Washington is a no fault state. Either partner may file for divorce at any time without having to show the other party is at fault for some wrong doing within the marriage. If one party states that the marriage is irretrievably broken the marriage may be dissolved.
RCW 26.09 covers the laws governing dissolution of marriage. The court will look at several different issues when dealing with your divorce. Those issues include but are not limited to: 1. Determinations, and rules, relating to the divorce itself such as invalidity, and the passage of the 90-day mandatory waiting period; 2. Making arrangements for residential placement of any children of the marriage; 3. Child support if applicable; 4. Determining the need for spousal maintenance and an appropriate amount, and; 5. Distribution of community property and debts.
Either party may file for divorce. Whoever files is labeled the Petitioner, and the other party is the Respondent; either way both parties have the same rights under the law. The court requires a period of at least 90-days to pass after the divorce is filed AND the other party is served with the divorce paperwork before either party may ask the court to finalize the case. Once the 90 day period has passed the case may be finalized at any time. This may happen by agreement of the parties, default or by trial.
Once the divorce has been filed either one or both parties may ask the court to enter temporary orders which would be in effect until final orders are entered or the matter is dismissed. A temporary order’s hearing may be set at any time during the case and the timing depends upon the local rules of the county the action is filed in. At the temporary order’s hearing the court can make a temporary child custody determination, set temporary child support and/or maintenance and allocate use of community property until the end of the case. The parties may also agree on temporary orders and enter those with the court if they choose, but temporary orders are not required and if the parties can work together amicably no temporary orders are necessary and the agreement can be finalized when the parties are ready…after 90-days of course.
Prior to trial each party has the opportunity to ask for the discovery from the other party. This request may be for financial information such as property and debts, incomes, or parenting information and many other matters that are relevant to the custody of the children or the finances of the parties.
The court generally requires the parties attend mediation prior to trial in an attempt to reach agreements as soon as possible. Situations involving Domestic Violence may not require formal mediation take place. Most cases are resolved without going to trial which saves the parties substantial money, time and anguish.
In most counties; a trial will be scheduled approximately a year from the date the divorce was filed. When your day of trial finally arrives each party will have the opportunity to testify, put other witnesses on the stand, and provide evidence to the judge. The judge in your case will review all of the facts of the case and make a determination in accordance with the laws under RCW 26.09 and their own appropriate judicial discretions considering the relevant evidence presented to them.
There are three ways to finalize your divorce: 1. By agreement; 2. By default if the other party does not respond; or 3. After trial. The goal in every divorce should be to settle as amicably as possible, as soon as possible. This is the most likely way to reduce the costs and unnecessary conflict that are often involved in long and protracted divorce actions.
There is no standard time frame, or path, a particular case takes. Each case is different and each family has different issues that need to be addressed. Groves Law Offices, LLP will work with you to make the process as easy as possible while still protecting your rights.