In the State of Washington, as in other places, dissolution of marriage (divorce) and legal separation are horses of a different color. We find that many of our clients who initially approach our office here at V. Freitas Law, PLLC seeking a “separation”, once we sit with them and truly understand their circumstances, are much better served by the dissolution option. Let’s take a look at how these two horses stand up to each other on the legal race track from a procedural and substantive point of view, so you can better decide which pony you would rather mount.
From a procedural point of view, dissolution and separation are virtually identical. Both must begin with the filing of a petition to the court. From there, initial pleadings are filed, which may or may not include some temporary orders, including restraining orders. Motions for discovery of financial assets, for arbitration and mediation may be included. In the case wherein a settlement cannot be reached, the case may then proceed to a full trial for resolution. Either way, it is “case closed” when a judge enters a final decree that spells out the exact nature of the rights and responsibilities of each party. The only real procedural difference between the two is there is a minimum 90 day waiting period between the time a divorce action is filed and the time that it can actually be finalized, whereas there is no such time restraint imposed upon legal separations.
The real differences are a matter of substantive law. In a legal separation the parties remain a married couple, although no longer cohabitating. This circumstance diminishes the “marriage” to little more than a meaningless chimera but it still remains a legal entity that conveys some important ramifications. Most people who chose this option are so motivated by adherence to the Christian religious conviction that no man may put asunder a marriage vow ordained by God. On a more secular level there are some compelling financial reasons why separation may be a better option than divorce. These include family group medical insurance plans that would have to be revamped, immigration status that might send one spouse back to their foreign homeland, and military or other insurance benefits to which one spouse may no longer be entitled.
Finally, you should realize that as a separated party, you will be INELIGIBLE to remarry. Divorced couples are free to remarry at will. On the bright side for separated parties, any time after a six-month period of separation, either party can petition to have the separation converted into dissolution. Separation can serve as a good way to keep your options open. In the case of both options the spousal parties will still have to negotiate asset distribution, debt settlement, child support, spousal maintenance and in the case of children, a workable parenting plan with visitation rights.
If you have rights to protect, a qualified Seattle family law attorney such as available to you at V. Freitas Law, PLLC can best advise you as to which option would best serve your interests. There can be no substitute for an experienced Seattle divorce attorney to guide you past the common pitfalls. For the best attorney specializing in family law that you could possibly find, call our Seattle divorce attorney team at V. Freitas Law, PLLC. We eagerly await your call at (206)328-7362.