The divorce process, no matter the reason, is complex and emotional for both parties and involves the division of assets and deciding on children’s custody. Understanding the legal process can be overwhelming, but it prepares you for dissolution.
In Tri-Cities, WA, the dissolution process can vary depending on the circumstances of your case. This post will provide an overview of the process in Tri-Cities, WA, including grounds for divorce, filing, division of property, child custody and support, and available options for mediation and litigation.
What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Tri-Cities, WA
Washington is a no-fault state, meaning that the only ground for divorce is irreconcilable differences. If you file for divorce, the state will grant it if you are legally married, meet the necessary residency requirements, and follow the correct divorce process. The no-fault approach makes divorce less adversarial, allowing you to move on with your lives more quickly.
The Steps of Filing for Divorce
You can file for divorce in Tri-Cities, WA using four basic steps:
1. File a Petition for Divorce
Once you decide to end your marriage, you should file a Petition for Divorce with the Superior Court stating that you need a divorce. The petition initiates the divorce process and must include the basic information of both parties and the grounds for divorce, which in this case are irreconcilable differences.
2. Filing the Paperwork with the Court
Once you complete the petition, you must file it with the court and pay the required fees. The Court filing fee changes from time to time and the Court Clerk should be contacted to get the current filing fee cost when you are ready to file. You may also qualify for the filing fee to be waived and a Court Clerk can help with the processes in determining if you qualify for a fee waiver. After filing, the Court will assign you a case number to always reference moving forward.
3. Serving Your Spouse
Once the Court accepts your filings, you must have copies to serve your spouse, the respondent. A third party must personally serve your spouse with the Petition for Divorce and Summons. You may contact a process server, your local Sheriff’s Department, or a third party that you trust to serve the Petition for Divorce and Summons. After personal service of the Petition for Divorce and Summons to your spouse the person serving must complete and file Proof of Personal Service with the Court Clerk.
4. Signing and Filing the Final Divorce Paperwork
After the respondent responds to the petition, you will wait for 90 days before you can finalize your divorce. If you and your spouse have an agreement on your divorce, then final paperwork outlining your agreement can be completed and signed by both parties. After an agreement has been reached a final Court hearing must be scheduled to have the Judge approve and sign your final Divorce Decree that is outlining your agreement. Once the court approves the decree, the divorce is final.
The steps can be more if you are filing for a contested divorce. It can also take longer if your spouse has objections against any aspects of your petition. Common issues likely to affect the length of your divorce include division of community assets and debts. Child support, child custody issues, and spousal support.
The divorce process can be exhausting physically and emotionally. It’s advisable to seek legal advice from a Tri-Cities Family Law attorney to protect your rights.
Division of Property
Washington is a community property state, meaning that all property and debts acquired by either party during marriage are divided equally during a divorce. Community property includes cars, homes, bank accounts, investments, and retirement accounts.
During divorces, the court makes an equitable distribution when dividing the community property. In this case, the court makes a fair division of property which may not always be an equal 50-50 split. Even with this principle, the court considers several factors when determining how to divide the property, including:
- Length of the marriage
- Earning capacity of each spouse
- Each spouses’ financial resources
- The needs of the involved children, and
- Any other factor the court may deem relevant
In most cases, any separate property or assets acquired before the marriage by inheritance or gift during the marriage is not considered community property and is not subject to division during a divorce. However, if you lived together before marriage, any property you acquired during that time may become community property.
Child Custody and Support
If children are involved in your divorce, the court determines custody based on the child’s best interest. When determining custody, the court considers factors such as:
- The child(ren)’s relationship with each parent
- The child(ren)’s physical and emotional needs
- Each parent’s home environment
- Stability of the child(ren)
Depending on the above factors, the court may award joint custody, where both parents share the legal and physical custody of the child, or sole custody, where one parent has the legal and physical custody of the child. The court may also award joint legal custody (joint decision-making) and physical custody, where one parent may have primary physical custody, and the other parent may have regular visitations.
The court will also consider the parenting plan, which is a document that outlines the specific details of the child(ren)’s care, such as where the child(ren) will live, means of transport, and how you will make decisions about the child(ren)’s welfare. You must attend a parenting education class to help them understand the impact of the divorce on the kids before a Court will approve a Final Parenting Plan.
Hiring a Divorce Attorney in Tri-Cities, Washington
Depending on the nature of your divorce, it can be long and tiring, and hiring a Tri-Cities divorce attorney can be a valuable asset during the process. An attorney provides you with legal advice and representation, helps you negotiate a settlement, and guides you through the process.
When hiring a divorce attorney, research and find a lawyer specializing in divorce cases with a good reputation. You can seek recommendations from friends or family. Alternatively, you can search online for reviews of local attorneys.
Betancourt Law Is Here to Help You
If you’re going through a divorce in Tri-Cities, Washington, Betancourt Law is the best choice for your legal representation. Our team of experienced family law attorneys is dedicated to providing our clients with the highest level of legal service and support throughout the process.
At Betancourt Law, we understand that every divorce is unique, so we work closely with our clients to understand their specific needs and goals. We will provide you with personalized legal advice and representation and guide you through the divorce.
Our attorneys deeply understand the divorce laws in Washington, including the community property and child custody laws, and we will work hard to protect your rights and interests.
We will also use our negotiation skills to reach a settlement that is in your best interests, and if necessary, we will represent you in court. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward a brighter future.