Legal Separation in WA & OR

What Does Legal Separation Mean?  

A legal separation is a court action similar to a divorce, but the parties will still be married at the end of the case. A legal separation action allows all of the same remedies as a divorce (including division of assets and debts, parenting plan, child support, spousal support, etc.) other than ending the marriage.

Legal Separation in Oregon vs. Washington: What’s the Difference?

In Oregon, a person can file for legal separation as soon as they “reside” in Oregon, and do not need to meet the 6-month residency requirement that is necessary to file for dissolution (divorce). A legal separation case can easily be converted to a dissolution case once the case has commenced.

When Legal Separation Makes More Sense Than Divorce

A legal separation might make more sense for someone whose religion prohibits divorce or if one party is a non-citizen. Parties also choose legal separation in situations where taxes and insurance (especially health insurance) could be negatively affected by a divorce. Parties also choose to initially file for legal separation to “soften the blow” of “filing for divorce”, and can convert such a case to a dissolution case easily.

Temporary Separation vs. Legal Separation

A temporary or trial separation is not a legal term or a legal process. Sometimes parties will want to do a “trial” separation where they do not involve the courts but separate from each other for a period of time. If you are considering a trial separation, we recommend contacting a family law attorney to be informed about what actions may affect the outcomes of your potential divorce or legal separation matter. If you have minor children, be very careful about moving out of the family residence without the children, as it could affect your custody and parenting time issues.

Things to Do Before You Separate

The best thing to do before separating is compiling an inventory or spreadsheet of all of the assets and debts from the relationship. Document as much as possible with pictures, emails, text messages, etc. so you can provide an objective view of where the marriage was at the date of separation. It would be wise to have an initial consultation with a family law attorney prior to a physical separation.

Why Should You Work with a Legal Separation Attorney in Vancouver WA or Portland, OR? 

It is best to work with an attorney if possible because some of the laws are hard to understand. An experienced family law attorney will educate you regarding your rights and responsibilities during a legal separation. Separating is hard, and thus it is a good idea to have a third party to help you see through the emotions of the situation. Having a good mental health counselor could also be very important. Even an initial consultation with a family law attorney could be very beneficial if you are planning to represent yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our Washington & Oregon Legal Separation Attorneys  Are Here to Help!

I am legally separated but I would like to file a divorce. What should I do?

In Washington, upon six months after finalization of a legal separation matter, either party can request the court convert the legal separation to a divorce. The requesting party must file a motion with the court for court approval of the conversion.

In Oregon, either party can easily convert the legal separation into a dissolution of marriage within 2 years of the legal separation being final. The process is quite easy, and codified in ORS 107.465.  If both parties agree, they can file a stipulated order requesting to convert to a dissolution from a legal separation.  If only one party is moving forward with the process, they will need to file an Order to Show Cause and serve the other party to move forward.

What happens if one spouse wants a divorce, but the other wants to be legally separated?

Generally, each party has the right to seek a dissolution of the marriage, as both Oregon and Washington are “no fault” states, and one party cannot prevent the other party from moving forward with a divorce.  However, there may be bona fide reasons to seek a legal separation rather than a divorce, and counseling or mediation could help a couple decide which choice might be best. One thing to note is that if a party files for a legal separation and the other party wants a divorce instead, an Amended Petition will have to be filed. We recommend speaking with a family law attorney about this process.

What if I am interested in filing for legal separation but I am not entirely sure?

If you have questions regarding your specific circumstances and want to know if a legal separation is the best option for you, please call our office and set up a consultation. Any one of our family law attorneys will be happy to help you.  Filing for divorce or legal separation is a huge decision and can impact the choices of both parties.



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