Gearing, Rackner & Engel, LLP
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Understanding Legal Separation in Portland

When couples are certain their marriage is over, they turn to divorce.  But, many couples are not ready to make the decision to end the marriage—they may feel they need time to work out their differences, possibly with counseling.  But they often need to live apart to gain the perspective they need—they need to separate temporarily.

When no children are involved and both spouses have the means to temporarily live on their own, there may be no need to go through the time and expense of a legally-binding separation.  If complex issues are involved, however, a legal separation may be required to protect the interests of both parties and their children.  It is important to retain an experienced attorney to ensure your interests are properly protected during a legal separation.  But a good way to understand the legalities of separation is to compare it to the legalities of divorce.

Similarities between legal separation and divorce

In many ways, a Portland legal separation is very similar to a divorce (also known as dissolution of marriage). 

  • Both are legal agreements subject to court approval.  A Portland divorce ends with a divorce decree—a separation is finalized by a legally-executed Portland separation agreement.
  • Both require legal terms.  If children are involved, issues of custody, visitation, and support must be resolved.  Issues concerning spousal support and, in some cases, property division must also be decided to ensure both parties can live apart without undue hardship.
  • Couples may make their own decisions regarding the terms, and they commonly engage divorce attorneys to protect their interests.  But a judge must approve the agreement, and, when couples cannot agree, the judge makes the decisions for them.
  • The costs for both legal separation and divorce can be similar.

Differences between legal separation and divorce

Of course, the main difference between separation and divorce is that a legal separation is temporary.  From a legal standpoint, the end results differ in a number of ways.  Perhaps the two most important differences are as follows:

  • Any terms, including issues pertaining to the children, are not necessarily the same as they might be if the couple later files for divorce.  In some cases, however, a separation agreement provides a valuable starting point in determining the terms of divorce.
  • When a legal separation is finalized, the spouses remain legally married.  Even when they live apart, they still have certain rights, such as the right to remain on the insurance policies of the spouse and the right to inherit property.  These rights end once a divorce has been finalized.

Contact our premier law firm for the support you need

Each Portland divorce attorney at Gearing, Rackner and Engle, LLP has the skills and experience to protect your interests in a legal separation.  If you are considering a legal separation in Oregon or Washington, contact us online, or call us at 503.222.9116.


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