While the process for getting a divorce and getting a legal separation are essentially the same, the results are different. When a divorce becomes final, the parties are permanently and legally divorced and free to remarry. At the conclusion of a legal separation, however, the parties are still legally married. This means that they are not free to remarry. The other major difference is that there is a 90-day waiting period from the time that you file your petition for divorce before your divorce can become final. There is no such waiting period in a legal separation. Additionally, six months after the court issues a legal separation decree, either party can ask the court to convert the proceeding to a divorce.
You begin both a divorce and a legal separation proceeding by filing a petition with the court. A divorce petition asks the court to dissolve the parties’ marriage, and a legal separation petition asks the court for an order declaring that the parties are legally separated. In some cases, the parties will seek temporary orders to be put into place about issues such as their children, their property, and their debts while the proceeding is going on. This is particularly the case when the parties must wait at least 90 days before their divorce can become final. The judge will send the case to mediation to see if the parties can work out their differences and agree on all issues related to the divorce or legal separation. If the parties can agree, then they can sign a settlement agreement and submit it to the court for final approval. If, on the other hand, the parties cannot agree on one or more issues related to their divorce or legal separation, a trial will be held in court and the judge will make the final determination on any disputed issues.
The Washington divorce lawyers at Pacific Northwest Family Law are eager to answer your questions and help you understand the ins and outs of both filing for divorce or legal separation. As your attorneys, we will focus on how best to represent your interests and achieve the goals that you wish to reach. We have handled countless divorce and family law proceedings over the years, and we will work with you to create the best strategy possible in your case. Call our offices at (509) 572-3700 and learn how we can help you with your Washington divorce, legal separation, or family law case.