In the state of Washington, our courts have their own set of legal terms and procedures that must be followed in order to legally end a relationship. Understanding these terms and steps will help you have a clear picture of what is happening at each stage of the process.
Who or What are “Parties” in a Divorce?
The parties to a divorce proceeding are the two people, usually husband and wife, who are dissolving their marriage. The person who files for divorce is the Petitioner. The person who responds to the petition for dissolution of marriage is the Respondent. Each party may have a Washington divorce lawyer represent them during the proceedings.
What are “Proceedings”?
The proceedings are formal legal activities, events and steps that must be followed during each phase of the divorce. They include filing the petition, responding to the petition, hearings, depositions, settlement mediation and trial.
The technically correct term for divorce or legally ending a marriage in Washington is: “Dissolution of Marriage”.
The process is started by either spouse (husband/wife) filing a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage”. This legal document must be correctly drafted and filed in the Superior Court in the proper county, usually where you reside. It is important to be sure that the documents are being filed in the correct court.
A copy of the filed Petition must also be “ served” on (officially given to) the other spouse, who must then formally respond (answer) in writing to the information in the petition.
Washington is a No-Fault Divorce state. The only “grounds” for dissolution of marriage in Washington is “Irreconcilable Breakdown of the Marital Relationship”. There is no need to claim or prove marital misconduct.
The divorce cannot be finalized until after a required 90-day waiting period has passed.
If the parties reach agreement on all the issues involved in the divorce and the proper documents are filed with the court, a judge will order the marriage dissolved, but not before 90 days after the filing of the petition.
If agreement cannot be achieved, the court will schedule a settlement conference or mediation to assist in reaching a compromise agreement. If the parties are not able to agree to all the terms of the divorce, the court will schedule a trial.
At the end of the proceeding the court will issue a “Decree of Dissolution of Marriage”. This document contains the final rulings of the court. Changing the terms of this decree requires a formal divorce modification.
What Are Temporary Orders?
The laws of Washington require a minimum 90-day waiting period from the date of filing the Petition before a divorce can be finalized. During the 90 day period the court will enter temporary orders. These court orders control temporary child custody and child visitation, child support, spousal support, and property & debt division. Temporary Orders can also be used to protect bank accounts, financial investments other assets.
The divorce can be finalized after 90 days if the parties reach an agreement on all the issues involved in the divorce. Most cases take more than 90 days to reach an agreement. The Temporary Orders stay in effect until the dissolution (divorce) is finalized. If you have to go to trial, the judge will decide on those things the parties have not been able to agree to. Any decisions made by the judge during the divorce process, and at the time of trial, will rely heavily on the Temporary Orders that have been in place since early in the process.
Temporary Orders are important and should not be taken lightly. They set the tone for the entire process on all the important issues involving the children and finances.
Important steps in the divorce process to understand:
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
- Service (of documents)
- Temporary Orders
- Settlement Conference/Mediation
- Decree of Dissolution of Marriage
- Divorce Modification
Our attorneys will listen to your goals and help guide you through this process while protecting your rights.
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