January 28th, 2023
Information About No-Fault Divorce in Washington
If you’ve reached the point where you believe divorce may be the best option, it’s natural to feel confused and even intimidated by the process. The ending of a marriage often involves complicated emotions, so it can be difficult to think clearly and focus on the tasks ahead of you. Fortunately, you do not have to go through this challenging process alone. Enlisting the support of a caring and experienced Seattle divorce attorney is the best way to ensure you can identify and achieve your goals. Together, you can put the necessary terms and protections in place to give you a secure foundation for your life’s next chapter. Let’s take a look at what a no-fault divorce means and what you can expect from the process in the upcoming weeks and months.
The Definition of No-Fault Divorce
Before the 1970s, the divorce laws in each state required some sort of grounds for ending a marriage. For instance, the spouse requesting a divorce had to cite a specific reason for ending the marriage, such as proving that the other spouse had been unfaithful and was, therefore, to blame for the marriage’s failure. However, California enacted the first no-fault divorce legislation in 1970, allowing either spouse to file for divorce, only citing “irreconcilable differences.” Since then, every state has adopted some form of no-fault divorce law. No-fault divorce is much faster, easier, and cheaper than fault-based divorce, as there is no legal need to make a claim of wrongdoing by your spouse. Like most states, Washington is purely a no-fault divorce state.
Initiating a No-Fault Divorce in Washington
The first step to pursuing a divorce is completing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Although you can fill out and file this paperwork yourself, enlisting an experienced attorney’s guidance can help ensure that all the information is correct and that you are not inadvertently giving up any of your legal rights. Once you file this paperwork, you must observe a mandatory waiting period of at least 91 days before the court can finalize your divorce. When both parties agree that filing for divorce is their best option, this process moves forward relatively smoothly. In some cases, however, the party filing for divorce must have the petition and summons served on their spouse.
What About Legal Separation?
You may have heard the term “legal separation” used interchangeably with “divorce,” but these processes differ in a few critical ways. A divorce legally dissolves the marriage, while a legal separation addresses many of the same issues as a divorce (i.e., property division, child custody, etc.) but the couple is still legally married once the legal separation is processed. When you file for legal separation, there is no mandatory waiting period to observe before the court finalizes the case. Some couples first pursue a legal separation, then petition the court to convert the legal separation into a dissolution of marriage later. If you do not want to legally dissolve your marriage for religious or other reasons, but you still want to begin a new independent life, a legal separation may be the best option for you.
Navigating the Steps of the Divorce Process
Once you’ve filed for divorce, you need to address the logistical aspects associated with untangling your life from that of your spouse. Washington mandates that divorcing couples use mediation to work through and establish the terms of their divorce. Mediation allows the parties to negotiate with one another with the guidance of a neutral third party (the mediator). Unlike a judge, the mediator does not influence or determine the outcome. Instead, they serve as a facilitator, encouraging the parties to work through their differences, listen to one another, and reach an agreement that works for them both. During mediation, you will discuss important topics like property and debt division and spousal maintenance. If you have children, you will need to discuss child support and establish a parenting plan. Mediation is always a faster and cheaper way to settle your divorce than litigation. However, if you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement through mediation, you may take the matter to court.
Providing Clarity and Support During Your Seattle Divorce
Even if you and your spouse are separating on amicable terms, the divorce process can be complicated and emotional at times. The ending of your marriage is a tremendous time of transition, and it’s critical to seek out the support and guidance you need to move forward with greater ease and confidence. Working with a compassionate divorce attorney is the best way to ensure you obtain a fair and favorable outcome that allows you to approach the next phase of your life feeling secure and confident.
Reach out to a knowledgeable and caring Seattle divorce attorney today by calling the Hemmat Law Group at (206) 682-5200.
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 Oregon and Washington State Bar.