While legal separation and divorce share some similarities, there also are many differences. Probably the most important difference is the fact that a legal separation does not officially end a marriage or allow a spouse to remarry; only a divorce legally and permanently ends a marriage, allowing either spouse to remarry. If your goal is permanently end your marriage and marry someone else, then divorce is most likely the best path to follow. However, if you aren’t quite ready to get divorced, wish to spend some time apart from your spouse, or don’t want to get divorced for religious reasons, legal separation may be an option for you.
If you go through a legal separation and then later decide to pursue a divorce, there is a way to easily convert your legal separation to a divorce under Washington law. Although you cannot convert a legal separation to a divorce for six months after the court issues your legal separation decree, it is not difficult to make the conversion once that time period has passed. In order to convert a legal separation to a divorce, it is simply a matter of filing a motion with the court. Fortunately, if you already have resolved all issues in your legal separation decree, those agreements should simply carry over to your dissolution decree.
Both legal separations and divorces require spouses to divide up property and debts, establish a parenting plan for any minor children, and determine child support and spousal support, if necessary. These orders become permanent when a judge signs a decree of dissolution, which is the document that sets forth all of the court orders that apply to you and your spouse and officially ends your marriage.
Another difference between a divorce and a legal separation, at least in some counties, lies in the required waiting period before getting a final decree. All spouses who are seeking a divorce must wait at least 90 days after filing the divorce petition before the divorce can be finalized through a dissolution decree. This waiting period generally exists for legal separations, too, but some counties do not require the 90 day waiting period before issuing a decree of legal separation.
The Washington divorce lawyers at Pacific Northwest Family Law are eager to answer your questions and help you understand the ins and outs of filing for legal separation or divorce. 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.