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A study of some interest to Washington residents recently reported that approximately 80 percent of married couples who decide to separate rather than divorce end up ending their marriage in divorce within three years. Another 5 percent of couples within the study attempted to reconcile with their spouses. The remaining 15 percent of couples in the study did not divorce but remained separated for an extended period of time. It appears that even though a legal separation may slow the process, divorce is usually the eventual outcome, and spouses should carefully consider the legal ramifications as they decide how best to move forward with ending their marriage.

As readers in Washington may be aware, a couple can choose to be legally separated rather than divorced in our state. For some couples who are ready to end their relationship, remaining legally married can carry certain benefits. This is especially true when, due to having young children or low income, a spouse is concerned about the ability of the other spouse to pay necessities such as child support after a divorce.

The researchers obtained data from more than 7,000 participants who were surveyed for a period lasting almost 30 years. The study also showed that 49 percent of all those who participated ended their first marriages. Additionally, of those people, 60 percent were separated prior to deciding to file for divorce. The average length of a pre-divorce separation was three years.

Deciding to end a marriage is a difficult decision for many in our state. The economic costs both before and after the dissolution can be high in some cases. However, with options such as legal separation, a person ending a marriage can choose to take a slower path to divorce. Although the above-mentioned study suggests that the majority of separations end in divorce, the separation period may help some couples ease both the emotional and financial costs of ending a marriage. The choice between separation and divorce can have significant ramifications for both spouses, and all parties would be well advised to gain full understanding of the legal intricacies of both options prior to making a decision.