Legal Separation

What is a legal separation?

A court case that can give you everything a divorce does, but does not end the marriage. You are still married.

A legal separation in Washington State allows a couple to formalize a separation while remaining legally married. It is accomplished through a court order and is a legally binding consent decree. Legal separation is not a requirement before filing for divorce and many couples are able to reconcile during this time. 

When our court receives the required filing fees and forms signed by both parties, the case is filed and prepared to present to the Judge typically within one to two days, there is no 90-day State-mandated waiting period, however, the legal separation cannot be converted to a final divorce until six months have passed from the date the legal separation was signed by the Judge and filed. 

Why file for separation instead of divorce?

You do not want to end the marriage. Example: your religion keeps you from getting a divorce. You do want the other relief available. Examples: parenting plan, property and debt division.

How do I file for legal separation?

The procedure is like and uses many of the same forms as divorce. You start by filing FL Divorce Form 203, Petition for Legal Separation. You can use one of the following packets found at www.washingtonlawhelp.org:

Do I need to file a petition for separation before filing for divorce?

No.

I filed for legal separation. The court has not entered a final decree yet. I have changed my mind. I want a divorce. What should I do?

You must file and serve a new petition for divorce.

I have a final legal separation decree. I have changed my mind. I want a divorce. What can I do?

A Decree of Legal Separation can be converted to a Final Divorce Order if six months have passed since the Decree of Legal Separation has been granted by the Court. Either spouse can make the motion to the court. Both spouses do not have to agree in order to convert a legal separation to divorce. However, the spouse filing the motion must provide legal notice to the other spouse by serving them a copy of the Motion to Convert Legal Separation to Divorce and the Notice of Hearing. 

If both spouses are in agreement to convert the legal separation to divorce then one party can complete the Motion to Convert Legal Separation to Divorce and both parties will need to sign the Order Converting Legal Separation to Divorce then mail both documents to our Court with a $30.00 Ex Parte fee to present the documents to the Judge for review and signing. The rest of your legal separation orders, such as any parenting plan and child support order, will stay in effect.