Stages of Divorce

If you’re seeking to divorce from your spouse, it’s important that you understand the framework and requirements of the legal process. The divorce process can be extremely long or short depending on the circumstances. Understanding the logistics of a marriage dissolution will better prepare you for any potential issues.

Ending a marriage can be quick and painless, but it can also be arduous and time-consuming. Uncontested divorces tend to go by quickly since both parties agree on their settlements. Contested divorces on the other hand can stretch on for months. This is because one or both spouses may major issues with proposed agreement settlements. To save you time and money, it’s highly recommended that you contact an experienced divorce attorney. 

Attorney Explains the Divorce Process in Seattle, Washington

Divorce proceedings can be long and complex. Ending a marriage is daunting enough without such a confusing legal process. It’s important that you don’t just understand the potential agenda for your divorce, but you also have an attorney on your side.

A skilled divorce attorney can inform you throughout every stage of your divorce. They can also file motions, collect finance records, and conduct a thorough investigation into any hidden assets. Don’t go through this process alone. Contact the attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson. Our attorneys have years of experience representing clients in divorce negotiations. We will use every resource at our disposal to help you move on with your life.

Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson represents clients throughout the greater King County area including Seattle, Kent, Renton and Issaquah. We also represent surrounding communities including Everett in Snohomish County. Call (206) 712-2756 now to schedule a free consultation. 

Overview of the Divorce Process in Washington


Filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Washington

The divorce process can begin by one of two ways; you can file a petition for a dissolution of marriage or get served with a petition. Washington is a no-fault state, which means there doesn’t need to be a reason for a spouse to file for divorce. You can file a petition at any time if you follow the outlined requirements.

The divorce petition contains vital information about you, your spouse and your children. Most dissolution of marriage petitions contain requests for property division, spousal maintenance, child support and child custody. If you hire an attorney, they can ensure that all your paperwork is filed correctly. They can also gather all information that’s required in a petition for dissolution of marriage. 


Responding to a Petition for Divorce in Washington

Once your spouse is served, they will have 20 days to respond. If they fail to respond in 20 days, the court can grant your requests without considering any objections from your spouse. This is referred to as “default judgement.” 

However, most people respond accordingly with their initial pleadings. This exchange of documents is the initial step of divorce. The person who files for the divorce will be known as the petitioner and the spouse responding would be the respondent.

You may be worried about some of your assets after filing a petition. If this is the case, you may be able to file a temporary order asking for a “restraint” on the disposal of any shared property without court approval. This restraint can stop your spouse form spending frivolously or canceling insurance premiums that may apply to you or your children.

Understand if you request for a temporary restraint the order is mutual. You will also be unable to alter, modify or cancel any premiums or carelessly spend money.


Temporary Orders for Divorce in Washington

In some divorce proceedings, it might be necessary to seek a temporary order. The purpose of a temporary order is to establish rules of conduct or “ground rules.” These rules are to ensure that both you and your spouse act in an appropriately during divorce proceedings. 

A temporary order can include child support payments, spousal maintenance payments, attorney’s fees and continued payment of monthly bills. In addition, a temporary order can also establish parenting guidelines, who owns the home during the proceedings, and can stop either spouse from acting recklessly with shared money. 

Usually a temporary order is done immediately after filing a divorce petition. A temporary order can also be filed later on in the proceedings but must be done prior to the final dissolution of your marriage. 


Mandatory Parenting Seminar in Washington

If you and your spouse share children, there are additional steps you must complete. With the exception of Lincoln County, all Washington counties require divorced parents to attend a parenting seminar. The seminar discusses how divorce can affect children and the home. It also provides information about how to successfully co-parent during and after divorce proceedings. 

If you’re served or file for a dissolution of marriage, you must complete a parenting seminar within 60 days. Failing to sign up in time could result in additional fees. King County requires all parents to pay a $40 seminar fee that could be altered based on your income. If you register past the deadline, there is an added $35 to the class.


Discovery Process in a Divorce

The discovery process is one of the most vital components to divorce proceedings. You will have a chance to obtain documents and information that could help your case. It’s important you conduct some investigations during the discovery process, even if you and your spouse have a positive relationship.

You should pursue as much information as possible during the discovery process. Some documents that may be important to collect are investment accounts, insurance policies, criminal records, real property, income retirement funds and other important information.

Washington has established the Rules of Civil Procedure to manage the discovery process. Listed below are the limitations for both parties for discovery.

  • Request Documents – You have the ability to request physical documents such as insurance policies through production requests.

  • Subpoena Third Parties – if you need certain documents, you can subpoena persons or institutions to access that information. Some documents you can subpoena include medical records, income information, and medical records.

  • Interrogatories – If you need an answer from your spouse, you can send them an interrogatory. Interrogatories are questions in writing that must be answered within 30 days. All questions must be answered under oath.

  • Request for Admissions – You may want to submit statements to your spouse if they are agreed they are true. Your spouse will have a chance to admit or deny the statement under oath.

  • Depositions – Oral examinations under oath are called depositions. You can request for a deposition with your spouse or another party to get information for your case.

Mediation or Arbitration Hearings in Washington

Not all marriages end happily. It’s common for both parties to be unable to communicate effectively during divorce proceedings. If this is the case, it may be best to request mediation. Mediation is when a qualified third party hears both sides and attempts to facilitate a resolution. 

The mediator will attempt to create productive discussions around the divorce. Normally, this mediation isn’t done in court. The conversations had during mediation are usually not appropriate for the rules of court. You will likely meet in an available room outside the courtroom or at another location. 

Arbitration is another more formal form of mediation. The mediator, or arbitrator, will hear both sides and decide a final agreement. The arbitrator must be sworn into the Washington State Bar and meet certain qualifications. Arbitrations are governed by the Mandatory Arbitration Rules of Washington.


Agreement Settlements in Washington

If both parties reach an agreement, then you and your attorney can draft a marital settlement agreement. The settlement must include important information such as maintenance payments, child support, property division, and possible parenting plans.

If the case had to be resolved through arbitration, you and your spouse must follow the agreement that was laid out for you. An agreement settlement is only viable if both you and your spouse sign it. Once both parties have signed the agreement, it can be presented in court. If the judge signs the agreement, then you will have your divorce finalized. 


Trial for Dissolution of Marriage in Washington

It’s rare for a divorce case to go to trial. If you and your spouse are unable to agree, then it may be the best option. A divorce trial is governed by a judge not a jury. During the trial you and your spouse will have an opportunity to present any relevant information. 

It’s likely you will use the information found in discovery during trial. A few examples of important documents you may present are bank statements, tax information and insurance policies. You can also call upon any witnesses to testify on your behalf, including yourself.

Your spouse will also have an opportunity to present information, call on witnesses and cross-examine any of your witnesses. You have an opportunity to rebut information from your spouse after they present their case. A judge will then decide the final settlement agreement after hearing both sides.


Additional Resources

Family Law Handbook – Visit the official website for the Family Law Handbook, a document provided by Washington Courts. Access the document to learn more about divorce, legal separation, and annulments. Find more information about family law and resources for people struggling with divorce. 

Divorce Roadmap – Visit a document provided by the King County courts that details information for those pursuing a divorce. Access the document to learn more about pretrial conferences, parenting seminar, family court services and a detailed explanation of the divorce process. 


Lawyer Discusses Stages of Divorce in King County, Washington

If you or your spouse are trying to pursue a divorce, it’s important you contact an experienced divorce attorney. You need legal representation that you can trust in this confusing process. Find that today with Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson.

The attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson have years of experience in family law. We have represented numerous clients in divorce mediations and trial proceedings. Our attorneys will ensure you are given the right information, ask the right questions and help you obtain the agreement settlement you desire.   

Call today at (206) 712-2756 to schedule a fee consultation. The attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson represent clients throughout the greater Seattle area including Burien, Renton, Redmond and Bellevue.


This article was last updated on December 18, 2018.

 

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