Washington State Divorce
Frequently Asked Questions
Washington State divorce law is complex and can be confusing especially while you are already dealing with the emotional impact of ending a relationship. Here are some of the most common questions clients asked of our attorneys. More than likely, the basic questions you are wondering about are answered below. If your question is not here, you may also want to download a copy of our Free Divorce Guide.
Select an attorney with real experience in family law, and who focuses their legal practice on representing family law clients. Select an attorney with a history of getting the results their clients want. Select an attorney that listens to you when you speak, and understands what you want. Interview your potential attorney, and make certain you are comfortable with them. Your personal comfort level with the attorney leads to a better working relationship and a better result in your case. A divorce requires a close working relationship for many months. You need an attorney whose opinions you can trust and rely upon. Hiring an attorney with an office in close proximity to where your case will be filed, or to where you live, will help to minimize costs.
The Washington State Legislature has adopted a statewide formula that sets child support. The formula takes into consideration the income of both parents and the number of children. You can use the Washington state support calculator to estimate child support. Remember the formula is only as accurate as the data put into the formula. The net income of both spouses is required to calculate the support. Net income can be manipulated. You may need legal help to determine the actual net income of both spouses. Read more about child support.
No one can truthfully tell you how much your divorce will actually cost. Even after being told the details of your case and the current agreements with your spouse, your attorney cannot control future behavior and changes in attitudes that can dramatically increase the cost. We can advise you of approximate amounts incurred in similar cases, but that will only be an estimate if the facts remain fixed. Possible contributing factors include: court costs, attorney’s fees, Guardian ad Litem fees (when children are involved in divorce), whether you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement on key issues, appraiser and accountant fees for complex property issues, special counseling costs if ordered by the court, and possibly your spouse’s attorney fees, if they are without funds.
Read more about controlling divorce fees and costs.
There is no formula for setting spousal support/alimony in Washington state divorce. Each judge can make their own ruling based upon the financial facts and needs presented to the court. The number of years of marriage, career histories, earning potentials of each spouse, and any special needs will be considered by the court. This is an area where you will need to work closely with your attorney. You have to make certain all the facts that will help you are properly presented to the court. If there are significant differences between you and your spouse regarding income, employment history, and the ability to work, we highly suggest you hire a lawyer to assist in determining the need for spousal support. Spousal support does not have the same safeguards as child support.
Morris-Sockle, PLLC will not represent both the husband and wife. Doing so creates an automatic conflict of interest. No lawyer can equally represent both sides of a contested situation. Even if there is an agreement in the beginning, disagreements can and do arise during the process. If the two spouses are certain they agree on all aspects and terms of the divorce, then we will represent one spouse, draft all of the documents as directed, and the other spouse can review the documents and sign them if they are still in full agreement. Attorneys at Morris-Sockle, PLLC will legally represent only one party in the divorce proceedings. If you have an amicable relationship with your (ex)spouse read more about self-represented divorce services.
Washington permits do-it-yourself divorces (Pro Se) where one or both parties represent themselves. In cases where child custody, child support and property division are not in dispute, many people are able to proceed without the assistance of an attorney. The required forms can be purchased from the county clerk’s office or found on-line. Even when the parties decide to do their divorce themselves, they must comply with the law and court rules in Washington state divorce. Legal representation is recommended where there is significant disagreement over custody, support, or complex property division issues.
The statutory mandatory waiting period for a divorce in Washington is 90 days after filing a petition with the court and serving the opposing party with the initial pleadings. If the parties are able to reach an agreement on all terms of the divorce (uncontested divorce), the court will grant the divorce after 90 days based upon the agreement. In a contested divorce, it is difficult to estimate how long a case will take to conclude. If the parties have not reached an agreement during the 90 day waiting period, the court will assign a trial date which is typically within one year. The parties are encouraged to continue to negotiate while waiting for the trial date. If an agreement is reached, the divorce can be granted before the trial. Most cases settle without a need for a trial.
Because the court will seek to maintain stability and continuity in the child(ren)’s life. To achieve this, the court must decide who can best care for and communicate with the child(ren) on a daily basis. The court considers which parent can best meet the emotional and physical needs of the child(ren) through the separation, divorce proceedings, and post-divorce. The court believes it is in the child’s best interest to grow up with the parenting influence of both the mother and the father. Even if the mother is technically awarded primary custody, a well-presented divorce case can award a father significant visitation and involvement in all aspects of the children’s lives.
Yes, however, it is mothers who are most often awarded primary custody of the children. In the past, women were nearly always given full custody, and many judges find it difficult to change their ways. The attorneys at Morris-Sockle, PLLC have experience fighting for and winning custody cases for fathers. There is a heavy burden of proof on the father, however, a well-presented case with good facts will prevail. There are more and more men asking for and receiving primary custody of their children. Courts are open to hearing these cases for good fathers and granting fathers custodial rights or increased visitation rights. The issue is truly what is in the best interest of the child(ren). There are also a growing number of cases where joint custody is granted.
It is a divorce in which neither person is required to, or allowed to, blame the other spouse for the breakdown of the marriage. The only basis for a no-fault divorce is “irreconcilable difference” or “irretrievable breakdown of marriage.” The court will grant the divorce, but will not assign blame. Marital misconduct is not considered by the court. Washington is a no-fault divorce state.
No-fault divorces are considered a more humane and realistic way to end a marriage. Spouses who are divorcing usually are suffering enough without adding more fuel to the emotional fires by trying to prove who did what to whom. With no-fault divorce the court does not get involved in the emotional issues involved in the marriage. The laws of no-fault divorce recognize human relationships are intricate and family law is complex. The courts acknowledge it is difficult to prove a marriage broke down solely because of what one person did. The court will only consider the issues and terms of the divorce, not the misconduct or reason for the divorce.
You can read the detailed information provided on this web site to assist military service members and their families. See our Military Divorce section. If you are active duty military you should consider discussing your marital problems with your commanding officer, and keep them informed of any significant changes at home and of any legal actions. You can contact the JAG office for advice on how to proceed in this jurisdiction. The JAG officer cannot represent you in a divorce, but they can provide helpful information and direction. You can also download a copy of our Free Divorce Guide for Military Families.