In Washington State, divorce and legal separation are both legal processes that formalize the end of a marriage, but they have key differences.

What Happens When I File For Divorce?

Divorce, as you probably know, is the legal end of a marriage. In a divorce, if you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, the court will address issues such as the division of property and debts, spousal support, parenting issues, and child support. A divorce terminates inheritance rights and impacts health insurance coverage and other employment benefits. Consult with an experienced Washington Divorce attorney for a detailed understanding of how divorce or legal separation may be suitable for your situation. 

What Is Legal Separation In Washington State?

Legal separation is a status that allows a married couple to live separately while remaining legally married. The court still needs to address issues like the division of property and debt, spousal support, child support, and parenting, but the couple remains married in the eyes of the law. This means that neither party can remarry unless they later proceed with a divorce. One advantage of legal separation is that it provides couples with an opportunity to live apart and assess whether they want to reconcile or proceed with a divorce. It can also be a choice for those who, for personal or religious reasons, do not want to pursue a divorce but still need legal arrangements for separation. A separation occurs when one spouse says the marriage is over. The courts call this a defunct marriage.

A separation can stop the clock on the accumulation of community property and debt. After a separation, the property, income, and debt of each spouse can be the separate property or debt of that spouse.

Keep in mind that the specific details and requirements for divorce, legal separation, or a physical separation can vary, so it's always a good idea to consult with an experienced  Washington State family law attorney for advice tailored to your situation.

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