1. What are the grounds for a legal separation in Washington State?
The same legal grounds for divorce apply to a legal separation. Washington State is a no-fault state. That means a spouse does not have to prove the other spouse did anything wrong to get a divorce. Stating the marriage is “irretrievably broken” as the reason is enough.
2. What is the major difference between a legal separation and a divorce?
A legal separation is a court order that provides the rights and duties of a couple while still married. A divorce is a court order that provides the same rights and duties of a couple but ends the marriage. The laws (i.e., property division, spousal maintenance, child support and parenting plan) are the same, but the parties officially remain married after a decree of legal separation and cannot remarry. A decree of legal separation can be converted to a divorce decree after six months.
3. Are there any advantages to getting a legal separation over a divorce?
Aside from retaining the possibility of reconciling in the future or religious concerns, the following reasons may apply to make a legal separation advantageous:
- Social Security Benefits – If a marriage has lasted at least 10 years, a divorced spouse who has not remarried is entitled to social security benefits equal to the greater of: 1) those based on one’s own work record or; 2) 50 percent of what the ex-spouse is entitled to. As a result, some people married for close to 10 years will seek a legal separation rather than a divorce until the 10 year threshold is met.
- Health Insurance – Some employers will continue to provide coverage for a spouse who has legally separated. That is not true of a divorced spouse.
4. Are there any disadvantages to getting a legal separation over a divorce?
You are still legally married, so you can’t remarry unless the legal separation decree is converted to a divorce decree. At least 6 months must pass before you can do so. The process must be done by formal request to the court in the form of a motion.
5. Is a Legal Separation the same as the Date of Separation?
No. A legal separation is a court order that provides the rights and duties of a couple while still married. The date of separation is when facts indicate the marriage is “defunct” and marks the end of the community property estate. Property earned or acquired after the date of separation is assumed to be that spouse’s separate property