insurance policy or other benefits. Legal separations are also sometimes used when religious beliefs make divorce an undesirable choice.
  • Cons - One potential strike against legal separation is that many couples who legally separate eventually get divorced, potentially multiplying costs and prolonging pain.

Our compassionate legal professionals at Helland Law Group can help you determine whether divorce or legal separation is the best path forward. Or, if you’re responding to your spouse’s wish for a legal separation, we can help you protect yourself and your family best interests.

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How fast is legal separation?▾

Let’s say you’re more of a Greyhound than a St. Bernard when it comes to timelines — you like things done in a hurry — and you’ve heard that a legal separation can be quicker than a divorce. It’s true, legal separations may be finalized as quickly as you and your spouse can agree on the terms. However, sometimes something called “discovery” is necessary to fully determine the financial position of your spouse, which can slow things down. With all that said, our attorneys would advise you to think about other important factors besides speed when it comes to determining how best to dissolve your marriage.

What is the legal separation process like?▾

The process of obtaining a legal separation in Washington state is very similar to that of a divorce. Either you or your spouse may file at any time requesting a legal separation. However, if your spouse wishes to seek a divorce instead of the legal separation, the court will require the matter to be a divorce.

How permanent is legal separation in Washington State?▾

Although parties can be legally separated indefinitely, either party may convert the decree of legal separation to a decree of dissolution ― that’s “lawyerese” for a divorce, if you’re wondering ―  after 6 months from entry of the final decree of legal separation. Once the decree of legal separation is converted to a divorce decree in Washington state the marriage will be dissolved.