Divorce vs. Legal Separation

The two most common ways to address a separation of a husband and a wife involve filing either a divorce or legal separation action in a Washington Superior Court. All of the issues in a divorce and a legal separation are the same – property and debts have to be divided, maintenance, attorney fees, parenting plans and child support are addressed. Both types of cases are addressed the same way, in the court system. In some counties (for instance, King County Superior Court) you do not have to wait 90 days before the final court orders can be entered in a legal separation action.

In the event that one spouse wants a legal separation and the other wants a divorce, a divorce will be granted by the court. In some respects a marriage is kind of like a special partnership between two people. The State of Washington believes that should one of the “partners” wish to get out of the “partnership” then they should be allowed to do so. This would also explain why the State of Washington is considered a “no fault” divorce state. Unlike some states, a spouse does not have to have any reason to terminate the marriage.

All of the forms used to start, and complete, a divorce or legal separation are the same. The reason a legal separation has to done exactly like a divorce is due to the fact that a legal separation decree can be converted to a divorce decree after six months. While there is a need to have a hearing, to convert the decree, it is, basically a formality since all of the issues have been resolved.

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This article is not intended to convey legal advice, but only address some of the general rules.  Most legal issues, in family law cases, depend on the specific facts.  Should you wish to discuss your particular situation with the Law Office of Thomas A. Chillquist, please call or email my office.  I represent parties in family law matters in King and Pierce County, including Kent, Federal Way, Covington, Renton, SeaTac, Des Moines, Fife, Auburn, Seattle and Bellevue.