Legal Separation vs. DivorceDeciding to leave your partner is rarely easy. It often comes with a lot of back-and-forth, decision-making, and overthinking every move.

You might have a million questions, such as:

Today, we will review everything you need to know about getting a legal separation vs. a divorce so that you can make the right decision for your family.

Legal Separation vs. Divorce: What is the difference?

If you are not fully behind a divorce, but you want time away from your partner to think it over, you may file for legal separation. What is a legal separation? It is the avenue spouses take when they would like to live on their own.

In Washington State, there are few small differences between a legal separation (temporarily relocating from your spouse) vs. a divorce (dissolving your marriage by legal standards). Your assets are divided the same in a separation as they are in a divorce.

You may also still need to pay spousal maintenance or child support. You may even need a parenting plan to outline your child’s living arrangements.

The largest differences between a legal separation and divorce are that you must wait until your divorce is finalized before you can marry anyone else. You are also still “married” when legally separated, which can affect your benefits.

Besides that, the wording can be intimidating. Divorce feels permanent, whereas legal separation is temporary and can change. Separation is a viable divorce alternative while you decide what you would like to do with your marriage.

How long do you need to be separated before getting a divorce in Washington State?

You must be legally separated for 90 days before filing for divorce. (RCW 26.09.030) That ensures that the spouse who filed for the legal separation has a chance to process life alone before dissolving the marriage. This is a good way to prevent hasty decisions.

The Washington State divorce laws state that at least one of the parties may indicate that the marriage is broken beyond repair. Once the judge approves this, you can begin the process of dissolving your marriage.

On or before this step, it is helpful to retain a divorce  attorney. That will ensure your assets are split in the fairest way possible and that the process is amicable. Not only can this make things easier on you, but it can also make things easier on the little ones.

Key Takeaway

Knowing the differences between a legal separation vs. a divorce is paramount if you are considering leaving your partner. In Washington State, legal separations and divorces are similar. However, if you choose the legal separation route, you must be separated for at least 90 days before you can dissolve your marriage.