As a married couple, you may seek a Seattle legal separation attorney for various reasons. The decision to legally separate depends on the circumstances between you and your spouse. Regardless of the reason, there are specific procedures in Washington that you need to follow to warrant an order enforcing a legal separation.
ZafiroLaw is here to provide you with the necessary information regarding legal separation in Washington, its implications, and what you need to prove to establish it.
What Does Legal Separation Mean?
The term “separation” might imply the end of a marriage, but in actuality, it means that a married couple has chosen to discontinue certain aspects of their marital relationship such as physically living apart or separating control over their finances and properties.
In some cases, legal separation is the first step taken by couples considering a divorce. But this does not mean that legal separation has to culminate in a divorce.
There are several reasons why a couple or one spouse may seek legal separation and consult a Seattle legal separation attorney. They include:
- Taking time off from the marriage and maybe reconciling
- When there are religious/moral objections to divorce, forcing the couple to seek legal separation as a divorce alternative.
- To preserve federal benefits such as social security, valuable tax, or health insurance.
- For temporary determination of financial and custodial arrangement if a divorce is imminent.
- To live independently from each other with no marital obligations.
Legal Separation Versus Divorce
As much as legal separation is similar to divorce, both parties remain legally married, unlike when divorced. Divorce is the permanent termination of marriage, while legal separation is an option for couples seeking to separate while remaining legally married.
Here are some key differences between the two terms in the state of Washington:
- The law requires divorcing parties to wait at least 90 days before finalizing their divorce. The waiting period is known as the ‘cooling-off period,’ but it does not apply in legal separation.
- Legally separated couples do not have the right to remarry while the separation is effective. On the other hand, divorced parties can remarry.
- Legally separated couples are still covered by each other’s employer-sponsored health insurance because they’re still legally married. On the contrary, divorced parties cannot claim each other’s employer-sponsored health insurance coverage.
Key similarities between legal separation and divorce in the state of Washington:
- In both cases, there’s a division of assets and debts, spousal support, and child support if applicable, and other miscellaneous orders.
- They both are under the same statute: Chapter 26.09 RCW. Thus, they have the same applicable legal standards
- They have similar mandatory pattern forms but with different titles.
- They have similar procedures and same filing fees.
Legal Separation Laws in Seattle, Washington
Unlike a divorce, there’s no 90-day waiting period in Washington legal separation proceedings. However, a legally separated couple cannot file for divorce until six months elapse from the time their legal separation is finalized.
To legally separate in Washington, the parties involved must meet Washington state’s divorce requirements, and both spouses need to agree to the separation.
Such requirements include:
- At least one spouse needs to be a Washington resident by the time of filing for legal separation.
How Do I File for Legal Separation in Seattle?
You’ll need to assemble all the necessary forms for legal separation and file them in your appropriate county. Alternatively, you can hire a Seattle legal separation attorney from a reputable law firm like ZafiroLaw to file on your behalf.
Remember, Washington state laws require you to file your forms where you reside or where your spouse resides.
After filing the legal separation forms, the court will issue a final decree of legal separation. This only happens if the court reviews your case and concludes that you meet the state’s requirements for legal separation.
If you change your mind after and opt for divorce instead of a legal separation, you’ll need to file a new divorce petition with the court. On the other hand, if you and your spouse decide to cohabitate or live together as a married couple again, you’ll need to file a petition asking the court to set aside the legal separation arrangement.
Forms Necessary for a Washington Legal Separation
For a legal separation, you’ll need to file FL Divorce Form 203 (Petition for Legal Separation). The form has two packets:
- File for Legal Separation with Children.
- File for Legal Separation without Children.
Let a ZafiroLaw Seattle Legal Separation Attorney Help You
We know how challenging and frustrating family law cases can be. If you’re considering a legal separation, ZafiroLaw is here to assist you in navigating the process. You’ll be assigned an experienced legal separation attorney to help you proceed with the case and give you the best possible outcome.
Our legal separation services cover Seattle and the surrounding areas, such as Kirkland, Bellevue, Shoreline, Renton, Kent, Issaquah, Mercer Island, Sammamish, and Redmond. Call us at 206-547-9906 today for a hassle-free legal representation, or contact us online!