If you live in the Tacoma area and are considering a legal separation, you might be wondering if you will be protected financially in the same way that you would be if you filed for divorce. Under Washington State law, it is possible to obtain a legal separation that provides all of the benefits and rights as a divorce without dissolving your marriage. Accordingly, with a legal separation, you will be protected financially in terms of being able to have the court divide community property, order spousal maintenance, and determine child support. Our Tacoma family law attorneys can provide you with more information about the ways in which a legal separation can protect you financially regardless of whether you get divorced.
Separation Agreement or Separation Decree Can Divide Community Property
One of the major financial issues that spouses are often concerned about in a legal separation (versus a divorce) is whether the court can divide community property. In a legal separation, just as in a divorce, a Washington State court can classify separate and community property, and distribute community property between the spouses.
Under Washington State law, in order to have community property classified and divided, the spouse seeking the legal separation will need to file a Petition for Legal Separation and will need to meet the same requirements that would be necessary for a no-fault divorce. Once the spouse seeking a legal separation has met the requirements, the court can either determine how community property will be classified and split between the parties or can sign off on a separation agreement that includes the division of community property. The legal separation decree will become enforceable under the law if either spouse violates the terms.
You should also be aware that property acquired after the legal separation—including assets and debts—will be separate property.
Spousal Maintenance Can Be Ordered
Washington State law explicitly states that spousal maintenance can be ordered in a proceeding for legal separation. The court will use the same factors in a legal separation case that it would use to determine whether spousal maintenance is appropriate in a divorce case. Courts will consider all relevant factors when deciding whether to order maintenance, as well as when determining the amount and duration of maintenance. Those factors can include:
- Financial resources of the parties.
- Amount of time for the receiving party to acquire skills or education to obtain appropriate employment.
- Standard of living established during the marriage.
- Duration of the marriage.
- Age of the parties.
- Physical and emotional health of the parties; and
- Ability of the spouse paying maintenance to meet their own financial obligations while paying maintenance.
Courts Can Determine Child Support
In a legal separation, courts can also determine child support. Washington State uses an income shares model to calculate child support, which means that both parents’ incomes will be used to calculate the total child support obligation. The court will then determine each parent’s percentage of that obligation based on relevant factors, just as a court would in a divorce case.
Contact a Tacoma Legal Separation Attorney Today
There are many reasons that spouses prefer a legal separation to a divorce, from matters pertaining to health care benefits to religious issues. The important thing to remember is that a legal separation can protect you financially in the ways that a divorce can. Our Tacoma legal separation agreement attorneys can speak with you today if you need assistance. Contact Alliance Law Group for more information.