When you are experiencing marital difficulties in Washington, there are several different ways to handle the situation. Divorce is one possible option, and legal separation is another. Because they are similar in significant ways, you may get the two confused. However, there are also important differences between them.
According to Washington Courts, the main difference between a divorce and a legal separation is that the former permanently ends the marriage, but the latter does not. This can be significant if you and your spouse eventually decide to reconcile. It also means that, following your legal separation, you cannot marry anyone else until you get a divorce.
You and your spouse may have reasons that you do not want to divorce. For example, some people have economic considerations that make divorce impractical, while others belong to religious traditions that do not allow divorce. A legal separation is an option for people who want to live separately but choose not to divorce. It provides all the same legal relief in terms of parenting plans, property division, etc.
However, the decisions that the court makes in a legal separation are final. If you and your spouse decide to convert your legal separation to a divorce, you may do so after entering the separation decree. Converting a legal separation into a dissolution, which is the legal term for divorce in Washington, will require further court action, but the previous terms of your separation agreement will still stand. The court will not reconsider your case nor issue any new decisions.
The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.