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Legal Separation vs. Divorce

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Posted By Cohen Family Law | November 23 2021 | Uncategorized

There is more than one option available if you and your spouse are unhappy with your relationship. You could terminate the marriage with a divorce in Washington or simply put it on pause with a legal separation. Both options have advantages and disadvantages that you and your spouse should carefully consider before making a decision. If you wish to discuss both options in more detail in relation to your specific situation, contact a family law attorney at Cohen Family Law, LLC to request a free consultation.

What Is Legal Separation?

Legal separation can end or pause your relationship with your spouse without terminating your marriage. Legal separation does not dissolve the marital contract, meaning you and your spouse will still technically be married in the eyes of the law. You will legally be free to live your own life, however, including moving into your own home, dividing your community property, sharing custody of your kids, and dating other people.

In the State of Washington, the process for legal separation is virtually the same as getting a divorce. You must be a resident of Washington, although there is no requirement to reside in the state for any specific amount of time. You must also go through the mandatory waiting period of 90 days from the time you file your legal separation petition before it will be finalized. You can use this time to determine the key parts of your separation, such as child custody and property division.

What Is The Difference Between Legal Separation And Divorce In Washington State?

What Is Divorce?

A divorce terminates or dissolves a marital contract. With a divorce, the couple will no longer be married on a legal level. Both spouses will be single and able to remarry if desired. Once finalized, a divorce cannot be reversed. If the couple reconciles, they must get remarried. Like a legal separation, however, to get a divorce, a couple must meet the residency requirement and determine how to handle child custody, property division, alimony, and other key elements.

If you are already legally separated and wish to turn it into a divorce, you can use the same paperwork that you used for the separation. In Washington, you must wait at least six months after becoming legally separated before asking the court to turn it into a divorce, however. If you were not previously legally separated, you and your spouse can either work together to create a divorce settlement or take your case to trial for your divorce agreement to be determined by a judge.

Which Is Right for You: Divorce or Legal Separation?

The decision to get legally separated or divorced is a big one. You and your spouse should carefully go over the pros and cons of each solution before making the choice that is right for you. While getting a divorce might be more common, legal separation could be a more flexible solution that suits your unique situation, needs, and goals for the future. Some of the pros of legal separation include:

  • It gives the couple time apart to decide what they really want, without the complication of marital conflicts.
  • You can still receive insurance, tax, employment, military and other benefits related to your marriage while living a separate life.
  • Any income (and debts) acquired after the date of legal separation will generally be classified as separate property.
  • You do not have to get a divorce to become single if the divorce goes against your religious or personal beliefs.
  • If you reconcile with your spouse, it is easier to end a legal separation than to get remarried after a divorce.
  • If you choose to turn your legal separation into a divorce, the divorce process is much easier.

Remember, however, that with a legal separation, you are still legally married. You cannot remarry until you get a divorce. In addition, you will still be connected to your spouse in some ways. If your spouse racks up debt, for example, there is a chance that you could be responsible for making payments. Whether or not legal separation is right for you is something that you can discuss in further detail with an attorney in Clark County.

What Is The Difference Between Legal Separation And Divorce In Washington State?

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