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How is property division addressed in a legal separation?

For various personal reasons, there may be times when a married couple in Washington decides to seek a legal separation, rather than a divorce. One of the issues that the court will address in a legal separation, like a divorce, is the division of assets. However, the way property will be divided in a legal separation often depends on the type of separation the couple is seeking.

One type of separation is a trial separation. In this type of separation, the couple no longer lives together, giving themselves the time and space to determine whether to get a divorce. In essence, it is still considered part of the couple's marriage, since this type of separation does not have the legal teeth that a court-ordered legal separation does. Therefore, property purchased or debts incurred during a trial separation are usually considered marital property. It is only until the couple divorces that such property is deemed separate (if all the requirements are met), rather than marital, depending on the circumstances and the state where the couple resides.

Another type of separation is living separately. Sometimes, a couple no longer lives together, but does not have any intent to either continue or end being married. In some states, a couple must live separately for a certain period of time prior to getting divorced. State law determines whether any property purchased or debts incurred during this time period will be considered marital or separate property.

Finally, we have a permanent separation. This takes place once the couple determines to separate forever. Of course, to take legal effect, even couples who have permanently decided to separate need to file for such a separation in court and have it approved.

In general, property purchased and debts incurred after a couple decides to permanently separate may be considered separate property. But, certain debts used for necessary things may be considered joint debts. In the end, the laws regarding property division in a permanent separation depend on the laws of the state.

In the end, it is important to have a good understanding about the state's laws with regards to property division and a legal separation. This post only provides general information, and cannot serve as the basis for any legal action. To learn more about legal separation, one can contact an attorney for assistance.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Legal Separation vs. Divorce," accessed on July 25, 2016

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