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Legal Separation: Four Things You Should Know

In Washington, instead of filing for dissolution of marriage, a spouse may request what is called a legal separation. People, are often confused about what this means. This is probably partially because the term “legal separation” or “separated” is used in different ways in family law. First, the term is used to define the period of time between when the marriage becomes defunct, and when the parties are finally divorced. Second, there is the legal process to obtain what is called a legal separation. This blog post intends to speak about the latter meaning of the term. Below please find a list of things you may want to know about legal separation:

  1. Legal Separation as defined by RCW 26.09.030 is not a necessary part of the dissolution process (though it can be part of the process). Instead, it is a separate process that can be used to achieve somewhat different (though overlapping) relief.
  2. With a legal separation spouses can obtain a parenting plan, a division of debts and liabilities, spousal maintenance, a child support order, and more.
  3. If a spouse files a petition for legal separation, and changes their mind and wants a divorce, that person may have to file a second petition (this time for dissolution of marriage) requesting that the court dissolve their marriage.
  4. Six months after a decree of legal separation has been filed, the decree may be converted to a decree of dissolution by either party (without the other party’s consent).
  5. Unless a spouse takes further action (see above), the marriage will not be dissolved at the end of the legal separation process.

If you have questions about legal separation, please schedule an appointment with a Seattle family lawyer.