Legal separation is an option in Washington for couples who agree to live apart but, for their own reasons, do not wish to get divorced. However, legal separation is much more than a checkbox and a signature on a form; it can be every bit as involved and complicated as divorce.
You should consult an experienced family law attorney who can explain the ramifications and protect your interests in the separation agreement. The lawyers of O'Brian & Associates handle both divorces and separations, serving clients in King County, Snohomish County and the Greater Seattle area. We invite you to contact us for an appointment to discuss your unique situation.
Legal separation follows the same process as divorce. You must file a petition for separation, which triggers case schedules and filing deadlines in King County. You will have to determine custody arrangements and divide marital assets. The only difference is that, at the completion of your case, you will still be legally married to your spouse.
Separation requires the consent of both spouses. However, six months after a decree of legal separation is entered, either party can ask the court to convert the decree of legal separation to a decree of dissolution, even if the other spouse objects. For this reason, the property settlement agreement, child support and parenting plan must be addressed thoroughly. You may think you are only signing a separation agreement but for all practical purposes you are settling your divorce.
Should You Separate?
It may well be the right arrangement for your circumstances, as long as you understand the legalities and the realities. A nationwide study revealed that 80 percent of separations convert to divorce within three years. However, the other 20 percent either reconciled with their spouses or continued indefinitely as legally separated.
Legal separation should not be a do-it-yourself undertaking. Without knowledgeable legal counsel, you could be jeopardizing your retirement savings, your parental rights and other important considerations. Our attorneys will help you reach a practical settlement that protects your interests as thoroughly as possible.
O'Brian & Associates has focused on divorce, legal separation and other areas of family law since 1986. Call us at (425) 276-7677 or email our firm today to arrange a confidential consultation with an experienced attorney.