Is your marriage over, and you’re preparing for a divorce? Are you living separately from your spouse but don’t want to file for divorce yet? Or are you simply considering your options in a marriage you feel is in trouble?

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you might wonder about the difference between legal separation and divorce. Unlike some states, Washington allows couples to get legally separated. Learn about divorce vs. legal separation and what benefits each may bring.

What is a divorce?

A divorce legally terminates a marriage. During the process, the divorcing couple must make decisions regarding property division, spousal support, child custody/support and more. If they cannot arrive at these decisions themselves, a judge may make the decisions for them. Upon completion of the divorce process, the couple is no longer legally married.

What is a legal separation?

A legal separation in Washington State is different from a divorce as well as simply living separately. The couple still has to make decisions about dividing assets, child support and custody, and more. But the legal separation is not the termination of the marriage. The couple remains married in the eyes of the law.

What are the benefits of a legal separation?

Couples unsure about whether they will be able to reconcile and save their marriage – or who are hopeful that they will – may find a legal separation is the better option. Couples will remain married when legally separated, whereas a divorce is the final dissolution of marriage. If the couple reconciles after a divorce, they will have to remarry.

Additionally, the couple can convert a decree of legal separation to a decree of divorce if they later decide reconciliation is not possible and wish to terminate the marriage. As such, a legal separation can act as a stepping stone to either divorce or reconciliation.

Finally, some choose legal separation for health insurance purposes. Because a divorce ends a marriage, a spouse on his wife’s employer health plan will no longer be able to stay on the plan. But if legally separated, he could stay on the plan. Of course, some health plans do not allow spouses to stay on the plan if legally separated, so check with the health insurance company first.

Get Help from Family Law Attorney Molly B. Kenny

If you are your spouse are getting a divorce or a legal separation or wondering about the difference between divorce and legal separation, speak with a family law attorney near you today. At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we help Washington residents with a host of family law issues, including divorces and legal separations. You can reach our offices at your convenience at 425-460-0550 or via our contact form.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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