May 15th, 2023
Collecting Evidence for a Divorce in Washington State
Whether your marriage has lasted for several decades or you have only been married for less than one year, recognizing that your union is no longer serving you can be emotionally challenging. It’s natural to mourn the loss of your partnership as you start preparing for your life’s next chapter. Although many spouses are able to work through the terms of their divorce in a collaborative and amicable manner, there are times in which productive communication and negotiation do not happen. Perhaps you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse have very different goals for the divorce, or you disagree about the details of the parenting plan, child support order, or the division of marital property. Enlisting the support of a trusted and experienced Seattle divorce attorney is the best way to ensure that you achieve your divorce goals and obtain your desired outcome. Let’s take a look at how a contested divorce in Washington state typically happens and how your attorney can support you at every step of the process.
How Washington Courts Handle Divorce Proceedings
As a “no-fault” divorce state, the couple does not need to provide a specific reason or offer proof to file for divorce. Decades ago, many states required the spouse seeking a divorce to explain that the other spouse’s behavior (i.e., infidelity, abandonment, abuse, etc.) caused the demise of the marriage. Today, every state has some form of no-fault divorce, allowing a spouse to initiate the divorce process without having to prove a specific reason for doing so (apart from citing that the marriage no longer works because of irreconcilable differences). Since Washington operates as a no-fault divorce state, the court cannot consider who “caused” the divorce when determining how to divide property or establish other important orders, like spousal maintenance or child support. Instead, the court must focus on an “equitable” division of assets (which does not always mean an even fifty-fifty split) and the best interests of the children. Additionally, the court encourages the divorcing couple to work collaboratively as much as possible to negotiate the terms of the divorce. The court will only intervene as a last resort once all other avenues have been unsuccessful (i.e., alternative dispute resolution services like mediation or arbitration).
Using Evidence in a Divorce
Many divorcing couples are able to work through their disagreements and reach an equitable resolution. However, taking the matter to litigation may be necessary if you are struggling with a contentious divorce or a particularly unreasonable or combative spouse. As you prepare for this process, work with your divorce attorney to identify and compile evidence to help you achieve your desired outcome. Below are some of the ways that you can use evidence to strengthen your position during the divorce proceedings.
When Your Spouse Hides Assets
Many counties in Washington state issue a financial restraining order as part of the divorce or legal separation process. This action prevents the parties from making substantial financial decisions, like closing credit cards, selling real estate, canceling insurance, or liquidating accounts. However, if your spouse took such actions before the court issued the order, you should discuss your options with your attorney. You can use bank statements or other documents as evidence of your spouse’s drastic financial activities. The court may use this evidence to influence its decision-making process when approaching the division of assets and property. Additionally, if your spouse attempts to hide assets from the court, presenting evidence of such behavior can also strengthen your position in the eyes of the court.
Evidence That Impacts Parenting Plans
Divorces that involve children require additional considerations, such as parental custody and child support. The court strives to establish a parenting plan that allows the child to spend quality time with each parent, as such an arrangement strengthens the parent-child relationships. However, there are circumstances in which the court may restrict a parent’s access to their child. Under RCW 26.09.191, a parent’s decision-making authority and parenting time will be restricted or suspended if the court determines that the parent abandoned the child, has a history of domestic violence, or exhibits physical, sexual, or emotional abuse toward the child. If you have concerns about the other parent’s ability to provide a safe and stable environment for your child, your attorney can help you locate and present evidence to support these concerns. The court’s priority is to protect the child from harm, so it is essential to ensure that both parents can fulfill this responsibility.
Helping You Move Forward With Confidence
Just as no two marriages are identical, the divorce process differs for everyone. Even if you and your spouse are parting ways on relatively friendly terms, the process can be emotional at times. It’s important to recognize that you do not have to move through this challenging period on your own. Enlisting the guidance of a dedicated and compassionate Seattle divorce lawyer can give you the peace of mind and clarity you need to make decisions with confidence. Together, you can lay a strong and stable foundation for the next chapter of your life’s journey.
The Hemmat Law Group is here to help you explore your divorce options in the Seattle area. Call (206) 682-5200 today to get started with a dedicated and caring family law attorney.
Andrew Linden is an Associate Attorney at Hemmat Law Group. Mr. Linden graduated from Knox College in 2016 and received his J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School in 2019. He is a member of the Washington State Bar.