Legal separation actions are fairly uncommon. In some instances, however, legal separations are beneficial alternatives to divorce actions. As part of a legal separation, the court still enters orders affecting finances and property, child support, and parenting.


Legal separation actions deal with the same issues that couples attempt to resolve in a divorce, such as child custody and parenting plan issues, child support, property and debt distribution, and spousal maintenance. The major difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that the parties remain legally married.

Couples who enter into legal separation agreements can remain separated indefinitely, or if they choose, can request the separation be converted into a decree of divorce. The only stipulation for converting a decree of separation into a decree of divorce in Washington is that six months must pass from the court’s entry of the separation decree. Once the divorce decree is entered, the marriage will be dissolved.

Reasons for Choosing Legal Separation over Divorce

Reasons for choosing legal separation can vary. A couple may desire to no longer live as spouses, but still wish to remain eligible for benefits such as healthcare, retirement, taxes, immigration, or other rights. Some couples may have strong religious convictions that do not allow for divorce, yet they wish to live apart and be financially independent. In cases such as these, a legal separation is a suitable option.