Lagniappe (aka Blog)


Legal Separation and Dissolution (Divorce): How Different Are They?

Posted by Elise Buie | May 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

It is easy to be confused about the differences between a dissolution (divorce) and legal separation, and which one to choose, because they are so similar in their processes and legal implications. In Washington State, legal separation and dissolution are governed by the same statute, RCW 26.09. They both can result in final orders governing child custody (a parenting plan), child support, spousal maintenance (often known alternatively as alimony), and division of property. The main difference between the two is perhaps the most apparent one: that a separation does not end the marriage. This means parties to a legal separation cannot marry someone else unless the legal separation is converted into a dissolution. If one spouse wants a legal separation, but the other wants a dissolution, the likely result is a dissolution. Under RCW 26.09.150, the court shall convert the separation to a dissolution if one spouse motions for such a conversion at least six months after the separation decree.

So why get a legal separation instead of a dissolution if they are so similar? One reason is because a person's or couple's religion may prohibit or strongly discourage divorce, but that person or couple may still effectively need the same things dissolution provides: court orders governing child custody, child support, maintenance, division of assets, restraining orders, etc. Another possible reason is that the filing spouse may not like the thought of ending the marriage, but similarly needs the same type of court orders a dissolution provides. Parties may also hope to reconcile their marriage but be ready to move forward with the finality of other divorce orders.

If you have questions about legal separation and/or dissolution in Washington State, email us at [email protected] or call at 206-926-9848 to schedule a consultation.

About the Author

Elise Buie

Passionate, creative, problem-solving attorney who crafts solutions rather than obstacles. Elise spends significant time educating her clients on healthy communication skills. Elise also ensures that her clients make informed decisions by understanding the future emotional and financial implications of their decisions. Your family's future is our first priority. Elise teaches her clients new skills to empower them in the future as they adjust to the new family structure. While divorce ends a marriage, it is the beginning of your new, often times, more authentic life. Elise will help you begin that new life with new skills to handle any future challenges.


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At Elise Buie Family Law Group, PLLC, we represent clients from Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, and the surrounding region, including all of King County and the cities of Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, Edmonds, Issaquah, Kenmore, Kent, Federal Way, Shoreline, Des Moines, Bainbridge Island, Vashon, Auburn, Renton and Puyallup. We love working with clients from Seattle's unique, eclectic neighborhoods: West Seattle, Fremont, Ballard, Madrona, Queen Anne, Greenwood, Ravenna, Maple Leaf, Wedgewood, View Ridge, Laurelhurst, Windermere, Madison Park, Magnolia, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, Broadmoor, Phinney Ridge, Crown Hill, Yarrow Point and Mercer Island.

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Elise Buie Family Law Group


Elise Buie Family Law Group PLLC
1001 Fourth Avenue, 44th Floor   Seattle, WA 98154