Legal Separation

The same Washington State mandatory forms are used for both a legal separation and a dissolution of marriage; the only difference which box is checked–Legal Separation or Dissolution of Marriage.  When a decree of dissolution is signed by the Court, the parties are legally divorced, their property, debts, and issues regarding the children, as well as other issues finalized.  When a decree of legal separation is signed by the Court, the parties are legally separated, their property, debts, and issues regarding the children, as well as other issues finalized EXCEPT that the parties are  still legally married.  Parties often choose to be legally separated because of religious affiliation and proscriptions against divorce, or because medical insurance remains available to a legally separated spouse, when it is not available to a legally divorced spouse.  Six months following entry of the decree of legal separation, one or both spouses can move the Court to convert the decree of legal separation to a decree of dissolution.  If there is a benefit to prolonging conversion of the decree of legal separation to a dissolution, a provision is often included in the terms of the legal separation that neither party will move to convert the decree of legal separation until on or after a date certain.  Consult with an experienced family law attorney to determine which is best for you and your personal facts.