Legal Separation

Snohomish Legal Separation Lawyers

Attorney Walton Dabney Helps Washington Residents Navigate Their Legal Separation Matters

Most Washington spouses are familiar with divorce. Fewer know that Washington offers a parallel, but slightly different, option called “separation.” 

A separation is not a probation period before a divorce. Instead, separation has the same legal effect as a divorce and takes spouses through the same legal process. The differences between separation and divorce may, however, benefit spouses in certain situations.

If you’re considering divorce, talk to attorney Walton Dabney today. The team at the Dabney Law Firm PLLC can answer your questions, allowing you to make an informed decision for you and your family.

What is a Separation Agreement?

In Washington, a separation agreement allows spouses to go their separate ways. A legal separation divides the spouses’ community property, answers support questions, and creates a parenting plan if the spouses have minor children. 

If this sounds like a divorce, that’s because separation and divorce share the same legal processes. The same questions are raised about property, support, and the needs of children一and the same legal tools are used to answer these questions and create an agreement. In Washington, a separation and a divorce are governed by the same state law Title, just in a different Chapter, use the same legal forms, and take approximately the same length of time. The separating spouses are allowed to work with their own experienced Washington family law attorney, just as they would in a divorce.

Two key features distinguish separation form divorce in Washington: 

  1. When a couple separates, they are still treated as if they are legally married. Neither spouse may marry someone else. Employer-sponsored health insurance plans and other legal documents will likely treat the spouses as if they are still married to one another. 
  2. Either spouse may convert the separation to a divorce upon request. Generally speaking, this conversion is treated as a legal right each spouse has. If one spouse requests that the separation be turned into a divorce, the other spouse may not successfully object in most instances. Conversion is a simple process once the separation is complete. 

Once spouses are separated, any property either one acquires is not treated as marital property. Instead, each spouse’s property is treated as separate property ーproperty belonging to that spouse alone.

Why Choose Separation Over Divorce?

For some spouses, separation sounds like an even more difficult option than divorce. Why go through all the legal processes of divorce, yet remain legally married at the end?

While remaining legally married can benefit one or both spouses in some situations, obtaining a legal separation may appeal to other Washington couples. Reasons to choose separation over divorce often include the following:

You don’t want to wait. A Washington divorce requires parties to wait 90 days before their divorce is granted. A legal separation, however, doesn’t require a 90-day waiting period. If you need to have clear rules about property division, support, and child custody right away… and it will not take 90+ days of negotiation to get there… a legal separation may be the best option.

You wish to avoid serious harm to your spouse through the loss of benefits. For example, if your spouse is on your employer-sponsored health insurance plan, you may wish to prevent them from losing their healthcare benefits while they seek other work. A legal separation may allow you to continue providing coverage until your spouse no longer needs the assistance. Federal benefits like Social Security, as well as federal and state tax benefits, may also be affected by the decision to separate or divorce.

You’re interested in a more amiable breakup. For some couples, the finality of divorce comes as a relief; for others, it seems unnecessarily harsh. If you need a structured way to create space between you and your spouse but you’re not ready to make the split final, a separation can help you set clear rules and boundaries without saying a permanent goodbye. You may get back together afterward without the hassle of re-marrying and having a break in your marriage status. A separation is also more subtle if Society considerations are at play. 

You have religious or ethical concerns about divorce. For those with strong religious or ethical inclinations against divorce, a legal separation offers help and hope. It provides a couple with necessary breathing room without forcing them to take a step they find morally unacceptable.

An experienced Washington legal separation attorney can help you determine how a separation or divorce will affect you and your spouse. 

Contact Dabney Law Firm Today 

Separation offers an alternative to divorce that benefits some couples. If you want to know more about the differences between separation and divorce or you need help navigating a separation, contact the Dabney Law Firm today. Our experienced Washington legal team can help you understand how a separation or divorce may affect you. We’ll provide information so you can make a clearer choice about your next steps. To learn more, contact the Dabney Law Firm PLLC today to schedule a consultation by calling 425-488-5809 or filling out an online form


Dabney Law Firm can help you disregard the default and chart your own path. We help people customize their relationships. Write your own vows, your own rules, your own plan.

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