The Divorce Process
The divorce process in Washington often begins with a legal separation. After the petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed and served on the non-filing spouse, the minimum waiting period for a divorce in Washington is ninety (90) days. In other words, ninety (90) days is the minimum period required before the court will finalize your divorce.
The 90-day rule also provides a “cooling off” period that allows the parties time for reflection so that the parties have an opportunity to reconsider and reconcile.
The Divorce Process in Seattle, Washington
An experienced matrimonial attorney in Seattle, Washington, can represent you at every stage in the divorce process in the state of Washington. The steps for obtaining a divorce in Washington include:
- filing the "Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage"
- serving the petition on the non-filing spouse
- obtaining the temporary order in the divorce case
- attending the parenting education program in King County or Snohomish County WA
- completing the discovery process to exchange information
- scheduling the mediation
- reaching a settlement
- scheduling the trial if any issues remain unresolved
Contact the attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson to discuss your case and the process to obtain a divorce in Seattle, Washington. The attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson also represent clients in Kent in King County and Everett in Snohomish County.
Filing the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage
The divorce begins when you file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, the Summons, the Confidential Information Form and the Vital Statistics form in the Superior Court of Washington in the county where you or your spouse resides.
Your attorney will prepare the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage so that it accurately describes your requests for the division of property and debt, child custody, a parenting plan, child support, the amount of alimony or spousal support, and other related issues.
The spouse that files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is known as the Petitioner. The person who is served with the petition is known as the Respondent because that person must respond to the petition.
In the State of Washington, the only legal grounds for a divorce is the “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. For this reason, the state of Washington is classified as a “no fault” state. Issues of fault might be relevant to show that the assets of the party were wasted, but the fact that one spouse committed adultery is not a grounds for divorce.
The requirements to file for a divorce in Washington require a showing that the parties were legally married, meet the residency requirements of the state and county where the case is filed, and file all the required paperwork. Many of the same requirement exist for a legal separation in the State of Washington.
You are permitted to file the divorce in the county in Washington where either you or your spouse resides. So if you live in King County, Washington, then you are permitted to file the case in King County. The only exception to this rule is that in Lincoln County, the court does not require either spouse to be a resident of that county.
Serving the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
After you file the dissolution of marriage, you must serve all the paperwork on your spouse. Your matrimonial attorney can help you get the paperwork served on your spouse by using a process server or the sheriff in that county who will file a “return of service.”
If the divorce is uncontested, then the parties have already agreed on all the issues. One spouse will file a “joinder” related to the petition for dissolution. After the ninety (90) day waiting period, the court is permitted to finalize the divorce according to the terms agreed upon in the petition for dissolution.
If the divorce is contested, then the non-divorcing spouse has thirty (30) days after the divorce is filed, to file a response to the Petition for Dissolution.
The Temporary Order in the Divorce Case
In a contested divorce, one side can file a request for a temporary order to resolve many of the most important issues in the case on a temporary basis. The temporary issues can include:
- a parenting plan;
- the child's residential schedule;
- orders on who should pay certain bills;
- physical restraint between parties;
- orders on who should be able to use and possess property including the marital home; and
- orders on temporary child support or temporary spousal maintenance (alimony).
The temporary order is extremely important because it often sets the parties expectations before the divorce is finalized.
Attending the Parenting Education Program
In the state of Washington, the parents are required to attend a seminar focused on parenting issues that impact children during a divorce. After the course is completed, each parent must provide proof that they attended and successfully completed the course before the case can be finalized.
The Discovery Process in the State of Washington
During the divorce process in Washington, each party will obtain information related to the case from the other spouse. Your matrimonial lawyer in Washington will often request a copy of a financial affidavit, tax records, pay documentation, bank records, and retirement accounts. The request for these documents is called the “request for production.” After a request for production is made, you must respond to the request truthfully under penalty of perjury.
The discovery process might also involve asking the other side to respond to written questions known as Interrogatories. Your divorce attorney in Washington can also request documents from third parties including a bank or financial institution.
After the documents and interrogatories are completed, the attorneys might schedule depositions to ask the other side questions under oath in front of a court reporter so that additional information can be obtained.
Scheduling the Mediation in a Divorce Case in King County, WA
In many contested divorce cases pending in King County, WA, if the parties are unable to reach a settlement on one or more of the issues, then the parties might schedule a mediation. At the medication, a divorce mediator will meet with each side either together or separate to discuss the issues.
The mediator can either help you solve some of the issues or all of the issues; although the mediator has no power to make the parties agree or decide any issue in the case.
Reaching a Settlement in the Divorce Case
After the contested divorce is filed, the parties might agree at some point before a trial to settle all of the issues in a written settlement agreement. The settlement agreement will address issues such as the division of property and debts, a parenting plan, the payment of child support and alimony, and other important issues. In Washington, this binding settlement agreement would be protected under Court Rule 2a (CR2a).
If the court approves the settlement agreement, then the case can be finalized prior to trial.
Scheduling the Trial
Although most cases do not go to trial, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement to resolve all of the issues, then the case can proceed to trial. At trial, the parties each present argument, evidence, and testimony to the court and the court decides any contested issues. After the divorce, the judge will issue a final order called a Decree of Dissolution and the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.
In cases that involve minor children, the court will also decide the terms of the Final Parenting Plan and a Final Order of Child Support with a Child Support Worksheet.
Retirement accounts are divided using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) so as to avoid any adverse tax consequences of withdrawing money from the retirement account.
Finding Attorneys for the Divorce Process in Seattle, Washington
The attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson represent clients at all stages of the divorce process in Seattle, Washington. We can help you whether you have a simple uncontested divorce or a high conflict contested divorce.
From preparing for the divorce before the petition is filed through the final trial, we can help. For divorce cases in Seattle or Kent in King County, WA, or in Everett, Snohomish County, WA, let us put our experience to work for you.
Call (206) 712-2756 today to schedule a confidential consultation.