Many people that come into our office hoping to “legally separate” from their spouse are unsure what being legally separated actually means.
The legal separation process is governed by RCW 26.09.
Much like the dissolution of marriage process, the legal separation process begins with the filing of a petition.
The difference between the two petitions is that one asks for the court to dissolve the marriage, while the other requests that the parties be declared legally separated.
The legal separation process includes the same phases as dissolution process: filing of initial pleadings, temporary orders (in some cases), discovery, (sometimes) mediation or arbitration, and finally, if the parties cannot otherwise agree, a trial.
Also like the dissolution process, the legal separation process culminates with a decree and other associated orders.
One major difference between the legal separation and dissolution of marriage processes is that in the dissolution of marriage process there is a ninety day waiting period.This means that ninety days from the date of the filing of the petition have to pass before the dissolution can be finalized. Another important difference is that at the end of the legal separation process, parties are still married.The marriage has been reduced to little more than a title, but even that title can have an impact on the parties’ lives.Many people choose legal separation instead of divorce because of religious reasons.Other people choose legal separation over divorce for a number of other reasons including medical insurance benefits, military benefits, or immigration status.If you are seeking a legal separation for one of these reasons, you should speak with an attorney about your case so that you can determine whether the rights or benefits you are trying to protect will actually be protected by a legal separation instead of dissolution.