The common thread between annulment and divorce is that each legal proceeding ends a marriage. Legal separation may signal the beginning of the end of a marriage, but does not legally end the marriage. However, all three of these legal proceedings do have the potential to impact your finances and your children.

An annulment is a fairly rare process under Washington law by which a court declares a marriage to be invalid by issuing a decree of invalidity. In order to qualify for an annulment, the court must find that the marriage was legally invalid from its very start.

A legal separation does end a marriage, but it does allow you to obtain orders regarding the allocation of property, division of debts, and custody, visitation, and support of any children of the marriage. There are many reasons that you might seek a legal separation rather than a divorce. For example, many people seek a legal separation for religious reasons. Additionally, some individuals may seek a legal separation for more practical reasons, such as continued insurance coverage. In a legal separation, the court can make temporary orders concerning the parties’ children and any financial issues that must be addressed while the legal separation is pending. The court also can issue a decree of legal separation that resolves these same issues. Upon the issuance of a decree, either spouse can convert it to a divorce action at any time by taking the proper steps.

A divorce, on the other hand, is a legal proceeding under Washington law that ends a valid marriage. The court can make temporary orders, just as it can in a legal separation action. After a mandatory 90-day waiting period, the divorce can become final. In order to finalize the divorce, the court will then issue a decree of dissolution of marriage that addresses all issues related to finances and children, including custody, visitation, and support.

The breakup of a marriage is never easy, no matter whether you intend to pursue legal separation, annulment, or divorce. During times like these, it is hard to make the decisions that are truly best for you and your family, particularly when it comes to choosing how to proceed from a legal perspective. The impact of a divorce, legal separation, or annulment on both your financial and family situation is potentially significant, as the important decisions that you make in your divorce today can impact your life for years to come. It is in these kinds of cases that a Washington divorce lawyer can be most useful to you and truly make a difference in the outcome of your case. Visit our website at and click on the “Contact Us” button and fill out the online form today. If you contact us online, one of our staff members will get back to you right away.