How do you define “legal separation” in Washington State?
Being legally separated indicates you no longer reside with your partner. That can mean you move to a new house or separate part of your shared home.
You can get legally separated for various reasons. For instance, you might be contemplating divorce if you are no longer on the same page, but you are not ready to take the plunge. Sometimes, you might need a breath of fresh air and space to think so that you do not make a rash decision.
Only two married spouses or domestic partners can legally separate. So, if you have been with your boyfriend or girlfriend for many years, but you never got married, that would not be considered legal separation.
What are the pros and cons of legal separations vs. divorces?
Legal separation and divorce are similar in the court’s eyes. Legal separation is a good choice if you and your partner have been struggling, and you need time away. Perhaps, you have tried couple’s therapy, but nothing has helped yet. Being legally separated might be what you need to contemplate your marriage and see if you and your partner can overcome your differences.
Many legal separations are temporary. You can ask the judge to end the order at any point if you and your spouse decide to get back together. There is no harm in that. During this time, you may be awarded spousal maintenance, child support, and more, depending on your financial position at the time of separation.
Your parenting plan may also impact any child support owed. For instance, if you are entitled to visitation, but the spouse ordered to pay alimony has primary custody, they may not owe child support.
Another important benefit of a legal separation is that you can likely maintain the same benefits (such as vision, dental, and health insurance) since you and your spouse remain married. While insurance may not be a deal-breaker for you, it is something to consider before ending your marriage.
A con of legal separation is that you cannot get married to anyone else. You will have to wait until your divorce is complete before tying the knot again.
Divorce is the step after legal separation. If you cannot come to terms, and you decide to end things for good, you can file for dissolution of marriage. A pro of this is you will no longer be married–which you may have been waiting for so that you can get hitched to your new partner. However, divorce also is forever, meaning once you start the dissolution process, it is difficult to go back.
Is it possible to do a trial separation in Washington State?
Trial separations are private between you and your spouse. That means you will not file anything with the court. Essentially, you and your partner have decided that you need time apart to see if a legal separation is even necessary.
You are not obligated to contact a lawyer for a trial separation. However, bear in mind that trial separations hold no weight in court. The judge may not enforce spousal maintenance (assuming you need it), and you will still have to pay for things as you did before your new arrangement.
A legal separation is more realistic if you would prefer to set parameters on asset division, child custody, and alimony. The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer can advise you on the different options so that you can feel equipped to make the right decision without taking unexpected financial hits.
Our attorneys can explain all you need to know about separation contracts in Washington State. We can also review the steps on transitioning to divorce, assuming that is what you want. If you have any questions at all, we are a quick email or phone call away.
Can you start filing for divorce in Washington State once you are legally separated?
Yes and no. You can file for divorce, but you must be legally separated for 90 days before doing so. (RCW 26.09.030) While it might feel lengthy and inconvenient if you feel ready to divorce, the three-month period can help you avoid doing something you might regret later.
Think of a legal separation as a trial to make sure you are prepared and actually want to divorce your spouse. If you wish to dissolve your marriage after the 90 days, most judges will be on the same page. You must exhibit that your marriage has no chance of being fixed for the judge to approve your petition for dissolution of marriage.
If you wish to convert a legal separation to a divorce in Washington State, you will need to contact a divorce attorney. This will ensure all assets are split fairly among you and your partner. It can also ensure you receive the proper alimony, if applicable.
What happens if your spouse wants a divorce, but you want to be legally separated?
The timing is key here. If you have filed for legal separation, you both must hang tight for 90 days before moving to a divorce. However, if your spouse files for divorce first, that will likely go through.
You are not required to separate before divorcing. Many couples do decide to live away from one another for a while before choosing to dissolve the marriage. That way they can be sure of their decision. However, if you or your partner wish to bypass the legal separation step, that is generally acceptable.
Working with a lawyer is important to ensure you get your case off to a good start. We know it is not easy to begin the legal separation or divorce process, but it may be necessary.
Interested in filing for legal separation?
The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer is up to date on all Washington State divorce and legal separation laws. We will help you with any legal separation paperwork, in addition to the divorce filings. We know that you need patience during this challenging time, and we will be sure to exhibit it–along with professionalism–throughout your case. Schedule your first consultation for free today.