In Washington, the spouse filing for dissolution must be a resident of Washington or a member of the armed forced stationed in Washington. The statement of relief includes a request for the dissolution of the marriage; residential arrangements for the children, if any; visitation requested; child support desired; maintenance requested; division of property; and a request that the property settlement attached to the Petition be approved and incorporated in the Decree of Dissolution.
When spouses file jointly, the Respondent signs a Joinder, which joins him or her to the Petition. If the Respondent agrees to the dissolution but not the terms and conditions of the Petition, he or she signs a Acceptance of Service.
The Washington Divorce Process
If children are involved, the Petitioner attaches a copy of the Parenting Plan, which stipulates the terms and conditions of child custody and visitation. A day reconciliation period begins when the Petition is filed if the spouse has joined the action by signing the Joinder. Some counties require the parties to attend a parenting seminar during this period.
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The Petitioner appears at a short hearing at which the judge asks a few questions and signs the dissolution papers. If the couple are not cooperating or if the Respondent objects to the terms and conditions of the Petition, the Petitioner serves the Respondent with a Summons that informs him or her of the action and that he or she has 20 days to respond 60 days if the Respondent lives outside of Washington or a default judgment will be entered against him or her.
The Summons and Petition may be served by the sheriff of the county in which the Respondent resides; a commercial process server; or anyone 18 years or older except the Petitioner. The server then returns a Proof of Service, which proves that the Respondent has been properly served. In this routine, the day reconciliation begins when the spouse is served with a copy of the Petition and a Summons. Absent a response, the Petitioner may file for a Motion and Declaration of Default and an Order of Default after the day reconciliation period has passed.
For a number of reasons, some couples agree that one or the other of them will default. When a spouse does not respond, the action is uncontested and ends by default. During the day period between the filing and the hearing date, the Petitioner must ask the county clerk to place the case on the default docket. When the Respondent disagrees with the Petition, he or she files a response, and the dissolution is contested.
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Couples normally attempt to negotiate to reach and agreement, but if this is not productive, the spouses prepare for trial. The Petitioner must file a Notice of Trial, which is served on the Respondent or his or her attorney. The procedures for doing so varies widely from county to county, and the wait for a trial may be as little as two months in small counties to over a year in larger counties.
During the day reconciliation period, the Petitioner may have to file a Motion and Order to Show Cause in order to obtain temporary restraining orders as well as other temporary measures dealing with a temporary parenting plan, child support, use of personal property and finances. If the Respondent for one reason or another cannot or will not be located, the Petitioner must then file a Declaration of Service by Publication, which attests to his or her efforts to locate the missing spouse. As a general principle it is very hard to change the residential portions of a Parenting Plan once it has been entered.
Of course, as with every question, the result will depend upon your specific facts and circumstances. There is no way to give black and white information in what is essentially an area of life with many shades of gray. Again, as with every area of family law, there are nuances and much greater detail in the rules than can be set forth in a brief answer, so if you have serious concerns about how your Parenting Plan is working out, it is strongly recommended that you consult an experienced family lawyer.
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What if I want to look up the divorce laws myself or do it myself without a lawyer? Washington Law supports people who want to manage their divorces themselves. In fact, if you do not have a lawyer, when you file your Petition, the clerk gives out a Family Law Handbook , which contains lots of helpful information.
People who represent themselves in court are called pro se and there is plenty of pro se assistance in Washington and particularly in King County. For example, the King County Bar Association gives seminars for people who want to pursue their own divorce and the Washington State Courts website has plenty of information for you. You should inquire about the availability of this service with any lawyer you consult, if you want to try self-representation.
If we just live together for a long time, will we have a common law marriage?
The Divorce Process
A long term intimate relationship is defined by Washington law as a stable, long-term relationship where the parties do not intend to marry. Depending on a number of factors, a court may find that the relationship should be considered a long term intimate relationship and some, but not all, of the rights between married people will arise. If a long term intimate relationship ends, the parties will divide property that would have been community property if they had been married.
However, each person will keep their separate property and there is no right of spousal support that arises from a long term intimate relationship. In King County there are also two additional forms Cover Sheet and Case Assignment Designation that you can also obtain at the time of filing. The person who is filing the petition is the Petitioner, the person who is not filing the Petition is called the Respondent. It is possible for the Respondent to sign a Joinder to the Petition which is at the end of the Petition. If you do this, be sure that you clearly ask that no orders be entered without giving you notice.
You cannot get divorced until 90 days have passed from the date that either the Petition is filed with a signed joinder by the Respondent, or the Respondent has been served.
If the Respondent does not sign the Joinder, then 1 that person will have to be served and 2 within 20 days of their being served they need to file and serve on the Petitioner by mail a Response. The Respondent, then, needs to file and serve by mail a Response to the Petition.
These orders are:. The Decree of Dissolution 2. The Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. Under some circumstances, you may need a Certified Copy of one or more of the orders. Be sure to bring your checkbook as these Certified Copies are not cheap. Each county in Washington has its own procedure for setting up the entry of your final divorce papers.
King County provides useful information here. The King County Bar Association provides free seminars by family lawyers on how to enter your final orders as well as other pro bono services. The world of contested divorce is extremely detailed and can be quite complicated. If there are disagreements about short term provisions over finances or the kids; if one person needs protection from a violent partner or if one person is concerned that the other is going to spend or waste community assets, there will be a need for temporary orders.
There are special forms for these kinds of procedures that can be found on the website of the King County Superior Court and Washington State Courts. All rights reserved. Back to the top. How much will it cost? Do I need a lawyer? Should I mediate? Can I get alimony?
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