Let Our Family Law Attorney Help You
If you’ve reached a point in your marriage when you and your spouse need to be apart, but you’re not ready for a divorce, you may consider filing for a legal separation with the help of our legal separation attorney in Sunnyside, WA. When a marriage ends, it does not always mean that it ends in divorce. There are sometimes situations where spouses may decide that it’s better to separate but stay married.
At McBurney Law, we can help you make this process less stressful and ensure that your rights are protected. Contact our law office and schedule an initial consultation with our Washington family law attorneys to learn more about your legal options.
Why Do I Need a Legal Separation Attorney in Washington?
Deciding to leave your partner is never easy. It often comes with a lot of decision-making and overthinking every move. If you are not fully behind divorce, but you want time away from your partner to think it over, you may file for legal separation.
At McBurney Law, it is important to us that our clients get the right solution for their needs, whether that be legal separation, divorce, or reconciliation. We are dedicated to:
- Helping spouses navigate complex family law matters, including divorce, child custody, child support, marital property division, and spousal support.
- Educating our clients about their options and providing step-by-step assistance throughout the entire legal separation process.
- Helping you reach a practical settlement that protects your interests as thoroughly as possible.
- Explaining everything you need to know about getting a legal separation or a divorce so that you can make the right decision for your family.
- Providing legal representation in dealing with bankruptcy, family Law, criminal defense, and estate planning cases.
When you are considering a legal separation, schedule an initial consultation with our legal separation attorney in Sunnyside, WA today, so we further discuss the specifics of your case.
What is Legal Separation?
A legal separation is a court order that mandates the legal rights and duties of a married couple while they are living apart. When you are legally separated, you are financially and legally separate, single people, but you are technically still married. Legal separations are beneficial alternatives to divorce actions. It is often suitable for couples whose religious beliefs don’t allow divorce.
Pursuing a legal separation is different than just living apart informally. As part of a legal separation, the court still enters orders affecting finances and property, child support, and parenting. Our knowledgeable Sunnyside legal separation attorney can help you determine whether legal separation is right for you.
What are the Differences Between a Legal Separation and a Divorce?
While there may be some similarities between separation and divorce, there are also some distinct differences, the most evident being that divorce terminates a marriage, whereas legal separation does not. Although the concept of legal separation seems like it would be ideal, you must remember that since you’re still married, you must obtain a formal divorce before you remarry in the future.
Divorce is the process couples use to terminate a marriage and begins when one spouse files a petition for divorce with the court. Once you’re divorced, the family court considers each spouse as a single individual capable of remarriage, entering into contracts, and acquiring debt and property.
Why Choose Legal Separation Over Divorce?
Couples may choose a legal separation instead of a divorce for several different reasons. If you are having a serious conflict with your spouse, getting a divorce may seem like the only way to part ways and protect your money. However, a legal separation can provide the same protection as divorce and, in some scenarios, work even better. Before making a decision, it is essential to understand the emotional and legal impacts of both possibilities and evaluate the options with the help of our trusted Sunnyside WA legal separation lawyer.
Here are some of the common reasons why someone might choose legal separation over divorce:
One of the most common reasons to get a legal separation instead of a divorce is to avoid the stigma which may be attached to divorce, including feelings of failure, disgrace, or shame. In some cases, couples may have strong religious convictions that do not allow for divorce, yet they wish to live apart. In this situation, a legal separation is a suitable option.
Chance to Return to Full Marriage
If spouses are not sure they want to divorce, a legal separation might be a good place to start. A legal separation can also put a pause on the divorce process. Alternatively, it can be used as an opportunity to work things out.
It enables a couple to discuss all the essential issues, such as financial and custody issues, while remaining married to determine if they want a divorce. If spouses decide to reconcile the relationship, they can reverse the legal separation.
Benefits Retention and Financial Reasons
A legal separation preserves important benefits and insurance policies that would be severed in a divorce. If a couple chooses to divorce, then they will generally lose access to the financial benefits of the marriage, such as filing joint taxes, Social Security payments, or employer-sponsored health insurance coverage.
Under a legal separation, both parties keep their medical, life, and other insurance benefits, while living apart from their spouse and maintaining a good quality of life. A couple may desire to no longer live as spouses but still wish to remain eligible for certain benefits, such as:
- Tax Benefits
- Healthcare Benefits
- Retirement Benefits
- Social Security Benefits
- Property Rights
Legal separation preserves a spouse’s property rights when the other spouse dies. On the other hand, divorce extinguishes these rights.
How Do I File a Legal Separation in Washington?
The legal separation process in Washington is generally the same as divorce. When filing for legal separation, it is important to note that anything you agree to in a legal separation agreement can set precedence should you then file for divorce. Like a divorce, legal separation also involves the division of living arrangements, finances, and child custody. Our Sunnyside WA legal separation attorney can guide you throughout the process.
Know your State’s Residency Requirements
Before filing for legal separation, you’ll need to meet Washington’s residency requirement. This means at least one spouse is a resident in the state at the time the petition for separation is filed.
File Separation Petition
If residency requirements are met, you will then file a legal separation petition with the court. You begin to file the documents with your local family court requesting the separation and proposing the terms. Your petition should address child custody, visitation, alimony, child support, and the division of marital property and debts during a separation agreement.
Serve Your Spouse with The Legal Separation Papers
If you and your spouse are not filing for separation jointly, you will need to have your spouse served once you have filed your petition for legal separation. Similar to filing for divorce, your spouse will have a certain grace period in which to respond to your petition for a legal separation.
Settlement of Issues
If your spouse does not agree to the provision outlined in the petition, they have a right to file a counter-petition. Once your spouse has responded to your proposal and the two of you are in agreement on the terms of your separation, the marriage separation agreement must be put into writing, signed by both of you, and filed with the court.
From the time you file, there’s a mandatory waiting period of 90 days until the judge can act on your case. Spouses can use this time to negotiate the terms of the separation, including financial issues, child custody, and property division. If there are still disputed issues, the judge will decide for you.
Once you have come to a mutual agreement on any contested issues of fact, or a judge has decided them, the judge will sign your separation agreement, and you will be legally separated. However, you will still be married and thus will not be able to remarry. In addition, once the judge finalizes your legal separation, you must wait six months before asking the court to convert it to a formal divorce.
Call Our Sunnyside Legal Separation Attorney Now!
Choosing to end a relationship that was meant to be forever is painful and difficult. Dealing with marriage and family issues can be complicated because of the emotions involved, which is why it’s best to seek legal advice from our seasoned Sunnyside WA legal separation attorneys at McBurney Law, who can help you consider your options and determine whether legal separation is the right option for your unique situation.
Our family law firm handles both legal separation and divorce cases and other family law matters on behalf of clients in Benton and Franklin counties, Yakima, Adams, and Walla Walla counties. We understand that this may be an incredibly emotional time for you, and we will fight to get you the result you want in your case.
If you would like to explore further whether legal separation or divorce is the best fit for you, schedule an initial consultation with our trusted Washington family law attorney now. We are prepared to help you navigate the entire process of legal separation and obtain the best possible outcome for your family.