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If I file for legal separation, does my spouse has to move out of the house and how does the taxes work as far as filling it?

Lynnwood, WA |

How long can one stay legally separated without a divorce and what does it involve to be together again? How long does the process take and approximately how much does it cost?

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Attorney answers 3


Just filing a Petition for legal separation does not effect the status quo. You would need to file a motion to have him removed from the home. Gain, filing a Petition does not effect taxes, it's only the final decree that would effect how taxes will be paid and if there is no agreement, the trial court will decide. In King county, absent an agreement, the trial to achieve a legal separation is set 11 months after filing. After the decree is entered , you may convert to a decree of dissolution after 6 months. Once divorced, you can get back together again whenever you want. I advise my clients that the only real advantage to a legal separation is if there are religious concerns or psychological concerns -- absent those factors, there is really no difference from a practical standpoint in that the court has the same function whether the parties are seeking a legal. separation or a divorce.

The information is for general information purposes only. Nothing stated above should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation.


Legal separation is a legal status that physically and financially separates the parties while maintaining the mutual advantages of marriage such as insurance coverages, title to property and retirement benefits.

Dissolution or divorce would separate the parties completely making each a single person.

Once a petition for legal separation is filed the parties can proceed as agreed or seek temporary court orders for issues where there is no agreement. Such a hearing can be sought in about 2 weeks time and would likely result in an order for one of the parties to establish a separate residence.

The appropriate filing status would most likely become “Married Filing Separately” though your particular circumstances may dictate otherwise. Tax questions are better answered by tax professionals who have all the facts before them.

The petition for legal separation can result in a decree of legal separation. The decree is a permanent order possibly convertible to a decree of dissolution after 6 months. The process of legal separation takes a little as 90 days or whatever longer time it takes to get the parties to mediation and trial if nessisary.

The cost of legal representation will depend upon the intricacies of your marital community, the needs of the parties, the financial abilities of the parties, and how much the parties agree or disagree on major and important issues. You should anticipate that your attorney will charge between $250 and $350 per hour and requests a retainer against billing of $3,000 to $7,000, again dependant on the anticipated issues raised in your circumstances.

The above information is general in nature, does not assume facts not presented and does not constitute legal advice. It is clear that the information provided in the inquiry and the answer provided are both on a public forum: there is no creation of a client/attorney relationship.


"How long can one stay legally separated without a divorce"? If the two spouses want to be legally separated but not have their marriage legally dissolved, they can be legally separated until one or both of them die. That is, as long as at least one of them do not want to change the legal separation into a dissolution of marriage or the two of them do not want to reconcile, they can keep the legally separated status.

There is no law in WA that would prohibit two adult persons who are legally separated or have their marriage dissolved from being together if that is what they want (as long as they are not violating other laws, such as incest, or court orders).

Costs in family law proceedings are almost entirely within the control of the spouses. If they have attorneys, the more the spouses argue, the more the attorneys' fees will be. If the spouses are cooperative and do not argue, they can fill out all the paperwork by themselves and would to pay only the filing fees. If they are low-income, they can ask the court to waive most or all of the filing fees.

You likely should at least review the specific facts with your attorney to find out what legal options you have. Then, you would know more to decide what to do.