Washington Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) Primer

  1. Family Law
  2. Washington Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) Primer

Divorce, legally known as dissolution of marriage, can be an overwhelming experience. A qualified, knowledgable divorce attorney is essential to navigating the numerous issues and complicated laws involved. This article will explain basic principals, but you should seek the advice of a family attorney to fully understand the law and protect yourself.

Basic Definitions

Divorce/Dissolution – A legal proceeding ending a marriage or domestic partnership. Must address all needs of mutual children, the financial relationship of the parties including division of debts and assets, and many related issues.

Uncontested or Non-contested Dissolution – When the parties to a divorce reach an agreement as to every issue involved, they can present their agreement to the court for final approval and avoid a contested trial.

Contested Dissolution – If any relevant issues are not resolved by agreement, the case must proceed to trial in the Superior Court. It can take several months to set a trial. While the case is pending, the parties are bound by any temporary orders entered by the court.

Legal Separation – Similar to a dissolution, this proceeding resolves all issues related to mutual children and the parties’ financial relationship including division of property and debts. Unlike a dissolution case, after the entry of a Judgment of Legal Separation, the parties live separately but they are still married.

No-fault Dissolution State – Washington State is a no-fault divorce state. This means the court does not care about the conduct, lifestyle, or possible wrongdoing of the parties as grounds for granting a dissolution. Parental misconduct can be considered by the judge when it relates to child custody matters.

Temporary Orders – A party may request certain court assistance while the case is pending. A family law judge may enter temporary orders such as:

  • restraining orders
  • appointing a Guardian ad Litem for the children
  • establishing a temporary parenting plan
  • setting temporary child support
  • allocating certain debts
  • setting temporary spousal support
  • awarding temporary use of property
  • requiring payment of temporary attorney’s fees, and more.

Any temporary orders will remain in place until a final Judgment of Dissolution is entered.

Court Procedures

To initiate a dissolution the Petitioner files a written Petition for Dissolution in the appropriate court system. The Petition is served on the other party according to court rules, and proof of the service is filed with the court.

The other party, called the Respondent, has a specific timeframe to file a written Response. If the Respondent fails to file a Response within the required time frame, he or she may be found in default and the divorce may be granted without their involvement.

While the case is pending both parties must provide complete disclosure of all relevant documents and records to the court and the other party. It is critically important to understand all issues involved in your dissolution. An experienced divorce attorney knows what items to request to protect your assets and interests.

Finalizing a Dissolution

Divorce cases can be resolved by agreement or by trial. If the parties agree, they can settle the case and bring their agreement to the court for approval. If the parties cannot agree, the disputed matters go to trial and the judge decides the outcome.

The best way to resolve a divorce is by agreement and settlement. You will maintain control over your case, your children, and your future. Also, a settlement is usually quicker and less expensive than a trial.

If the parties cannot reach an agreement on their own, they must attend mandatory mediation. Mediators are specially trained third-parties who help the couple find creative ways to resolve their case. Mediators do not have the authority to bind the parties to an agreement and the parties are not obligated to reach an agreement in mediation.

If mediation is unsuccessful, the case goes to trial. The family law judge hears testimony from witnesses and considers all evidence to reach a final decision which is binding on the parties. Then a Judgment of Dissolution is prepared incorporating the judge’s ruling. Once the Judgment is filed, the dissolution is final.

As you can see from this brief overview, a divorce is a very complex process with a lot at stake. To protect your children, your current and future financial circumstances, and provide a strong ally throughout the process, you need an advocate in your corner who will fight when the time is right, or negotiate a fair settlement if it is in your best interests.

Call Davies Law at (425) 259-2755 or complete our simple form to set up a free initial consultation. We will discuss your personal situation and together we’ll create a customized plan to protect your future. We also offer virtual meetings if you prefer.

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