đź—˝JDivorce

đź—˝JDivorce

Common Divorce Questions

Washington State law does allow married couples to enter into a binding legal separation instead of an actual Dissolution of Marriage (divorce). Legal separation in Washington State allows you and your spouse to obtain a court approved Decree of Legal Separation. However, legal separation is not required before filing or obtaining a divorce in Washington.

There are many reasons that spouses elect to get a Decree of Legal Separation instead of a divorce (or Decree of Dissolution of Marriage). In some circumstances, it may be due to religious reasons or one or both spouses opposition to divorce. In such circumstances, the couple may prefer to be legally separated. In other cases, the couple may not be certain that they want to end their marriage.

The most common reason a splitting couples choose legal separation is to make formal financial or child arrangements just as they would in an actual divorce. Legal separation allows a couple to legally split their property and debt. In addition, if a couple has children, legal separation, like a divorce, allows the couple to obtain court orders for child custody, support and visitation.

A Decree of Legal Separation can be converted to a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage (divorce). If the court has already granted the Decree and one of the spouses wishes to convert the Legal Separation to a divorce, a motion can be made with the court to convert the legal separation to a divorce. However, this motion to convert can only be filled after six months has passed. Either spouse may make the motion to the court. Both spouses do not have to agree in order to convert a legal separation to divorce. However, the spouse filing the motion must provide legal notice to the other spouse. (After one year, legal notice isn't technically required, but many judges in several counties will still require the legal notice be provided to the other spouse.)

Provided both spouses agree, a legal separation can be undone. If the legal separation has already been approved by the court, and both spouses wish to reconcile and revive the marriage without having to formally remarry, then a Motion to Vacate Decree of Legal Separation can be filled. Once the court approves same, it is as if the legal separation never occurred.

If the legal separation case is only pending with the court, and the court had not yet approved the legal separation, the spouses can request that the case be dismissed. Since the court never granted the legal separation in Washington State, it would be as if the legal filing never occurred.

There are many reasons that spouses elect to get a Decree of Legal Separation instead of a divorce (or Decree of Dissolution of Marriage). In some circumstances, it may be due to religious reasons or one or both spouses opposition to divorce. In such circumstances, the couple may prefer to be legally separated. In other cases, the couple may not be certain that they want to end their marriage.

While there are many reasons why a marriage can come to an end, a no-fault divorce can be used when you and your partner have simply agreed to move on. In other words, in a no-fault divorce, neither party has accused the other of any wrongdoing or needs to prove any; as a result, the divorce process can be easier.

Child custody is perhaps the most delicate matter in a divorce. In most cases, custody is agreed upon between both parents during mediation. However, if no agreement can be reached, a judge will decide custody rights based on the best interest of the child. This decision factors in important considerations, such as each parent's ability to provide economically and emotionally. If custody cannot be agreed on it is very likely in your best interest to consult an attorney.

You may be ready to move on but the courts need to be ready too. Before you get your divorce papers, most states require a waiting period after filing. In most jurisdictions this period is around 90 days, however, it can be as long as a year. Aside from the mandatory waiting period, any complications with custody, division of assets, or support payments can slow the process.

While all three essentially reach the same end, they each have distinct legal ramifications. An annulment, like a divorce, legally ends a marriage but does so by treating the marriage as if it never happened. These are quite rare. A divorce means both spouses go through a legal process where they are no longer married and divide up assets, such as property, and responsibilities, such as child care. Legal separation, on the other hand, leaves the marriage legally intact despite going through many of the same procedures such as asset division and custody.

The discussion that follows is from the standpoint of the spouse filing for dissolution of marriage in Washington, designated in the court documents as the "petitioner." If you are the spouse who is served with divorce papers, the process is the same as outlined below, but you are designated as the "respondent." If you receive a divorce summons and petition for dissolution filed by your spouse you should speak with a qualified Washington family law attorney immediately about protecting your rights. The way you respond to the petition can affect the rest of your case. You should ensure that you are advised of, and understand, your options regarding your property, assets, and children. Review the summons and petition carefully, and discuss your concerns with your divorce attorney. You usually have 20 days to respond to the petition. Do not procrastinate. Consider the time it will take you to hire an attorney, review the petition, locate paperwork and records, and complete any other tasks involved in preparing your response to the petition and filing it with the Washington court. It is important that you meet court deadlines.

If you filed a divorce petition and now regret it, you may be able to do an about-face without too much trouble, depending upon what stage in the proceedings you realize your mistake.

Dismissal Before Response

After you file a petition for divorce, your next step in the process is to arrange for the divorce papers to be served on your spouse, who has 30 days in which to reply. If you change your mind about the divorce at any point before your spouse files response papers with the court, in most jurisdictions, you are allowed to dismiss the case.

Dismissal With Spouse's Consent

After your spouse has filed response papers, the petitioner no longer has an automatic right to dismiss the divorce. But winning a dismissal is not difficult, if your spouse also wants to give the marriage another try. Generally, a court grants a dismissal when both spouses agree to end the case.

In Washington State divorce, if the spouses have a minor or dependent child or children, the court will enter a Parenting Plan that designates where the children will be every day between the time the divorce is finalized and when the child turns eighteen.The court will designate one parent as the primary residential parent. In most circumstances, decision-making for the children is made jointly between the parents. The Parenting Plan can be prepared to fit the unique needs of your family, and no one knows those needs better than you and your spouse. You and your spouse are best qualified to create a Parenting Plan best suited for your children’s needs.

If you and your spouse have a child or children who are under 18 years old or otherwise dependent, then the court will require that a Parenting Plan be entered with the court in order for you to finalize your divorce. If you have been served divorce papers that include a Proposed Parenting Plan with which you disagree in any way, then you must prepare your your own Proposed Parenting Plan to file with the court. A Final Parenting Plan must be entered with the court in order to finalize your divorce. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a Final Parenting Plan either on your own, with the assistance of attorneys, or through mediation, then you will have to go to trial, and the judge will make the decision for you.

A Parenting Plan signed by a judicial officer and entered in court is a court order. If you and your former spouse agree to make a change, for example, if you exchange emails and agree that instead of returning the kids at noon, it’s okay to return them at 3:00 p.m., then that’s fine. However, it’s best to have these agreements in writing. If there is not agreement to change, then the Parenting Plan must be followed. If you intentionally disregard provisions in the Parenting Plan, then you may be found in contempt of court. This is very serious. If you want to make changes to the Parenting Plan and your former spouse will not agree, then you’ll need to go to court to get the Parenting Plan changed. This is not an easy thing to do. This future possibility is yet another reason why working hard to resolve the outstanding issues in your divorce in an amicable way is so important.

The court may limit your residential time with your children and may deny you joint decision making or alternative dispute resolution if the court finds any one of the following:

  • Refusal to care for the children and perform parenting duties and responsibilities
  • Physical, sexual or emotional abuse of the child
  • History of domestic violence or physical or sexual assault
  • History of sex crimes including child rape, child molestation, incest or other sexual misconduct involving children
  • Long term emotional or physical problems that will disturb a parent’s ability to care for the child
  • Long term drug, alcohol abuse
  • Lack or absence of emotional bond between parent and child
  • Refusal to give other parent contact with the child for no good reason
  • Other reasons which may pose a threat to the child’s welfare and interests

If these reasons do not exist, then a court will very likely grant joint decision-making to you and your spouse. Additionally, the court will provide for both parents to have quality time with the kids. It is also important to know that if a parent is found to falsely allege any of the above factors about the other parent, then that parent may end up having their time limited with the children.

Divorce is formally called “dissolution of marriage” in Washington State. In Washington State, common law marriage is not recognized. You have to be legally married for the court to enter a Decree of Dissolution. Washington State does recognize domestic partnerships, and if two people are registered as domestic partners with the state, then they must dissolve their domestic partnership through the courts. That process is similar to a dissolution of marriage process.

Legal marriages in other states and countries are recognized as valid in Washington. However, the following situations are not recognized as valid marriages:

  • When a person gets married when they already have another spouse, then the second marriage will not be considered valid.
  • When two people who are close relatives marry, that marriage may not be recognized in Washington State

Washington is a “no-fault divorce” state, meaning there is no need to assign blame or prove that the other spouse is at fault for the failure of the marriage. According to Washington state laws, only one spouse in the marriage must believe and declare that the marriage is irretrievably broken in order for the divorce decree to be granted. “Irretrievably broken” means that the marriage cannot be saved, and there is no chance of reconciliation.

You can file for a divorce in Washington if you or your spouse currently reside in Washington state.

You may file in the county where either you or your spouse lives. Alternatively, you may file in Lincoln County even if neither of you lives there. Both spouses have to agree for the case to be filed to file in Lincoln County.

The minimum waiting period for a divorce in Washington is ninety (90) days. This is the minimum period required before the court will finalizes your divorce. The “ninety day” clock begins running after the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed and then served on the non-filing spouse. If both spouses sign the Petition, then the clock begins running once the Petition is filed.

Ninety days is the minimum time it will take for a Decree of Dissolution to be entered. However, it will likely take longer if there are disputed issues that exist when the dissolution process begins. These disputed issues could be related to the division of property and/or debts, aspects of the divorce related to children, maintenance/alimony, or any other issues. Many other issues could delay the process as well.

During the three month waiting period, temporary orders may be entered to address interim issues including a residential schedule for children, financial support, or use of property.

f you and your spouse agree on all aspects of the divorce, you will qualify for an uncontested divorce. The basic issues that make up a divorce are: 1)division of property and liabilities; 2) maintenance also called alimony; and if there are children, 3) the residential schedule for any dependent children,, and 4) child support

If you and your spouse can agree on all issues, then you will be making the best out of a bad situation. By agreeing on all issues, you’re more likely to get along better after the divorce – something that is very important, especially if you are have children together. Additionally, you save money. The cost of an uncontested divorce is significantly less than the cost of a contested one.

If you’ve agreed on some issues – but not all – but you want to work together to try to achieve a resolution efficiently and without fighting, then mediation may be an option for you and your spouse.

Mediation in divorce requires a mediator or a trained neutral, often a lawyer or mental health professional, to help divorcing spouses reach agreement. While divorcing spouses routinely participate in mediation when they are represented by attorneys, it is not uncommon for spouses to participate in mediation with a trained mediator and without their own attorneys.. This is a good option for spouses who want to work together to create a resolution that is best for them.

The court will divide all assets and liabilities “fairly and equitably” (which does not necessarily mean equally; The court will determine whether one spouse will pay maintenance (alimony) to the other, if requested by one spouse. This determination is made based on many issues including whether one spouse has the need for maintenance, and whether the other has the ability to pay it. he court will establish a residential schedule for the dependent children, and will also set an amount of child support.

The court will not resolve the frustration or anger you may feel toward your spouse; The court will not be able to increase the assets that you and your spouse have, so that there is more money to go around. In fact, litigating a case with attorneys will most certainly cause you to spend a large amount of money and reducing the total amount that remains to be divided The court will not cut the other parent out of your children’s lives (except in very extreme circumstances), so learning how to work with your spouse to make decisions for your children is best for your children and for you and your spouse.

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