Divorce Versus Separation: Breaking Down The Pros And Cons

In Washington, as in other states, dissolution of marriage (divorce) and legal separation are horses of a different color. Many of the clients who initially approach our team at V. Freitas Law, PLLC, are seeking a “separation.” But once we sit down with them and truly understand their circumstances, we find they 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 racetrack from a procedural and substantive point of view, so you can better decide on which pony you would rather bet.

Similarities Between Divorce And Separation

From a procedural point of view, divorce (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. When 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.

Differences Between Divorce And Separation

The real differences between divorce and separation 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 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.

Converting A Separation Into A Divorce

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.

Legal Terms Relevant To Divorce And Separation

So that you are better equipped to move forward with your official breakup, it is best to educate yourself as much as possible with key terms you may encounter such as:

  • Abandonment – This is where one of the two individuals has been absent from the marriage for a continuous time frame of a year or more. Unlike being away for military service or other legitimate reasons, abandonment revolves around being gone minus the other party’s consent.
  • Adultery – This is when one spouse (and sometimes both individuals) in a marriage takes part in a sexual act of one form or another with someone else.
  • Annulment – This court declaration notes that the marriage never had legal validity. Following such a decree, both individuals are able to remarry.
  • Default judgment – This judgment is acquired against the defendant when they do not respond to either a summons or verified complaint, or a summons with divorce notice, within the time constraints permitted by the law.
  • Discovery – This involves a party’s request for the required disclosure of litigant information. This often involves money matters in the pending breakup.
  • Family court – This is where many breakup cases end up being heard.
  • Marital property – This is any property (furniture, vehicles, vacation home, etc.) that either the plaintiff or defendant acquired from when the couple married to when one or both filed papers to dissolve the marriage.
  • Separation – This is the action taken by one of the parties involved to leave the residence on an ongoing basis before a breakup unfolds.

An Attorney Is Valuable In Both Divorce Or Separation In Seattle

If your marriage is nearing its breaking point, working with the right Seattle family law attorney is imperative. At V. Freitas Law, we can assist you with making sure your rights are not trampled during a divorce or legal separation. From making sure you have access to alimony (if qualified) to child support (if you have children under 18), you don’t want your pending breakup to penalize you financially for years to come. There can be no substitute for an experienced Seattle divorce and separation attorney to guide you past the common pitfalls. Call 206-536-2875 or contact us online for more information.