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Legal separation differs from divorce in the state of Washington

When we hear that a couple is separated, we may just assume that they are no longer married for all practical purposes. Legally speaking, however, separation is different from divorce. In the state of Washington, under RCW 26.09, you and your spouse may legally separate instead of dissolving your marriage, but you are not required to file for separation before you file for divorce.

Legal separation allows a couple to move forward with their lives by dividing up their assets and debts and making child custody and support arrangements, much like they would do in a divorce. Couples interested in filing for separation should also note that the process is very similar to filing for divorce. For a legal separation, you must first fill out a petition for legal separation, which you will find is similar to a petition for uncontested divorce. At the end of the legal process, a decree of legal separation will be granted. However, keep in mind that because you are not legally divorced, you cannot marry someone else.

Washington couples may choose to legally separate for a number of reasons. Many married couples find that they are no longer compatible but are against the idea of divorce for religious or moral reasons. Other couples may be unsure about their marriage and want to legally separate before making the ultimate decision to divorce. In such cases, either spouse may make the decision to convert the separation decree to a divorce by filing a motion to convert the legal separation order to a final divorce order. This can only happen if a minimum of six months has passed since the decree of legal separation was entered.

There are many advantages and disadvantages to filing for separation instead of divorce. A family law attorney in your area can go over the pros and cons of each and help you make the best decision for your family.

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