Washington State divorce law is governed by statute. Nearly all of Washington's relevant divorce statutes can be found in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), Chapter 26.09. RCW 26.
09 provides both the framework as well as the analytical guidelines for marriage dissolutions here in Washington State. RCW 26.09 details the process for initiating a divorce, dividing all property and debts, providing for spousal maintenance, creating a parenting plan and setting an appropriate amount of child support pursuant to the Washington State Child Support guidelines.
It also contains provisions regarding protection and restraining orders. Initiating a Divorce - The Washington State Petition for Dissolution Divorce proceedings are initiated in Washington State by filing a Petition for divorce. This is largely a procedural pleading. It provides basic information about the parties and details the history of their marriage. It includes things such as the parties' names and addresses. It details whether or not the parties have any children.
It includes provisions for property, debts, and maintenance. If there is an issue of domestic violence alleged, it also includes a section for restraining order protection. If an allegation of domestic violence exists, it is best to consult with an experienced Washington divorce attorney as soon as possible. The petition also establishes jurisdiction over the parties, their children, and their debts and assets. While providing an opportunity to address each of the issues raised above, however, the initial petition is often nothing more than a rote pleading. It is simply the document that needs to be filed in order to initiate the divorce process in Washington State.
It often contains very little specific information about the parties' debts and assets, maintenance requests, or the children. The one key exception to this rule is if it is anticipated that the opposing party will not respond to the initial petition at all, and it is contemplated that the final orders will be entered by default. Under this scenario, all requested relief must be specifically spelled out and detailed in the Petition for Dissolution. Any experienced Washington divorce lawyer will have a large forms file that includes a Petition for Dissolution. Washington is a "no fault" state. Washington is a "no fault" state.
This means that the parties' conduct is largely irrelevant in the eyes of the court when it comes to dividing the parties' property and debts. Of course, issues such as fraud, squandering of assets, and concealment of assets can be a factor when the trial judge issues a final ruling. "Character issues" can, however, be a factor if children are involved and the parties are unable to agree on either primary custody or a parenting plan. In general, however, the court is supposed to be largely unconcerned with the Parties' conduct during the marriage. Because Washington is a no fault state either party can file for divorce and obtain one regardless of whether or not their spouse wants to be divorced.
What Happens After the Petition is Filed? What happens after the Petition for Dissolution is filed depends a lot on which county in which you live. Unless your divorce is uncontested, all divorces are typically filed in one of the counties in which one of the parties resides. If you are seeking a divorce in Seattle, for example, your petition will be filed in King County, Washington. When a Petition for divorce is filed in King County, the court sets a specific Case Schedule with a number of mandatory pleading deadlines. The Case Schedule will also set your trial date.
In general, King County divorce trial dates are set approximately one year after the Petition for divorce is filed. After the petition is filed, the parties typically request a set of temporary orders. The temporary orders decide who will have use of what assets and who will pay what bills while the matter is pending. As a practical matter, it is always best to seek the advice of a Washington divorce lawyer when it comes to temporary motions. The temporary motions calendar is a unique animal in each county and different commissioners will reach wildly different decisions based on the same set of facts.
Most experienced divorce lawyers will attempt to negotiate a set of temporary orders rather than simply charging off to the motions docket. This often saves the parties a lot time, money and emotional stress. After a set of temporary orders is in place, the parties engage in discovery to learn about the other party's income and both parties' separate and community assets. In a perfect world, the parties simply negotiate a final distribution of debts and assets, which are memorialized in the final decree.
If children are involved, the parties must also file a Final Parenting Plan and an Order of Child Support. The standard parenting plan involves one party having primary residential custody and the other parent having visitation every other weekend from Friday to Sunday with alternating holidays and two to three weeks in the summer. The Order of Child Support is based upon the parties' income and is set by the Washington State Child Support Worksheets. In addition to the documents noted above, in order to finalize a Washington divorce, the parties must also file a Findings of Fact and a Conclusions of Law, which provides the jurisdictional and the legal basis for the Final Decree to be entered.
Jason Newcombe is an experienced Washington divorce lawyer. He heads the divorce and family law practice group of his Seattle law firm. Leading his firm, the attorneys at Seattle Divorce Lawyer know that choosing the right divorce lawyer may be one of the most important decisions that you will ever make. We are your experts in all Washington State divorce and family law issues.