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Washington State is a no-fault divorce state and is just as it sounds - neither party is at fault. If you were served with legal papers and disagree with anything your spouse asked for you may file a response. You must file any response to the documents within 20 days (60 days if you were served outside the State of Washington). You should take steps immediately to ensure your rights are protected. If you cannot afford an attorney to represent you, you should try to receive a free consultation for legal advice. Once this is completed and you need help completing the forms we are here to help.
In order for us to complete this service, fax or email us a copy of legal papers you were served as well as a list of all the sections of the documents (petition, parenting plan, child support, etc.) that you disagree with and any additional requests you may have in regards to your specific legal matter. We will complete all your forms within 2 business hours.
** If required for your case.
Names of forms may differ for each state
Additional charges if Respondent will not sign:
You should read this General Information thoroughly before taking any other steps to file your case or represent yourself in court. Most of this information is not repeated in the attached forms. This information should provide you with an overview of the court system, its participants, and its processes. It should be useful whether you want to represent yourself in a pending matter or have a better understanding of the way family court works. This is not intended as a substitute for legal advice from an attorney. Each case has its own particular set of circumstances, and an attorney may advise you of what is best for you in your individual situation."
These instructions are not the only place that you can get information about how a family case works. You may want to look at other books for more help. The Florida Statutes, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, and other legal information or books may be found at the public library or in a law library at your county courthouse or a law school in your area. If you are filing a petition for Name Change and/or Adoption, these instructions may not apply."
If the word(s) is printed in bold, this means that the word is being emphasized. Throughout these instructions, you will also find words printed in bold and underlined. This means that the definitions of these words may be found in the glossary of common family law terms at the end of this general information section.
1995 Adoption. To help the many people in family law court cases who do not have attorneys to represent them (pro se litigants), the Florida Supreme Court added these simplified forms and directions to the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure. The directions refer to the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure or the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. Many of the forms were adapted from the forms accompanying the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. Practitioners should refer to the committee notes for those forms for rule history.
The forms were adopted by the Court pursuant to Family Law Rules of Procedure, 667 So.2d 202 (Fla. 1995); In re Petition for Approval of Forms Pursuant to Rule 10-1.1(b) of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar-Stepparent Adoption Forms, 613 So. 2d 900 (Fla. 1992); Rules Regulating the Florida Bar-Approval of Forms, 581 So. 2d 902 (Fla. 1991).
Although the forms are part of these rules, they are not all inclusive and additional forms, as necessary, should be taken from the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure as provided in Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure. Also, the following notice has been included to strongly encourage individuals to seek the advice, when needed, of an attorney who is a member in good standing of the Florida Bar.
1997 Amendment. In 1997, the Florida Family Law Forms were completely revised to simplify and correct the forms. Additionally, the appendices were eliminated, the instructions contained in the appendices were incorporated into the forms, and the introduction following the Notice to Parties was created. Minor changes were also made to the Notice to Parties set forth below.
NOTICE TO PARTIES WHO ARE NOT REPRESENTED BY AN ATTORNEY WHO IS A MEMBER IN GOOD STANDING OF THE FLORIDA BAR
If you have questions or concerns about these forms, instructions, commentary, the use of the forms, or your legal rights, it is strongly recommended that you talk to an attorney. If you do not know an attorney, you should call the lawyer referral service listed in the yellow pages of the telephone book under "Attorney." If you do not have the money to hire an attorney, you should call the legal aid office in your area."
Because the law does change, the forms and information about them may have become outdated. You should be aware that changes may have taken place in the law or court rules that would affect the accuracy of the forms or instructions.
In no event will the Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar, or anyone contributing to the production of these forms or instructions be liable for any direct, indirect, or consequential damages resulting from their use.
Communication with the court Ex parte communication is communication with the judge with only one party present. Judges are not allowed to engage in ex parte communication except in very limited circumstances, so, absent specific authorization to the contrary, you should not try to speak with or write to the judge in your case unless the other party is present or has been properly notified. If you have something you need to tell the judge, you must ask for a hearing and give notice to the other party or file a written statement in the court file and send a copy of the written statement to the other party."
Filing a case. A case begins with the filing of a petition. A petition is a written request to the court for some type of legal action. The person who originally asks for legal action is called the petitioner and remains the petitioner throughout the case."
A petition is given to the clerk of the circuit court, whose office is usually located in the county courthouse or a branch of the county courthouse. A case number is assigned and an official court file is opened. Delivering the petition to the clerk's office is called filing a case. A filing fee is usually required.
Once a case has been filed, a copy must be given to (served on) the respondent. The person against whom the original legal action is being requested is called the respondent, because he or she is expected to respond to the petition. The respondent remains the respondent throughout the case."
Service. When one party files a petition, motion, or other pleading, the other party must be "served" with a copy of the document. This means that the other party is given proper notice of the pending action(s) and any scheduled hearings. Personal service of the petition and summons on the respondent by a deputy sheriff or private process server is required in all original petitions and supplemental petitions, unless constructive service is permitted by law. Personal service may also be required in other actions by some judges. After initial service of the original or supplemental petition and summons by a deputy sheriff or private process server, service of most motions and other documents or papers filed in the case generally may be made by regular U.S. mail or hand delivery. However, service by certified mail is required at other times so you have proof that the other party actually received the papers. The instructions with each form will advise you of the type of service required for that form. If the other party is represented by an attorney, you should serve the attorney and send a copy to the other party, except for original or supplemental petitions, which must be personally served on the respondent."
Other than the initial original or supplemental petitions, anytime you file additional pleadings or motions in your case, you must provide a copy to the other party and include a certificate of service. Likewise, the other party must provide you with copies of everything that he or she files. Service of additional documents is usually completed by U.S. mail. For more information, see the instructions for Certificate of Service (General), Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.914."
Forms for service of process are included in the Florida Family Law Forms, along with more detailed instructions and information regarding service. The instructions to those forms should be read carefully to ensure that you have the other party properly served. If proper service is not obtained, the court cannot hear your case."
Note:If you absolutely do not know where the other party to your case lives or if the other party resides in another state, you may be able to use constructive service. However, if constructive service is used, other than granting a divorce, the court may only grant limited relief. For more information on constructive service, see Notice of Action for Dissolution of Marriage, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.913(a), and Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.913(b). Additionally, if the other party is in the military service of the United States, additional steps for service may be required. See, for example, Memorandum for Certificate of Military Service, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.912(a). In sum, the law regarding constructive service and service on an individual in the military service is very complex and you may wish to consult an attorney regarding these issues."
Default... After being served with a petition or counter-petition, the other party has 20 days to file a response. If a response to a petition is not filed, the petitioner may file a Motion for Default, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.922(a), with the clerk. This means that you may proceed with your case and set a final hearing, and a judge will make a decision, even if the other party will not cooperate. For more information, see rule 12.080(c), Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure."
Answer and Counter petition... After being served, the respondent has 20 days to file an answer admitting or denying each of the allegations contained in the petition. In addition to an answer, the respondent may also file a counter-petition. In a counter-petition, the respondent may request the same or some other relief or action not requested by the petitioner. If the respondent files a counter-petition, the petitioner should then file an Answer to Counter-petition, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.903(d), and either admit or deny the allegations in the respondent's counter-petition."
Mandatory disclosure... Rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, requires each party in a dissolution of marriage to exchange certain information and documents, and file a Family Law Financial Affidavit, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(b) or (c). Failure to make this required disclosure within the time required by the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure may allow the court to dismiss the case or to refuse to consider the pleadings of the party failing to comply. This requirement also must be met in other family law cases, except adoptions, simplified dissolutions of marriage, enforcement proceedings, contempt proceedings, and proceedings for injunctions for domestic or repeat violence. The Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.932, lists the documents that must be given to the other party. For more information see rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, and the instructions to the Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.932."
Parenting Plan. If your case involves minor or dependent child(ren), a Parenting Plan shall be approved or established by the court. Parenting Plan, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form, 12.995(a) or Safety-Focused Parenting Plan, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.995(b). The Parenting Plan shall be developed and agreed to by the parents and approved by a court . If the parents cannot agree, or if the agreed Parenting Plan is not approved, the court must establish a Parenting Plan . The Parenting Plan shall contain a time-sharing schedule and should address the issues regarding the child(ren)'s education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being."
Setting a hearing or trial. Generally, the court will have hearings on motions, final hearings on uncontested or default cases, and trials on contested cases. Before setting your case for final hearing or trial, certain requirements such as completing mandatory disclosure and filing certain papers and having them served on the other party must be met. These requirements vary depending on the type of case and the procedures in your particular jurisdiction. For further information, you should refer to the instructions for the type of form you are filing."
Next, you must obtain a hearing or trial date so that the court may consider your request. You should ask the clerk of court, or family law intake staff about the local procedure for setting a hearing or trial, which you should attend. These family law forms contain orders and final judgments, which the judge may use. You should ask the clerk of court or family law intake staff if you need to bring one of these forms with you to the hearing or trial. If so, you should type or print the heading, including the circuit, county, case number, division, and the parties' names, and leave the rest blank for the judge to complete at your hearing or trial."
Oregon State filing fees: $273.00
January 16, 2008- Many counties in Oregon require parents to complete a parent education class before a judgment can be entered in cases involving custody and parenting time of children. Locate and get information on how to contact a Parent or Child Divorce Education Program in your county by using this list
Divorce is a way of legally ending (dissolving) a marriage. After you have gone through all the steps in a divorce, you will get a divorce decree (also called a "Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage"), which is an order signed by a judge. The divorce judgment will usually state:
The main difference is that you are still married after a legal separation, so you cannot marry someone else. Also, you still have the right to inherit property "automatically" from your spouse if you are legally separated. If you are divorced you lose that right.
Annulment is a way of legally ending, or canceling, a marriage. You can get an annulment only in very special cases. For example, you can annul your marriage if one of the spouses is already married or not old enough to legally marry. You cannot get an annulment just because your marriage is only a few days old or because you have not had sex with this spouse. Court costs for an annulment are about the same as for a divorce.
In almost all cases, either you or your spouse must have lived in Oregon for six months before filing for divorce.
You will have to prove to a judge that you have tried in many ways to find your spouse before a judge will let you go ahead with the divorce. If your spouse can't be found for personal delivery of the divorce papers, you will be able to end your marriage and (usually) get custody decided, but you will probably not get child support or any divorce terms which require your spouse to pay money or do something (such as transferring title to property).
You must file with the Circuit Court Clerk's office at the local county courthouse.
An uncontested divorce (where you and your spouse do not disagree about the terms of the divorce) can be final approximately three months after the divorce petition is filed and delivered to your spouse. You may be able to reduce this time if the judge thinks you have a very good reason. If you and your spouse have agreed on the divorce terms and both signed the proposed final judgment, the judge can consider this a reason to waive the waiting period. A contested divorce (where you and your spouse are arguing about the terms of the divorce), could take much longer than three months because court hearings may be needed.
You and your spouse can agree on the division of property and debts. The judge will probably make your agreement part of the divorce judgment. If you do not agree, the judge will divide property.
The divorce judgment will probably state which spouse should pay the debt. But you both are responsible for making sure that the creditor gets paid. When you made the purchase you both agreed to pay, and a divorce judgment does not change the creditor's right to expect payment from both of you. If the bill is not paid, a creditor can ask for payment from both spouses. The creditor can also file a lawsuit against either one or both of you for the unpaid bill.
Unless the spouses agree on what property is to be divided, the judge will divide all of the property that the couple owns -- any land or houses, motor vehicles, home furnishings, money in bank accounts, stocks and bonds, pensions and retirement benefits, lawsuit settlements, etc. The judge can even divide property owned by a spouse before the marriage, but usually it is given to that spouse. The judge also decides which spouse should pay which debts. If the spouses were living together when one spouse made the purchase, the other spouse is usually also responsible to the creditor and could be sued, too. The exceptions are for business expenses and loans of money. If the spouses were separated when one spouse signed for the debt, the other spouse is not responsible to the creditor unless the debt is for the children's education, health, or support needs.
Oregon has "no fault" divorce. The only reason you need is that you and your spouse cannot get along, and you see no way of settling your problems. The law calls this "irreconcilable differences."
Under new laws passed in 1999, there are three different types of spousal support, and each has a different purpose. A dissolution judgment must label the award (more than one type can be ordered in the same case) and include facts that show why the award is appropriate.
Your divorce judgment or spousal support judgment will say when spousal support ends. Depending on its purpose, support is sometimes ordered for a few years, sometimes until the spouse dies, and sometimes just until the spouse who gets support finds a job. Spousal support does not always end when the spouse who is getting support remarries.
Oregon has "no fault" divorce. The only reason you need is that you and your spouse cannot get along, and you see no way of settling your problems. The law calls this "irreconcilable differences."
No. Your spouse cannot stop you from getting a divorce. But your spouse can contest (disagree with you about) issues in the divorce, such as child custody and support, spousal support, and property division. This can delay the divorce. In some counties, your spouse can ask the judge to postpone your divorce and order both of you to see a counselor.
Summary Dissolution. "Summary" means without a hearing. This is for a dissolution case with limited issues. This may be used if all of the following statements are true for you:
Petitioner. Is the person who starts the court case by filing documents with the court.
Respondent. Is the person who answers the other party's court papers. If you were served with a petition and if you do not agree with ALL requests in the petition, you need to decide whether to file a "Response."Furthermore, if there are dependent children the Respondent is the person who answers the other parent's Petition to establish custody and parenting time under the statute for unmarried parents (ORS 109.103) and to establish child support. If you were served with such a Petition and if you do not agree with ALL requests in the Petition, you need to decide whether to file a "Response."
Response. Is a document that allows you to list your objections and to make requests. If you agree with everything in the Petition, you may not have to file a response.
Co-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. If both spouses want to file for dissolution (divorce) together and reach complete agreement regarding terms they request in the decree, this packet may be appropriate. Filing together as co-petitioners eliminates certain formalities such as needing to arrange to have documents served on the other spouse.
Legal Separation. A judgment of separation keeps intact a valid marriage but allows the parties to live apart, and may divide the parties' property, determine who owes debts, establish a parenting plan if there are children, and determine spousal and child support.
Paternity. Paternity ("fatherhood") may be established if the father signs and files a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (a statement that says he is the father) with the State Registrar of Vital Statistics. Paternity ("fatherhood") may also be established through the Oregon Child Support Program or through the courts. You may request that the Oregon Child Support Program establish paternity by filling out an Application for Services (Form #CSF-0574), and sending it to the address stated on the form.
Petition. Lists the items you are asking the court to rule on.
Judgment. Is the document that finalizes your case, and contains your rights and responsibilities.
Divorce. A divorce is a way of legally ending (dissolving) a marriage. After you have gone through all the steps in a divorce, you will get a divorce decree (also called a "Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage"), which is an order signed by a judge. The divorce judgment will usually state:
|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.