Getting a divorce could be difficult.
It can be extremely long, or short, depending on the circumstances. That could potentially add more pain and hassle to the already burden of separation. Fortunately, there’s a lot of information out there that can help you equip yourself and make a better understanding of the logistics of marriage dissolution. This can better prepare you for any issue that you may be dealing with along the way. Although a great step is to contact an experienced and caring attorney to help you figure out the steps and help you have a better grasp of your rights and the framework of things, please be reminded that anybody can represent themselves and file for a divorce. So the following are basic and important questions when you start processing for a divorce.
1. Do I really need a reason to have divorce?
Soriano Law: No! Washington is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce. There’s no need to prove a spouse was “at fault”, but only “irreconcilable differences” for the two of you. In other words, just prove that you no longer get along with each other. Another important note is, given your current situation, what would be the kind of divorce you will have. Is it going to be amicable? Contested? Cooperative? Collaborative? You may have an amicable one, but it will depend on how your partner will be able to work on this with you.
2. Where do I file it?
Soriano Law: This is indeed a basic question in having a divorce. It is important to determine what county you need to file in. It follows that you file where you live or where the respondent lives. However, your lawyer may be able to suggest if there other alternatives. Other factors other factors can be considered if either you or your spouse are on active military duty. It is suggested to consult with an attorney regarding this matter.
3. How do I file it? What documents are needed?
Soriano Law: Since there is no needed reason for a spouse to file for a divorce, you can file it at any time at your county following all the outlined requirements. You can file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The petition you are filing contains important data about you, your spouse and your children which are mandatory. There are petitions that contain requests for property division, spousal maintenance, child custody and child support. Once filed, you will receive a cause number for your case. Remember, all the requirements, and documents (which will be then be called pleadings) will be very crucial and the court will hold you responsible for its accuracy and completeness, so make sure you understand all of them. You can always ask a lawyer if you have questions about any of these documents.
The court filing fee is $280 for a dissolution of marriage (divorce). Other costs may include photocopying and delivery service fees. If you can not afford this fee, you may fill out a special form that will request the court to waive the filing fee.
4. How to serve?
Soriano Law: After you file your papers, you must have them properly served on (delivered to) the other party. You must arrange for service and make sure your server delivers the papers properly. You can hire a process server or have a person over 18 years of age to serve for you. You cannot serve the papers on another party yourself. If you do not do service properly, the court orders could be set aside, even years later. After service is completed, you must file proof of service with the court. This is a crucial step in starting your case. Make sure to follow the rules. If you have any questions, please contact an attorney.
5. I have children. What do I do?
Soriano Law: It couldn’t be emphasized enough that children are important in all these ordeal. Before filing for a divorce here in Washington, make sure the state has jurisdiction over your children. Otherwise, parenting plan or custody order cannot be filed. Talk to a lawyer ASAP to make sure about the jurisdiction especially on children. If Washington has indeed jurisdiction, file child support worksheet and financial declaration with copies of pay stubs and tax returns for last 2 years. You may also talk to your lawyer about filing Temporary Family Law Orders while the case is on trial and/or until it ends. These are orders during situations when you need a written order stating how visits with children will be, and/or whom may use what property (i.e. car or stay in the household pending the divorce). Also this will protect you if there’s potential threats from a spouse on harassment or keeping him/her to take them out of state.
6. How long is the divorce process?
Soriano Law: 90 days. Divorces can take longer than 90 days if parties cannot agree on the final orders given.
7. What happens after filing and service of documents to other person?
Soriano Law: The other party has 20 days to respond after date of service. If out of state, the court gives 60 days to file a response to the petition for dissolution. While waiting for a response, you can file a separate motion for temporary orders. You will need to follow local court rules since each county vary in procedure. If you have any questions, please contact an attorney.
These are basic questions when starting a divorce process. Again, anybody can represent themselves and file for a divorce. But if you are unsure and still can’t grasp about all there is to know about the law, the procedure, etc., it will be best to hire an attorney. Soriano Law advocates for your right, and not just able to counsel you but also able to explain to you everything clearer and with care.