You probably did not enter your marriage dreaming of the day when your relationship with your spouse would deteriorate and you would begin to consider divorce. You likely approached your marriage with the mindset that the relationship would be permanent. But part of being human is the inability to see into the future.
Whether you are thinking about divorce because of a change in life circumstances or because you’ve grown apart, the decision has many consequences and deserves careful consideration. If you have come to the point where you believe your marriage is beyond repair, it may be time to work through this difficult decision.
Reasons for Divorce in Washington
You may have various reasons for considering divorce. Normally, getting to this place in a relationship isn’t a result of one factor, although that can be the case occasionally. Reasons for considering divorce can include:
- Physical or emotional abuse
- Living in a long-term state of separation
- Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage
In these instances, you may find yourself in a place where you become convinced the only path forward for you is divorce. Since divorce is not a one-size-fits-all proceeding, it can take time to work through the issues that must be decided and you may find, even in the case of an uncontested divorce, that it’s beneficial to seek legal advice from a lawyer who has experience working through divorce cases.
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What Does Irretrievably Broken Mean?
Essentially this phrase refers to a divorce in which neither side wishes to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage. When you and your spouse agree that you longer share similar goals, no longer feel love for one another, or simply no longer wish to be married, you have grounds under Washington law for a no-fault divorce.
When you seek a divorce based on an irretrievable breakdown of or irreconcilable differences in your marriage, you and your spouse must agree that the differences that exist between you are permanent and that your marriage is broken beyond repair.
Considerations in the Divorce Process in Washington
Divorce will disrupt your life, hurt your kids, and will have financial consequences. You’ll need to think through many details together. These details will not become easier to work through, so there’s no reason to put it off. There are several aspects you’ll need to be prepared to consider. These items will either be decided by you and your spouse, or by the court.
Division of Property in Washington
You and your spouse probably share a fair amount of property and assets. From your home, cars, bank accounts, and even debt, there will be many considerations of how property should be divided. In Washington, the court will require that joint property be divided fairly.
Under Washington law, property acquired during a marriage is considered “community property,” or joint property, regardless of who paid for it. Conversely, the term “separate property” is used to refer to possessions or real estate that was owned before the marriage. Separate property can also be used to refer to gifts or inheritance that were received during the marriage.
Dividing community and separate property can get complicated and, if not resolved by you and your spouse, may require legal help to determine the fair and just division of assets.
The Court May Decide
When the court makes its final determination on whether the property has been divided in a way that is just, it uses several factors such as how long the couple was married, employment history, and how much property the couple holds. Your age, health condition, education level, and work prospects will likely be additional factors. The court can also determine if one spouse will be able to stay in the home to prevent the children from having to move.
Bear in mind that the divorce could have implications for the tax status of each spouse. Property divisions made by the court are final so it’s to your benefit, even if the divorce is uncontested, to acquire the services of an attorney who can answer any questions you may have about property division or debt.
Child Custody and Visitation Arrangements
When a divorce occurs because marriage is irretrievably broken, the separating parents can agree on the parenting and living arrangements for their kids. The state of Washington maintains that the well-being of kids is best served when the children have plenty of time with both parents.
The state of Washington maintains that parents share responsibility for raising their kids. As part of your divorce proceedings, the court will make two separate determinations related to the custody of your kids.
Getting Legal Custody in Washington
Legal custody refers to important responsibilities and rights about making significant decisions that affect your kids. These can include health care and educational decisions, religious education, and what extracurricular activities your kids will enjoy. In most cases, both parents share legal custody.
Physical custody addresses which parent the children will live with and when. Joint custody means the children live with both parents for a significant amount of time. That doesn’t mean the time is necessarily divided in half. Though parents share joint custody, a primary custodial parent will normally be named. Sole custody means that the children are with one of the parents most of the time and visit the other parent according to an agreed-upon schedule.
Because this is such an important part of the divorce process and, because the court considers the best interests of children as paramount, it’s good to work with your spouse to develop a plan to be sure the kids’ needs are taken care of. This includes working through whom they will live with, how visitations will work, and how you’ll work to parent together when problems or discipline issues arise.
Child Support in Washington
Under Washington state law, both parents are obligated to financially support their kids. In addition, under law, the court is required to set a child support amount. So, while you and your spouse should approach the divorce process with a financial agreement in mind, you won’t be allowed to opt out of court-ordered child support.
Factors that should be planned for are things such as childcare, transportation, health insurance, arrangements for college expenses, and so forth. Although are state guidelines that govern how child support is calculated, the court has broad discretion over the matter.
Spousal Maintenance in Washington
Sometimes referred to as alimony, spousal maintenance, or spousal support, is simply financial support provided by one spouse to another. Normally, these arrangements are temporary and are paid from the spouse who has the greater financial resources to the spouse who has less.
As with child support, the court has a great deal of discretion over the decision of how much and for how long maintenance will be paid. The general motivation for this is to help the spouse with the greater financial need help gain financial independence. Thus, the temporary nature of spousal support.
How Does the Irretrievably Broken Divorce Process Work in Washington?
In Washington, divorce is formally known as “dissolution of marriage.” For the court to issue a Decree of Dissolution, you must be legally married. Washington does not recognize common law marriage or domestic partnerships.
Under state law in Washington, only one spouse must be convinced to declare that the marriage is irretrievably broken for the court to grant the divorce. You may file for divorce in the county where you live. You can also file for your divorce in Lincoln County even if neither of you lives there, however, you both must agree to this.
Once the Petition for irretrievably broken marriage is filed, you must wait for 90-days before the Decree of Dissolution is entered. The 90-day count begins once the petition has been filed and served to the other spouse. If both spouses signed the original petition, then the count begins immediately.
If you and your spouse agree on all the issues, there should be no delay in the process. If disputes arise the process can take longer and will become more costly. Sometimes it happens that you will agree with your spouse on most issues. For the remaining issues to be settled without conflict, you might want to consider mediation.
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A divorce mediator is often an attorney or mental health provider. They are trained to be neutral parties to help resolve divorce disputes. When divorcing spouses are each represented by their own lawyer, mediation is not uncommon. But a mediator can also be helpful when spouses want a resolution they feel is mutually beneficial.
When Is the Divorce Final?
All the issues related to property and financial division, and child custody arrangements must be settled before the divorce proceedings can be ended. In an uncontested divorce, this normally happens without any sort of trial. If during the divorce, differences arise that are not solved mutually, a trial date will be set for the court to make the final decisions.
The court can issue the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage once all disputes have been resolved. For proceedings where children were involved, the court will also require that the child support order and parenting plan be in place and signed. Once the court signs the dissolution, the marriage is legally ended.
Consult with an Experienced Bellevue Divorce Lawyer
There’s no need to delay when you’ve come to the place in your relationship where divorce is your best option. Certainly, this was no easy decision and the divorce lawyers at the Aberdeen Law Firm want to help answer any questions you have and help this difficult time go smoothly. Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.