Legal Separation

Not all couples traditionally end their marriage. Some couples choose to legally separate instead. A legal separation is very similar to a divorce, but the couple is still declared legally married. Legal separations are fairly uncommon in the family law world. However, some couples choose to legally separate for a variety of reasons including tax incentives or military benefits.

A legal separation may not be a divorce, but it can still be a messy process. Couples who choose to legally separate must determine division of property, child custody, child support, and if alimony is needed. If you wish to legally separate from your spouse, it’s important that you contact the attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson. 

Attorney for Legal Separation in Seattle, Washington

Are you and your spouse considering a legal separation instead of divorce? You will want to contact the attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson immediately. Our attorneys can help you craft your separation agreements, negotiate with the other attorney and litigate for you if needed. 

The attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson have years of experience representing clients in legal separation hearings. We will do whatever possible to help you move on from this legal issue. Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson practices law throughout the greater King County area and surrounding communities including Everett in Snohomish County. Contact us today at (206) 712-2756 to schedule a free consultation today. 

Overview of Legal Separation in Washington   


What’s the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

Legal separation proceedings are very similar to divorce proceedings. In fact, both legal processes can be found under the same statute. Legal separations even use very similar forms with the exception of different titles. Both procedures have the same filing fee, take the same length of time, and both spouses must approve a settlement agreement. 

However, there are some key differences between a legal separation and a divorce: 

  • Marriage Status – In a legal separation both spouses are still married. A legal separation provides the same relief as divorce but doesn’t undo the marriage. Couples who are legally separated must disclose they are married on their tax forms.

  • 90 Day Waiting Period – Couples who wish to divorce must wait at least 90 days before the courts will grant an agreed divorce decree. This is referred to as a “cooling off” period to ensure both parties want to proceed with the divorce. But, the 90-day waiting period doesn’t apply to couples wishing to legally separate.

  • Not Able to Remarry – A couple who is legally separated cannot remarry. While both spouses can date freely, marrying another person is impossible without a final marriage dissolution decree.

  • Insurance – It’s common for legally separated couples to remain in each other’s employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. A person can legally separate their spouse but also maintain their health insurance policy. This can be extremely beneficial for spouses with healthcare issues or a tight financial situation.

Why Choose Legal Separation Over Divorce?

If legal separation is so similar to divorce, why even choose to legally separate? Legal separation is not the answer for most couples, but for some it’s the most efficient option. Some couples wish to remain eligible for benefits and others do it because they are still uncertain about their plans for a final divorce. 

Listed below are some possible reasons why a couple may choose to legally separate.

  • Tax benefits;
  • Maintaining the same healthcare policy;
  • Retirement benefits;
  • Immigration status;
  • Religious beliefs;
  • Military benefits;
  • To bypass the 90-day “cool off” period; and
  • The couple prefers to live separately but still wants to stay married.

How is Property Divided in a Legal Separation?

Property division for legal separations is identical to how property is distributed in a divorce. Washington is a community property state, which means that assets are divided in a “just and equitable” manner. The court has the authority to distribute assets in a manner they believe to be fair. 

Washington law only allows community property to be distributed in a legal separation. Community property is any assets or income accumulated over the course of the marriage. Property that can’t be divided is separate property, which belongs solely to the individual. Separate property is any assets required before the marriage, gifts or inheritances received, or compensation from a personal injury settlement. 

Listed below are some factors considered when dividing property in a legal separation.

  • The value and extent of any shared community property;
  • The value and extent of any separate property;
  • The duration of the relationship;
  • The financial status of both people; and
  • If one person desires the right to live in the family home and spends the majority of the time tending to shared children.

Can I Change My Legal Separation into a Divorce?

Some legally separated couples eventually decide to divorce. Legally separated couples can file a motion to change a decree of legal separation to a decree of dissolution of marriage. If you wish to convert your separation to divorce, you must wait at least six months since your entry of legal separation. 

Either you or your spouse can submit a motion to convert the separation. If the motion is uncontested, then both you and your ex-partner can successfully divorce. There may be additional issues if you convert your separation to divorce. Many separated couples must re-negotiate major issues such as spousal support before moving through with a divorce.


Additional Resources 

Legal Separation Court Forms – Visit the official website of the Washington Courts to gain access to court forms for legal separation. Find more information on the petition, summons for divorce proceedings, certificate of dissolution and other important documents. 

Legal Separation Statute – Visit the official website for the Washington State Legislature to access the statutes concerning legal separation. Access the site to find more information about how to convert your legal separation into a divorce, how it’s processed through the clerk of court and how to change your last name.


Lawyer for Legal Separations in King County, Washington

If you wish to legally separate from your spouse, then call the attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson. We have years of experience representing clients in legal separation hearings. Our attorneys are skilled at writing settlement agreements, making sensible negotiations and uncovering all your legal options.

Don’t stress about this legal issue for another moment. Call the attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson now at (206) 712-2756. We accept clients throughout the greater Seattle area and surrounding communities including Burien, Issaquah, Bellevue and Kent.


This article was last updated on December 18, 2018.

 

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