Frequently Asked Questions About Family Law
Deciding to file for divorce can be a hard decision. Once you do decide to file it is recommended that you consult with a divorce attorney to ensure you understand your rights, responsibilities, and options. An attorney can provide personalized advice based on your circumstances.
To begin a divorce proceeding you must prepare and file the necessary documents with the appropriate court. This typically includes a summons, a petition for dissolution of marriage, and potentially other documents depending on your situation.
After filing the petition with the appropriate court, you need to serve the divorce papers to your spouse. This can be done by hiring a professional process server or having someone over the age of 18 who is not involved in the case serve the papers.
After filing and serving the divorce papers your divorce has been started and you will have a court case number.
Remember, divorce laws can be complex, and the process can vary depending on your specific circumstances. It's important to consult with a qualified attorney who can provide you with personalized guidance throughout the divorce process.
In Washington State, the division of property in a divorce follows the principle of "equitable distribution." This means that the court aims to divide marital property in a fair and just manner, considering various factors rather than automatically splitting everything 50/50.
When determining who gets the house in a divorce, the court considers several factors, including:
- Community Property: Washington is a community property state. This means that property acquired during the marriage is generally considered community property, owned equally by both spouses, unless it can be proven otherwise. Separate property, which includes assets owned before the marriage or acquired through inheritance or gifts, may be excluded from division.
- Financial Contributions: The court considers each spouse's financial contributions to the acquisition, maintenance, and improvement of the property. This includes factors such as who paid the mortgage, made renovations, or contributed to the down payment.
- Custodial Parent: If there are children involved, the court may prioritize the stability and continuity of the children's living arrangements. The custodial parent (the parent with whom the children primarily reside) may be more likely to be awarded the marital home to provide stability for the children.
- Financial Capacity: The court takes into account the financial circumstances of each spouse, including their income, earning potential, and ability to maintain the property. If one spouse can afford to buy out the other's interest in the home, they may be more likely to be awarded the property.
- Agreements or Arrangements: If the spouses have a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement that addresses the division of property, including the marital home, the court will typically honor those agreements, as long as they are valid and enforceable.
To better understand how the specific circumstances of your case may influence the division of property, it is recommended to consult with a qualified divorce attorney who can provide personalized advice based on the details of your situation.
In Washington State, child custody is determined based on the best interests of the child. The court encourages parents to reach a mutually agreed-upon parenting plan that outlines custody and visitation arrangements. If parents cannot agree, the court will make decisions regarding child custody and visitation based on the child's best interests.
Here are some key points to consider regarding child custody in Washington State:
- Legal custody: Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make important decisions regarding the child's upbringing, including education, and healthcare. The court can award joint legal custody, where both parents share decision-making, or sole legal custody to one parent if it is deemed in the child's best interests.
- Physical custody: Physical custody refers to where the child resides. Similar to legal custody, the court can award joint physical custody, where the child spends significant time with both parents, or sole physical custody to one parent with visitation rights for the other parent.
- Parenting plan: A parenting plan is a detailed agreement that outlines custody and visitation schedules, decision-making authority, and other relevant factors. If parents can agree on a plan, they can submit it to the court for approval. If parents cannot agree, the court may require mediation or a custody evaluation to help determine the plan.
- Best interests of the child: When making custody decisions, the court considers various factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child. These factors may include the child's relationship with each parent, the child's preferences (considered based on their age and maturity), each parent's ability to provide for the child's needs, the child's emotional and physical well-being, and any history of domestic violence or substance abuse.
- Modification of custody: Child custody orders can be modified if there has been a substantial change in circumstances or if the current custody arrangement no longer serves the child's best interests. To modify a custody order, the parent seeking the modification must demonstrate that there has been a significant change warranting a new custody arrangement.
It's important to consult with a qualified family law attorney who is familiar with Washington State's custody laws and can provide guidance tailored to your specific circumstances. They can help you understand your rights, navigate the legal process, and advocate for the best interests of your child.
Washington State is not a strict "50/50" divorce state. Instead, it follows the principle of equitable distribution when dividing marital property in a divorce.
Equitable distribution means that the court aims to divide property in a fair and just manner, considering various factors. While an equal division of property (50/50) is often seen as a starting point, it is not always the final outcome. The court considers several factors to determine how property should be divided, including:
- Length of the marriage
- Financial contributions of each spouse during the marriage
- Non-financial contributions of each spouse during the marriage
- Each spouse's earning capacity and financial needs
- Each spouse's separate property and debts
- The existence of any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
- The best interests of any children involved
- Any other relevant factors that the court deems important
The court's primary goal is to ensure a fair and just division of property, rather than an automatic 50/50 split. The judge has discretion in weighing these factors and making a decision that they consider equitable based on the circumstances of the case.
It's important to consult with a qualified divorce attorney in Washington State to understand how these factors may apply to your specific situation and how they could impact the division of property in your divorce.