Legal Separation and Dissolution (Divorce): How Different Are They?

It is easy to be confused about the differences between a dissolution (divorce) and legal separation, and which one to choose, because they are so similar in their processes and legal implications. In Washington State, legal separation and dissolution are governed by the same statute, RCW 26.09. They both can result in final orders governing child custody (a parenting plan), child support, spousal maintenance (often known alternatively as alimony), and division of property. The main difference between the two is perhaps the most apparent one: that a separation does not end the marriage. This means parties to a legal separation cannot marry someone else unless the legal separation is converted into a dissolution. If one spouse wants a legal separation, but the other wants a dissolution, the likely result is a dissolution. Under RCW 26.09.150, the court shall convert the separation to a dissolution if one spouse motions for such a conversion at least six months after the separation decree.


So why get a legal separation instead of a dissolution if they are so similar? One reason is because a person’s or couple’s religion may prohibit or strongly discourage divorce, but that person or couple may still effectively need the same things dissolution provides: court orders governing child custody, child support, maintenance, division of assets, restraining orders, etc. Another possible reason is that the filing spouse may not like the thought of ending the marriage, but similarly needs the same type of court orders a dissolution provides. Parties may also hope to reconcile their marriage but be ready to move forward with the finality of other divorce orders.


If you have questions about legal separation and/or dissolution in Washington State, email us at eliseb@elisebuiefamilylaw.com or call at 206-926-9848 to schedule a consultation.

STAY UP TO DATE

Subscribe to our newsletters

 
Subscribe to one or more of our newsletters, delivering meaningful insight on topics that matter to you and your family.

FURTHER READING

Latest Blog Posts

If you are getting divorced, you may be worried about what it will do to your finances. Maybe your finances are heavily intertwined with your spouse’s, or you are worried about what your future will look like, given these changes.…

Establishing paternity and parentage is important for many families and parents. Regardless of why you want to establish paternity and parentage, the process has the potential to be confusing, especially if you are unfamiliar with the terms and rules for…

After divorce, you may find yourself living on one less stream of income than you did when you were married and want to find a way to make up for it. Or even if you didn’t lose any income by…

If you are in the process of getting remarried, a prenuptial agreement may be the last thing on your mind. It should be at the forefront of it, however, as it can be beneficial for you, your spouse, and, if…

As a mom of four (now adult) kids, I remember well the flood of emotions that came each time they went to my ex’s, especially during the early days of my separation and eventually after my divorce. Not only was…

The holidays can look much different during a divorce than they did only a year earlier, and the changes can take some getting used to. The challenge is that you have to start somewhere, and in these “newer” moments, it…

You can use Collaborative Law to support your process of creating and negotiating a prenup with your partner.

In Washington state, if you are involved in a custody dispute, which involves difficult questions related to specific needs for your children or serious parenting deficits (such as mental health, substance abuse, or domestic violence), an evaluation service may be…

Apologizing can be hard, especially if you have a contentious relationship with the person you are apologizing to. If you want to have a polite (even friendly) relationship with your ex in the future, though, owning up to and apologizing…

In the same way that every divorce is different, so, too, is every divorce lawyer and the law firms where they work. From lawyers’ individual personalities, expertise, and experience to law firms’ varying cultures and values which provide the framework…