Kirkland Divorce Lawyers
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Filing for divorce is never easy. Divorce is often legally complex, involving multiple other processes, including property division, alimony, and child support and custody. Trying to identify the best path forward in your divorce while dealing with the turmoil of ending a marriage can be incredibly challenging.
At Alpine Family Law, our Kirkland divorce attorneys know Washington divorce law like the back of their hand. We'll shoulder the legal burden of your case, enabling you to take full advantage of the fresh start that comes with a divorce.
No-Fault & Fault-Based Divorce
Washington is exclusively a no-fault state, which means when you file for divorce, you'll only cite "irreconcilable differences" between you and your partner as grounds for the divorce. Washington differs in this regard from states which accept fault-based divorces. In a fault-based divorce, one party alleges that the other committed a specific action (adultery, domestic abuse, etc.) that made the marriage untenable.
However, you (and your spouse's) behavior may still play a role in your divorce. For example, if domestic violence is a factor in your divorce, you should work with your lawyer to obtain a temporary restraining order against the alleged abuser to protect yourself during the divorce. Additionally, if you file for a contested divorce, the court may take spousal behavior into account when ruling on the divorce.
Contested Vs. Uncontested Divorce
When you file for divorce, you have two option:
- File for an uncontested divorce. To file for an uncontested divorce, both parties must agree on how to handle every divorce-related process (property division, alimony, child custody and support, etc.).
- File for a contested divorce. If you and your spouse disagree on one or more elements of your divorce, you must file for a contested divorce.
It's not uncommon for a contested divorce to transition into an uncontested divorce over time as spouses negotiate with each other and compromise on terms for the divorce.
You should be aware that, if you choose to pursue a contested divorce, the court may issue a ruling determining terms for the divorce on you and your partner's behalf. In other words, the more you can agree with your spouse on how to handle various divorce-related processes, the more agency you have in your divorce.
Many courts prefer it when parties can reach a mutually beneficial compromise as opposed to having the court decide terms for a divorce. Hence, judges often ask couples engaging in a contested divorce to use a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) like mediation to resolve their differences.
How Do I Get a Divorce in Washington?
Fortunately, the process for dissolving a marriage in Washington is fairly simple. First, you must meet the eligibility requirements for divorce in the state. In Washington, that means that you must either:
- Live in Washington, or;
- Have a spouse who lives in Washington, or;
- Be stationed in Washington as a military servicemember, or;
- Have a military spouse who will be stationed in Washington for 90 days after filing and serving the divorce paperwork.
As long as you meet one of those requirements, you can file for a divorce in Washington.
To file for a divorce in Washington, you must:
- File a "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage" form with your county court. If you file for the divorce, you're called the "petitioner." The petition lays forth the grounds for the marriage and details how you want to handle divorce-related processes like property division, alimony, child support and custody, etc. You must wait at least 90 days after filing to finalize your divorce.
- Serve your spouse. At this stage, your spouse is called the "respondent." A third party, like a private process server or a law enforcement officer, must serve the respondent.
- Wait for a response. At this stage, the respondent can file a response. If you're engaging in an uncontested divorce, your spouse does not need to file a response. If you're engaging in a contested divorce, your spouse can file a counter petition detailing different terms for various divorce-related processes.
- Attend temporary hearings. During temporary hearings, two spouses partaking in an uncontested divorce appear before the court and decide how to handle manners such as child custody while the divorce is occurring. If you have a minor child, you must also attend a parenting education case at this point.
- Fill out confidential information and vital statistics forms. These forms contain information that each spouse (and the court) needs to know for the parties to reach an equitable outcome. That includes details about your finances, separate assets, marital assets, career prospects, and more. Your lawyers and the judge can use this information to help ensure that the terms for the divorce are fair for both parties when all's said and done.
- Attend alternative dispute resolution. If you want to try and transform a contested divorce into an uncontested divorce to save yourself time and money, you can take the opportunity to try and compromise with your spouse using an ADR method like mediation or collaborative divorce.
- Settle on terms. If you do manage to compromise with your partner, you need to work together to draft a settlement document. The settlement contains terms for the divorce and signatures from both spouses, confirming both parties agree to the terms. You'll present the settlement to the Ex Parte Department commissioner, who will look it over to ensure it's equitable and legally sound. If it is, they'll approve it, finalizing the divorce.
- If you cannot reach a settlement with your soon-to-be-ex, you must attend a final trial. At the trial, your lawyer can call forth witnesses and present evidence on your behalf. After presiding over the trial, the judge will determine equitable terms for any divorce-related processes the parties haven't agreed on. The court will then issue a divorce decree, finalizing the divorce.
If you want to file for divorce in Washington, having a capable divorce lawyer by your side is vital. At Alpine Family Law, our Kirkland divorce attorneys will work with you to protect your rights in and out of court, helping you pursue your best interests throughout your divorce case.
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