One party must reside in Washington State. If your spouse lives in Washington State and you do not, you may still be able to file in the county your spouse lives in whether your spouse is in agreement or not. For more information call us at (866) 946-0325.
|Legal Separation,||Victim Assessment Fee||30.00||36.18.016(2)(c)|
Most counties have courthouse facilitator programs. A courthouse facilitator is an individual who assists self-represented parties with their family law cases in superior court. A person is self-represented if he or she is not represented by an attorney. Sometimes self-represented parties are referred to as acting "pro se."
Courthouse facilitators are also referred to as court facilitators, family court facilitators, or family law facilitators. Often, the courthouse facilitator's office is located within the courthouse. Some programs are sited in other agencies, such as a volunteer legal service program. It is important to remember that the courthouse facilitator is not your lawyer, cannot give you legal advice, and will not represent you in court. When you meet with the courthouse facilitator, you will be asked to sign a disclaimer informing you of these limitations on the program's services.
All counties, except Lincoln County and Wahkiakum County, require that the parties each take a parenting class. Every court has a list of the authorized providers of the classes. The cost is approximately $60 per person. If you have requested and received a waiver of your filing fee, you may qualify for a waiver of the fee for the class.
Filing in Lincoln County Superior Court or Wahkiakum County Superior Court
If both parties are in agreement everything is completed through the mail and neither party need appear in court. If there are dependent children of the marriage neither party will be required to take parenting classes as required by all other counties. Once the 90 day cooling off period ends the judge will sign your decree and you will be divorced.
Requirements Lincoln County
Requirements Wahkiakum County
If you have dependent children of the marriage and there will be a need for future modifications of either the child support or parenting plan you should consider the following before electing to file in Lincoln County or Wahkiakum County.
In Washington State a legal separation, the court may grant all of the relief that is available in a marital dissolution but the court does not actually end the marriage (in other words, the couple is not divorced at the end). Sometimes persons will choose to file for a legal separation instead of a divorce because they do not want to end the marriage, but they want the other relief (such as property and debt division) that is available through a formal legal separation. This may be the case, for example, where a person's religious beliefs discourage him from filing for dissolution.
There are a few important facts about Washington State legal separation that you should keep in mind if you are thinking about filing one:
There is no legal action called an "annulment" in Washington State. There is a little-used action called a petition for a declaration of invalidity, which is like an annulment in that it declares that the marriage was void (could not legally exist) from the day it started. There are very limited circumstances in which you can have your marriage declared invalid.
A Washington State Court can declare a marriage invalid if it decides that the parties should never have been married because:
Even if the court finds one of the six factors, the court will declare the marriage valid unless the petitioner also proves that the parties have not "ratified" their marriage (showed that they wanted to continue the marriage) by voluntarily continuing to live together as husband and wife after turning 18, or after having the ability to consent, or after the force or duress stopped or the fraud was discovered. In addition, only the spouse who was the victim of force or fraud may petition for a declaration of invalidity.
In Washington State if you and your spouse reconcile and decide you want to continue with your marriage you may file a "Motion and Order to Dismiss the Decree of Legal Separation" with the same court that ordered the Legal Separation.
In Washington State the party who files first is listed as the "petitioner," the other party participates in the divorce as the "respondent." Under Washington law, the person to file first should receive no advantage. However, the person filing first certainly has options that the other party doesn't. For instance, the filing party can control when the first court hearing will occur and has a great influence on what issues will be addressed. The filing party is the first to be able to request "ex-parte" relief from the court and often has the option of where the case where be litigated.
You and your spouse do not both have to live in Washington State in order for you to be able to file for marital dissolution in Washington. You may file a marital dissolution in Washington State, IF:
In order for the Washington State court to make certain types of orders, Washington must have personal jurisdiction over the responding spouse (the one who did not file the dissolution).
Washington State generally will have jurisdiction over the respondent if:
If you are the responding spouse and you have never lived in Washington State, Washington State will not have personal jurisdiction over you unless you do something to give Washington State jurisdiction over you. If Washington State does not have personal jurisdiction over the responding spouse, the Washington State court cannot order that spouse to pay maintenance or any debts, or divide any property that is not physically in Washington State. However, the petitioning spouse may still be able to obtain a divorce even if property issues will not be heard because of lack of personal jurisdiction over the responding spouse. You may agree to Washington State having jurisdiction over you if you would like to do so.
In Washington State, if you are not able to locate your spouse, you may still be able to file a marital dissolution and serve your spouse by publication. If you serve your spouse by publication, you may ask the Washington State court to end your marriage and divide any property and debts that are located in Washington State. You should think carefully before relying on service by publication, however. First, if you serve your spouse by publication, you must follow the rules for service very carefully - if you do not, your court orders could be set aside years later. Second, service by publication does not give a Washington State court personal jurisdiction over your spouse unless you can prove that your spouse is hiding either inside or outside Washington State in order to avoid being served, or to avoid paying debts. If the Washington State court does not have personal jurisdiction over your spouse, you will not be able to ask the court to order maintenance or enter restraining orders.
You may file a petition for dissolution of marriage in the county where you live, or in the county where the respondent lives. If the case is filed in the county where one spouse lives, and the other spouse wants to move the case to the county where she lives, the court may (but is not required to) change venue. There is also the option of filing in Lincoln County or Wahkiakum County (no matter which county in Washington either party resides) where everything is filed through the mail and no court appearance is required.
In Washington State you must wait at least 90 days after you filed the marital dissolution and you have served it on your spouse before you may enter final orders. However, marital dissolutions often take longer than 90 days. If your spouse responds and does not agree with everything in your petition, the amount of time that will pass until your case is finished will depend on your county and how complicated your case is. In some counties, such as King County, the court will give you the date for your trial at the beginning of the case. In most other counties, you will need to file a request that the court set a trial date after the other parent has filed a response. If you filed the papers in Lincoln County or Wahkiakum County and the respondent either signed (agreed) the papers or did not file a response, then the final papers are sent in approximately 1 week before the 90 days is up and thereafter the Judge will sign the final documents.
In a Washington State divorce, each spouse must tell the court about all of his or her property and debts - separate and community. The court must divide all of the spouses' property and debts in the Decree of Dissolution. Washington State is a community property state. Generally, in Washington State, all property that either spouse gets during the marriage is community property and belongs to both spouses. If property, such as a house, other real estate or a car, is purchased during the marriage, the property is probably community property even if only one spouse is on the title. Each spouse's earnings, any pension benefits accrued, and any 401(k) contributions made during the marriage are community property. Separate property (which belongs to only one spouse) generally is property that the spouse got before the marriage, or which was given to that person by inheritance or gift (whether before or during the marriage), or which the spouse got after separation. (However, if you lived together in a stable relationship before your marriage, the property and earnings that you had during the time that you lived together may also be considered community property). Generally, all debts created by either spouse during the marriage are community debts, which both spouses are equally responsible for paying. Separate debts are those that are made before the marriage or after the date of separation.
In Washington State, the court is not required to award one spouse's separate property to that spouse, or to divide the community property 50/50.
In Washington State, the court can make any division of property and debts that is just and equitable, after considering:
In Washington State, how much property the court awards to each spouse, and who is ordered to pay what debts, will depend on a number of factors.
In Washington State, the main factor the court will consider is in what type of financial condition will the division of property and debts leave each spouse after divorce. The court generally will not want to leave one spouse extremely wealthy and the other poor. [However, if the marriage is very short (less than five years), and there are no children, the court may decide to return the parties to the financial condition they had before the marriage, even if that means that one spouse ends up much better off.] The court will consider issues such as each party's age, health, education, and prospects for employment. Thus, for example, in a long-term marriage in which one spouse has not worked much outside the home, the court is more likely to award that spouse more of the community property (or long-term maintenance) to make sure that spouse does not end up much poorer than the other spouse. Or, if one spouse is disabled and will not be able to work, the court may award the disabled spouse more of the community property. Likewise, the court may consider which spouse will be able to afford to pay the debts after dissolution when deciding who must pay them.
In most cases, the court will award each spouse his or her separate property and order each spouse to pay his or her separate debts. The court will award one spouse's separate property or separate debts to the other spouse only in very unusual circumstances.
Some people sign a written agreement before they marry that states how the parties' property and debts will be divided if they should divorce. This is often known as a prenuptial or ante nuptial agreement. Other people sign an agreement during the marriage regarding their property, which states which property is community and what is separate. This is known as a Community Property Agreement. These are sometimes completed as part of an estate plan. Still others may sign an agreement after they separate that divides property and debts - an agreement known as a Property Settlement Agreement or Separation Contract. In Washington State, this type of contract or agreement may (but does not always) determine how the court will divide property and debts in your particular case.
Not necessarily. If your car and other property were purchased with money earned during the marriage, it is community property. Each spouse's income during the marriage is community property, so anything that you buy with either spouse's income belongs to both of you. It does not matter whose paycheck was used. In Washington State, the court will divide the car and other property according to what the court decides is just and equitable overall.
Maybe. In Washington State, the court may award you an interest in the house (sometimes called an equitable lien), depending upon a number of factors. Because your spouse bought the house before your marriage, the house is your spouse's separate property. Therefore, the house remains separate, even after you marry (unless the house is given as a gift to the community, such as could happen if it is refinanced in both spouse's names). You may be entitled to an interest in the increase in any value due to improvements (such as a remodel or new deck) to the house, plus the community payments toward the mortgage. However, your community interest would be reduced by the reasonable rental value of the house because you had the benefit of living there during the marriage. Thus, in some cases, the court could rule that you have no community interest in the house because your community contributions were offset by the value you got from living there.
Yes, a Washington State court has the power to order that your house should be sold even if one spouse objects. The court is most likely to do this if a sale of the home is necessary to enable the court to divide the property equitably or if the parties are behind on payments.
Not necessarily. In Washington State, retirement or pension benefits, including 401(k) plans that are earned during the marriage, are community property in which both spouses have a legal interest. If a pension was earned both before and during the marriage, the portion of the pension earned during the marriage (and the increase in value of that portion) is community property. Some disability benefits that substitute for pension benefits may also be community property in which both spouses have an interest. You may be able to get an order entered, called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), under which your spouse's pension plan will pay benefits directly to you after your spouse retires.
No. Because Washington State has "no fault" divorce, the court may not consider which spouse "caused" the dissolution when deciding how to divide the property. However, the court may consider the conduct of the other spouse if that spouse wasted assets from the marriage without the other spouse's consent, or if that spouse tried to hide assets from the court.
Maybe. In Washington State maintenance, or alimony, is a payment that one spouse makes to the other to provide financial support. Maintenance is not automatically awarded to either spouse.
The court looks at several factors in deciding whether a spouse should get maintenance, including
If you have been unemployed for a long time (such as may be the case if you stayed home to care for the children), the court may be more likely to award you maintenance than if you have been laid off temporarily. On the other hand, even if the spouse seeking maintenance is capable of working (or is working to support him or herself), the court may still award maintenance to that spouse if awarding maintenance will help that spouse enjoy the standard of living that was usual during the marriage. The court uses maintenance "not just as a means of providing bare necessities, but rather a flexible tool by which the parties' standard of living may be equalized for an appropriate period of time." Long term or permanent maintenance is more likely to be ordered after long marriages and if one spouse is disabled and/or stayed home to care for the children while the other worked and is therefore less likely to be able to get a well-paying job. Unless the Decree of Dissolution states otherwise, maintenance payments end when the person receiving the payments remarries or dies.
In Washington State, you may end up paying a debt even if your spouse was ordered to pay it. As part of the final Decree of Dissolution, the court will order one or both spouses to pay any debts that the parties owe. This includes your mortgage, any car loans, credit card debts, utility bills, back taxes, etc. Even if the court orders your spouse to pay a particular debt, the creditor (person to whom the debt is owed) may still come after you to collect any community debts. You will not be able to stop the creditor from collecting from you by telling that person that your spouse is supposed to pay. If your spouse fails to pay the debt and you end up paying it, you will need to sue your spouse in court to force your spouse to pay you back. If you think that this might be a problem, you should make sure that you check the "hold harmless" provision in the Decree of Dissolution form (paragraph 3.6, second box). Then, if you must sue your spouse to force him or her to reimburse you for debts you paid, your spouse will be required to pay your attorney's fees and costs as well.
Your spouse may try to avoid paying marital debts by filing for bankruptcy. If your spouse files for bankruptcy after your Decree of Dissolution is entered, the bankruptcy court may relieve your spouse of paying for those debts. If your spouse files for bankruptcy, you should get notice of it. You should immediately talk with an attorney who is familiar with bankruptcy law about your rights. You may need to participate in the bankruptcy case in order to protect yourself.