The Divorce Process
Ending a marriage is a difficult time in your life. In addition to all the emotions, you must consider the legal implications of your decision. At Kirkland Family Law, we have been successfully helping clients through the divorce process for more than 10 years. I provide comprehensive family law representation and offer honest advice combined with responsive service.
When you come in for your free initial consultation, I will discuss your background and specific legal circumstances in depth. After hearing your story, I will give you an overview of the divorce process and can present you with likely outcomes based on my many years of experience. I am prepared to defend your rights in mediation, arbitration or a courtroom trial.
Find Answers to Common Questions About Divorce
If the parties are married, they can file a petition for dissolution (divorce), or if they want to be legally separated, they can file for a legal separation.
The process is initiated by filing a Summons and Petition for Divorce and then by serving the other party with the paperwork. The petition sets forth the date of marriage, the date of separation, the name and ages of the minor children, and requests for relief. Typically, the relief requested includes asking the court to grant a divorce, enter a parenting plan and child support order (if there are minor children), divide the assets and liabilities, award maintenance, and award attorney fees and costs.
At the beginning of a dissolution case, the parties can enter into an agreed order, or go to court and file a motion for a temporary order. Temporary orders address various issues such as temporary parenting plan, temporary child support, temporary occupation of a home, temporary use of vehicles, child support, maintenance and attorney fees. The temporary order allows the parties to have “ground rules” during the dissolution process. The temporary orders will remain in effect until they are modified, or until the dissolution is finalized.
If minor children are involved, the parties will have to have a final parenting plan as part of their final orders. The parenting plan provides for a residential schedule, decision-making and dispute resolution. The parties will also have to enter a final child support order. The child support order will require the non-custodial parent to pay child support. Child support in the State of Washington is based upon the parents’ income, and the number and ages of the children. There is a Washington State Child Support Schedule that is used in all cases to determine the appropriate level of child support. The child support order will also cover matters such as health insurance for the minor children, payment of uninsured medical expenses, tax deductions for the children, payment of daycare expenses, and transportation expenses and long distance transportation expenses.
During the divorce process the parties will have to divide their assets. It is important to have a list of all of the assets that the parties own. It may be necessary to hire expert appraisers to appraise real property, or to appraise a business. Maintenance is often an issue in many cases where there is a difference in the income of the parties or where one party has not worked for a substantial period of time.
Many divorce cases are negotiated by the parties with the help of their attorney. If the parties through their attorney are unable to negotiate a settlement, they are required to engage in an alternate dispute resolution before trial. Most parties will agree to a mutually acceptable mediator. Ultimately, if mediation is not successful the parties will have to either agree to arbitration or have a trial before a superior court judge.
In Washington State, if a couple have lived together in a long-term stable relationship, the assets and debts acquired during their relationship can be divided. Intimate long-term stable relationships are referred to as committed intimate relationships. In committed intimate relationships, the court can divide the assets and liabilities of the parties.
On December 6, 2012, it became legal for same-sex couples to become legally married. In addition, any same-sex couples who entered into domestic partnerships prior to December 6, 2012, and were both under the age of 62 as of June 30, 2014, are now considered legally married.
If you are currently a same-sex married couple and wish to end your marriage, the divorce process is the same for you as it is for any other couple legally married in Washington State.
An experienced attorney can help you navigate the divorce process and provide strategies and advice throughout the proceedings. Many areas of the law such as formulating a parenting plan or calculating child support and maintenance, and dividing property are complicated and require sound legal advice. An experienced attorney can help draft paperwork and forcefully argue your case if you have to appear in court. An attorney can also prepare for and negotiate a settlement at mediation or arbitration.
Having an attorney as your advocate and advisor will ensure your legal rights are protected.
Most attorneys charge by the hour. The number of hours it will take to resolve a case depends upon the complexity of the case and then ability of the parties to reach an agreement.
Generally, a retainer (advance fee deposit) is required. The amount of the retainer varies depending on the nature of the case. The hourly fees are deducted from the retainer each month.
In addition to the attorney’s fees, the client may also be responsible for out of pocket costs such as filing fees, copy costs, appraisals, experts and mediator’s fees.