Everything You Need to Know About Legal Separation and Divorce

May 18, 2022

No one gets married expecting to divorce, however, spouses sometimes can’t find common ground and resolve their differences so they think that getting divorced is their only option.

In Washington State, couples can either get divorced or file for legal separation. Both cases are quite similar procedurally, since they both involve the division of assets and debts, handling child support, custody, and visitation rights.

So, what’s the difference between the two, and why should you consider both options? Let’s take a look.

Legal Separation vs Divorce

As we just said, the process for legal separation and divorce is almost the same. The only difference, in the end, is that the spouses stay legally married in case of legal separation.

So, why would anyone choose this option then?

Couples who have a reason to stay legally married usually choose legal separation because of moral or religious reasons, government or insurance benefits, pension retention, or if there’s a possibility that they’ll reconcile.

Spouses who are getting separated in an amicable manner usually choose legal separation because of the benefits they get if they’re still legally married.

What are the Government Benefits in the Case of Legal Separation?

Married couples have certain benefits from the state and federal governments, like lower taxes. Additionally, if one of the spouses is receiving social security benefits and they die, the other spouse will continue getting these benefits.

Moral and Religious Reasons

Moral and religious convictions can be strict, and some people don’t believe in divorce. If this is your case, legal separation might be your best option. The spouses get to live separate lives, while still staying legally married.

Are There Any Insurance Benefits to Legal Separation?

Yes, there are, and this is also one of the reasons why spouses might choose legal separation instead of divorce.

In many instances, the spouse that gets better insurance through their employer uses this opportunity to cover the whole family. If a couple divorces, the ex-spouse can’t use the benefits any longer, and they can be quite costly. 

If there are children involved, especially kids from a previous relationship – they get the health benefits because the couple is married. However, in case of divorce, the children from a previous relationship also lose their health insurance benefits.

Retaining the Pension

If one of the spouses is receiving a pension and they die, the other spouse can keep collecting this pension. So this is one of the main reasons couples choose to legally separate, instead of getting a divorce.

However, not all pensions are payable to the surviving spouse, so make sure to check this before going ahead with the legal separation.

Potential for Reconciliation

Getting legally separated, and then getting back together is way easier than divorcing and remarrying. This is because a legal separation can be reversed. 

So, couples who think that they might get back together at some point choose legal separation. It allows them to live separately while they’re trying to reconcile their differences.

Can You Remarry if You’re Legally Separated?

Since spouses are still legally married if they’re legally separated, this means that they can’t remarry.

This doesn’t mean that you should get divorced right away. You can still legally separate, and if one of the spouses wants to remarry at some point, you can proceed with the divorce at that point.

Keep in mind that you can request that your legal separation converts into a divorce six months after the legal separation has been granted. Any spouse can file this, and you don’t have to be in agreement for the court to approve it.

Do You Need Legal Representation in Both Cases?

Since legal separation and divorce are so similar when it comes to the procedure, you should have legal representation in both cases.

A divorce lawyer in Spokane will be able to help you with all the filings, custody arrangements, child and spousal support payments, and everything else that’s involved in the process.

A lawyer can also help you determine whether a legal separation or a divorce is the best option in your specific case.

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