Divorce is a legal proceeding that ends a marriage. Property and debts are distributed, and custody and support issues are addressed.
A divorce is one way to legally end a marriage, but you may choose a legal separation instead. A legal separation addresses things like property and debt distribution that a divorce would also settle, but you don't receive a divorce decree and your marriage is still legally valid. For an annulment, eligibility requirements must be satisfied, and the marriage is then declared void as though if it did not happen.
The Divorce Case
If you elect to file for divorce in Washington, either you or your spouse must live in state on the date of filing. You can also file for divorce in Washington if you or your spouse are a member of the armed forces and are stationed there. Ninety days must pass between the day you file for the dissolution proceeding and the day a judge will sign your decree.
You can successfully obtain a dissolution of your marriage if the state does not have personal jurisdiction over your spouse, but the court cannot force your spouse to pay child support, pay any debs, or divide property that is not physically in state. Your spouse must challenge jurisdiction in writing and has a limited period of time in which to do so. Your spouse may also waive the right to say that the state does not have jurisdiction over him or her.
Petitioning For Dissolution
The forms for divorce are located on the Washington Courts website. When you fill them out completely and pay the filing fee, the papers will then be served on your spouse. You are the plaintiff if you file for dissolution, and your spouse is the defendant. The defendant must respond to your petition for dissolution, and he may file a counterclaim, to which you must respond.
You can come to an agreement with your spouse at any time prior to trial. A courthouse facilitator can help you through the process. If you agree to the terms of your divorce, it is uncontested. If you cannot reach an agreement, your divorce is contested and will proceed to trial. Washington is a no-fault divorce state. This means the court does not have to find fault or blame, and both spouses do not have to agree to the divorce for the court to grant it.
During the divorce process, things may come up that require temporary orders. Your attorney can request these pretrial orders. They may be for bill payment responsibilities, protective orders, child custody, living arrangements, insurance responsibilities, or more.
If you and your spouse have children, the issue of child custody must be finalized prior to the divorce or the court will decide it at trial. Proof of participation in a parenting class is required. Child support orders must also be finalized.
Debt and Assets
The court will divide debts and assets when spouses do not agree to terms. Washington is a community property state, but unlike other community property states, the court might not divide marital property between spouses exactly 50-50. A judge will make the distribution justly and equitably after considering several factors.
If the divorce proceeds to trial, discovery data, witnesses and evidence will be shared with the opposing party and with the judge. The judge will deliberate and make a ruling. Maintenance or alimony orders may be issued based on need.
Divorce Attorney Help
Divorces are complicated and trying. You can go it alone, but for best results and peace of mind, seek the advice of a divorce attorney.