What Constitutes a No-Fault Divorce in Bellevue, Washington?

December 8, 2022

Divorce is becoming more common, but it would seem that many people don’t understand what causes are acceptable for filing their divorce petition in Bellevue, Washington. Let’s take a look at the grounds for divorce, what an at-fault divorce is, what a no-fault divorce is, and which one you can file in Bellevue, Washington.

What Are the Grounds for Divorce? 

When someone petitions the court to end their marriage, the court requires the spouse who filed to state a legal ground for ending the marriage. In other words, when you apply for a divorce, you must give a specific reason for wanting a divorce. Some states allow filing for an at-fault divorce, while others specifically only allow no-fault divorces.

At-fault divorce is where the spouse who is petitioning for a divorce claims their spouse did something to cause the breakdown of the marriage. Fault grounds vary from state to state, but the most common include adultery, mental or physical abuse, and drug or alcohol addiction.

A no-fault divorce allows people to end the marriage without revealing the private details of what happened to lead them to divorce. Typically, when someone files for a no-fault divorce in Bellevue, the reason cited is irreconcilable differences. Basically, the couple is saying they cannot get along anymore, and there is no chance of getting back together in the future. One of the best things about no-fault divorce in Bellevue is that neither spouse has to place blame on the other person for the problems they had in their marriage.

Is a Fault Divorce an Option in Washington? 

Washington is an exclusively no-fault divorce state, and the courts don’t want to know what either spouse did that led to the dissolution of the marriage. If the person who filed for divorce applied for a no-fault divorce and says there were irreconcilable differences, the court will typically grant the request for the divorce quickly.

Usually, one spouse testifying that the marriage is broken beyond all repair is enough to have the divorce granted. However, if the other spouse says that there isn’t a breakdown in the marriage, the courts may delay the process. When the spouses disagree on the status of their marriage, the court could:

  • Send the case to family court.
  • Send the couple for counseling.
  • Require a report from the counselor regarding the sessions with the couple.

Following those steps may seem like prolonging the inevitable, but the counseling and family court process won’t last more than 60 days. If the couple returns to the judge after 60 days without having reconciled, the judge must grant them a divorce. If, on the other hand, the couple reconciles after their counseling session, the judge can dismiss the divorce case.

The No-Fault Divorce Process in Bellevue Explained

The initial process for filing a divorce in Washington is relatively simple. The person wanting the divorce files a complaint for the dissolution of the marriage with the court in the county where they reside. The complaint must include the following information about the marriage:

  • The last known address for both spouses.
  • Where and when they get married.
  • Whether either of them is pregnant at the time of the filing.
  • The names and ages of all the children born of the marriage.
  • A statement detailing when the couple separated.
  • A statement detailing the specific arrangements for the residential schedule and the decision-making for the children.
  • A detailed statement of how the children’s financial needs will be met and whether either party will pay any alimony.
  • A statement regarding separate and community property and how that property will be divided between the couple.

Along with these details of the marriage and complaint, there must be proof that you meet the state’s residency requirements. In other words, one or both of you must be a resident of the state of Washington. You don’t have to be a resident of the state for a specific length of time, but it must be proven that Washington is the primary state of residence and that you intend to remain in the state after the divorce. Proof of this requirement can be your driver’s license, change of address forms from the post office, or your voter registration card.

Once you’ve proven you meet the requirements to petition for a divorce in Washington, you must adhere to the mandatory cooling-off period before your case will be heard. Washington’s cooling-off period is 90 days from when one party serves the other with papers. This waiting period was designed to allow people to try to reconcile their differences, but if that isn’t possible, it should be enough time to work out their divorce agreement details and the details of their parenting plan.

At the end of the process, there is an option to settle and create a divorce settlement agreement or go to trial. The settlement agreement is part of an uncontested divorce, and the trial occurs in a contested divorce. When the parties work together, it’s the most efficient way to accomplish their goals of getting a divorce with as few issues as possible. It gives the couple a chance to work out the details of their property division, child support, child custody, and other issues relevant to their divorce, and when the judge approves their agreement, the divorce will be ruled final.

Another reason for working together is that it saves money. A hearing costs each person more in legal fees, and those costs can often motivate people to negotiate an agreement. A trial takes time and routinely results in the same outcome as the negotiation process that the couple handled on their own.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce

We’ve already learned that Washington is a no-fault divorce state, but what does it mean if the divorce is contested or uncontested? The divorce is considered uncontested if both parties are agreeable and choose not to pursue litigation. An uncontested divorce allows you to iron out the specifics of your settlement agreement. Each spouse will sign the final pleadings, finalizing the divorce after the mandatory 91 days of waiting in Washington.

Most uncontested divorce cases take a few months to be finalized. There is a 30-day service period, and then the court dockets can be slow. A contested case, on the other hand, can take much longer. It could take as little as 90 days or as long as a couple of years to resolve the case based on how complex your issue is, what the court docket is like, and how everyone feels about continuing the litigation process.

Issues that can’t be resolved in mediation sessions may lead to a contested divorce case. Both parties should retain legal counsel to advise them along the path to having a finalized divorce. The attorneys will file motions requesting temporary orders regarding parenting plans, financial support, and living arrangements until the court makes its final rulings.

When dealing with a contested divorce, you want to choose an attorney that is knowledgeable in family law, has experience handling contested divorces, and who you are confident will manage your case appropriately. Your choice of an attorney is an essential choice because they will guide you to understanding the process as well as understanding your rights and how to ensure your settlement is equitable as well as fitting for your family. You should be comfortable communicating with your attorney because they will be the person you go to when you have questions regarding the process.

Mediation may not solve the issues, but it can help minimize what you must present to a judge. The state of Washington requires a settlement conference before going into an actual court trial. If you settle outside of court, you will have more control over the proceedings.

If you want to have a say in how decisions are made for your family, it’s strongly advised that you attempt to settle out of court if at all possible. The judge won’t know your family or the particulars of your situation the way that you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse do. Settling out of court will save time, money, and stress.

If you and your spouse have found it to be impossible to settle out of court through the many steps of getting to finalization, the next step is to go to court. The family court judge will hear arguments from you both about why you should have things the way you want them rather than the way your spouse wants them. After the judge hears arguments, decisions will be made on behalf of the people involved, keeping the children’s best interest in mind. Trials should be avoided whenever possible because they are long, costly, emotionally draining, and are rarely ended in a way that is satisfactory to both people involved in the process.

Hiring a Bellevue Divorce Attorney to Help You and Your Family

Washington is a no-fault divorce state, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your divorce process will be uncontested. That simply means that the court isn’t interested in all the reasons you and your spouse are ending your marriage. If you’re lucky, your no-fault divorce in Bellevue will also be an uncontested divorce. That would mean that the two of you agree to divorce and are agreeable to a settlement without involving the judge.

If you’re about to pursue a divorce or if your spouse has filed a petition for divorce, you should choose an experienced, qualified attorney to assist you with your case. Contact the Aberdeen Law Firm to discuss your case today!

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