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Legal Separation

In Washington State, married couples can file for a legal separation or they can file for a divorce (dissolution of marriage). The process for filing either for a legal separation or divorce is similar, but the legal ramifications are different.

A person may choose to file for legal separation instead of divorce for many different reasons, such as religious beliefs, insurance entitlements, military benefits, immigration status, or simply because the spouses desire not to get a divorce. In these types of situations, legal separation may be a more appropriate choice for the parties.

To begin the process of legal separation, one party must file a petition to the Court, similar to a divorce petition. Once the legal separation process has started, either party can seek relief from the Court regarding issues of parenting, such as child support or parenting plans; or property, such as division of assets and allocation of debts. The Court can also address issues of restraining orders and spousal maintenance.

A major difference between legal separation and divorce is the 90-day waiting period. Legal separation does not have a 90-day waiting period; the matter can be finalized quickly. By contrast, the soonest a final divorce order can be entered is after the expiration of the 90-day waiting period.

Another difference is even after the legal separation is finalized, the parties are still married. As long as and until a final divorce order is entered, neither of the parties will be able to get remarried.

Lastly, when a legal separation order is entered instead of a divorce order, one spouse may be able to stay on the current health insurance of the other spouse, or may receive military benefits from their servicemember spouse.

Converting a legal separation to a divorce:

After the Court has entered a final legal separation order, either party can move to convert it to a final divorce order. In order to convert, a motion must be made to the Court after six months has passed since the final legal separation order has been entered.

Family law litigation can be emotionally difficult and complex. Decisions made about each step of the litigation can affect you for many years. We have years of experience helping our clients through the difficulty of family law cases including legal separation and divorce, and can help you through the process. Contact us today at (253) 838 – 3377 or email at, to talk about your case.

Disclaimer: All materials provided on this website have been prepared by Bains Law Firm for general information purposes only and no representation is made as to their completeness or accuracy. Information on this website is not intended as legal advice, and may not be relied upon as such. Only an attorney who can review the unique facts of each case and apply them to the statutes, case law and court rules can provide legal advice. Nothing in this website shall be construed to create an attorney-client relationship.

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