Call: 360-866-7393

Legal Separation in Washington: What Does It Really Mean?

Home / Blog / Legal Separation in Washington: What Does It Really Mean?

In Washington there are two ways to address the end of your marriage. Dissolution (divorce) is the common way and legally terminates the marriage.  Legal Separation is a way to formalize a separation without terminating the marriage.  People choose one over the other depending on the situation. Common law marriages are not recognized in Washington, so only legally married couples or registered domestic partners can file for legal separation. Those filing for legal separation must meet specific requirements.

Legal Separation, in Washington State, is a legal process by which a married couple may formalize a separation while remaining legally married. A legal separation is granted in the form of a court order.

Furthermore, in cases where children are involved, a court order of legal separation often makes temporary arrangements for the care, custody, and financial support of the children (“for the time being”). Thus, part of the court order determines child custody. Some couples obtain a legal separation as an alternative to a divorce, based on moral or religious objections to divorce.  Sometimes it is necessary to maintain insurance coverage, continue services, or otherwise protect a vulnerable or disabled spouse.

Legal separation does not automatically lead to divorce. The couple might reconcile, in which case they do not have to do anything in order to continue their marriage. If the two do not reconcile, and they wish to proceed with a divorce, they must file for divorce explicitly.

A legal separation occurs where spouses agree to separate from one another. The marriage remains legally intact, but the couple formally agrees to live separately. Conversely, a divorce is permanent and ends a marriage.

If you have decided that you no longer want to live with your spouse, but you do not want to end the marriage, you can get a legal separation. However, simply moving out of the home does not constitute a legal separation–you must petition the court to grant you that legal status. The process and cost for a legal separation is generally the same as a divorce.  There will also be the additional cost to convert the legal separation to a divorce in the future.

The main reason to file for legal separation is to have legal documentation in place to ensure that all child and spousal support arrangements that are agreed upon by the separating parties are followed. Generally, child custody agreements are put in place as well. You and your spouse can agree to the terms of the separation order that outline child support payments, living arrangements and spousal support.

In Washington State you do not have to enlist the services of an attorney to submit an application to the courts to make your separation agreement binding.  However, if the separation is contentious, it will help to have legal counsel involved to determine what is fair to each party.

Article updated 8/26/2020

Real People, Real Results

Divorce Lawyers for Men Reviews

"I never thought my wife would agree to anything. After a few discussions though, we were able to agree on a lot of issues concerning the children. Divorce Lawyers for Men helped me put those agreements in writing and resolve my divorce with less conflict."

"Divorce Lawyers for Men was very helpful with my case. The staff and attorneys are very knowledgeable and provided great advice. They provided me understanding of various courses of action and brought to light specific things I wouldn't have thought of. Most importantly respected my decisions and beliefs in finalizing my case."

"My wife wanted to live in our house with her new boyfriend while I kept paying the mortgage. Divorce Lawyers for Men made sure the court saw all our property and debts. We sold the house and split the proceeds. I didn't have to pay for any free rides."

"I never wanted to get divorced. One day my wife came home and said that she had met someone else. Why do I have to lose my house and my children just because she is done with our marriage? Thankfully, I hired Divorce Lawyers for Men."

Washington's Only Statewide Family Law Network

Select an Office near You.

Bellevue
1520 140th Ave NE #200
Bellevue, WA 98005
Everett
2727 Oakes Ave #201
Everett, WA 98201
Kent
555 W Smith Street, Suite 106
Kent, WA 98032
Olympia
3025 Limited Ln NW #200
Olympia, WA 98502
Port Orchard
1740 Pottery Ave #300
Port Orchard, WA 98366
Puyallup
2102 E Main Ave #203
Puyallup, WA 98372
Seattle
701 5th Ave #4200
Seattle, WA 98101
Spokane
1008 N. Washington St., Second Floor
Spokane, WA 99201
Tacoma
1015 Pacific Avenue #301
Tacoma, WA 98402
Vancouver
237 NE Chkalov Dr #212
Vancouver, WA 98684