A divorce in Washington is referred to as a dissolution of marriage. After the marriage is dissolved, both parties are free to remarry. During typical divorce proceedings, the couple's assets and debts will be divided and the care and custody of any children will be determined.
In Washington, the court considers all divorces to be "no-fault." In a no-fault divorce, the parties merely need to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably or that the couple has irreconcilable differences. The Washington courts are no longer interested in the reasons justifying the divorce.
Washington State requires that the person filing the petition be a resident of Washington. There is at least a 90 day "waiting period" before divorce proceedings can commence once the divorce petition is filed. The court also requires a filing fee be paid in order to file a divorce petition.
A separation occurs when a couple voluntarily lives apart. The separation becomes "legal" after a decree is entered by a judge legally recognizing the separation. The decree may contain specifics on child custody, child support, spousal maintenance and division of property. A separation is not a divorce, so the couple remains legally married.
Post-decree modification usually does not occur unless there is a provision in the decree that allows for a modification. A modification to a final decree regarding child support or child custody requires a "substantial change in circumstances." That usually means circumstances that are far beyond day-to-day changes.
The Washington courts divide property between divorcing spouses by dividing it into community and separate property. The Washington courts dictate that each spouse owns an undivided one-half interest in any property acquired during marriage. Typically, property that was owned by one party before the marriage, or given to one spouse as an inheritance or gift at any time, is considered separate property (and not subject to division). This can be a complex area of family law, so it is important to consult with an attorney.
Alimony, maintenance and spousal support refer to the same thing: one spouse providing court-ordered funds to the other. This happens while the couple is legally separated, divorcing and/or divorced. Washington courts prefer to award rehabilitational maintenance to the spouse that requires it to get back on his or her feet. Washington courts base maintenance on one spouse's ability to pay with the other spouse's need. Washington courts will also typically consider the standard of living during the marriage, the current circumstances of each spouse and the ability of each spouse to provide for his or her needs.
It is not mandatory that you hire an attorney; you may represent yourself. You could, however, be putting yourself at a serious disadvantage. Unless you and your spouse have no marital assets, children or unsettled issues, the divorce can become complex very quickly. An experienced family law attorney who knows the laws in Washington can be of great help during a divorce. Contact a knowledgeable family law attorney for a free on hour consultation at Bohan Law, PLLC by calling 425-582-0167 or by sending a secure message.
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