Legal separation vs. divorce in Washington State

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2023 | Divorce

If you have decided your relationship is no longer working, you may consider legal separation. However, moving forward with a divorce is the next step if you cannot work things out while separated. 

However, do you understand the difference between legal separation and divorce? If not, you can learn more about each here. You can also find all related forms to begin the separation or divorce process at Washington Courts

Understanding legal separation

Legal separation lets you live away from your spouse but remain legally married. It’s an option for those not yet ready to divorce but who need legal clarity on issues like property division, child custody and support. 

In Washington State, the legal separation process is similar to divorce. Couples must file a petition for legal separation, which outlines the terms they wish to establish. The court will then issue a decree of legal separation, addressing the same issues as a divorce decree.

One key advantage of legal separation is the potential retention of specific benefits, such as healthcare coverage, which may be lost in a divorce. It also provides a pathway for reconciliation, as couples can reconcile without remarriage.

Understanding divorce

Divorce, conversely, is the formal dissolution of a marriage, resulting in the legal termination of the marital relationship. Washington State has a “no-fault” divorce system. This means you do not have to have a reason to divorce; simply state that the marriage is “irrevocably broken.”

Divorce addresses property division, spousal support, child custody and child support, just like legal separation. However, unlike legal separation, divorce means the end of the marriage, with both parties free to remarry if they choose.

The choice between legal separation and divorce depends on your unique circumstances and goals. Legal separation provides a middle ground for couples who want to separate but remain married, while divorce marks the official end of the marital relationship. Understanding your legal options and rights is crucial to choosing the option that best suits your needs. 

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