How long does it take to get a divorce?

In the State of Washington, there is a mandatory waiting period of 90 days between the time a divorce action is filed and the time it is finalized. Even though this means it takes a minimum of 90 days to obtain a divorce, it may take much longer. Your divorce will be resolved in one of two ways.

Most often a settlement is reached, wherein spouses reach agreement through a negotiation process. Most divorces are resolved through negotiation, generally within 90 days of filing the Petition.

Divorce can also be litigated, ending in a trial. At trial, a judge decides all outstanding issues. In King County, trials are usually scheduled to occur between ten and twelve months after the date of the filing of the Petition. Most cases are resolved within six to nine months of filing. Thus, an average divorce can take as little as 90 days to resolve or as long as twelve months.

What is a legal separation?

A Legal Separation is similar to a divorce in that all of the same issues must be resolved, including division of property and liabilities, making provision for support and/or maintenance and establishing a residential schedule for the child(ren). Since a Legal Separation encompasses all of the same complicated issues as a Divorce, it takes just as long to complete (except there is no ninety day waiting period). The main difference is that once a Decree of Legal Separation is obtained, you and your spouse will still be legally married. While financially separate, neither you nor your spouse can remarry without converting the Legal Separation to a Divorce.

Parties elect to seek a Legal Separation in lieu of Divorce for various reasons. There are those, for instance, who have religious objections to divorce. Others hope to retain important benefits such as health insurance by retaining their married status. Whether a Legal Separation is the right decision for you depends on your own personal and financial requirements.

How much child support will I get or pay?

In the State of Washington, the amount of child support is determined by you and your spouse's combined net monthly income, the number of children from your relationship and their ages. The more the parents earn and the more children they have, the greater the amount of child support. Child support is relatively easy to calculate whenever both parents' incomes are readily determinable. An attorney should be able to provide a rough estimate in a matter of minutes. However, child support calculations can be intricate when factors such as self-employment, overtime and shared residential schedules are involved. We are experienced in resolving the more complicated facets of establishing child support, which often arise in this sensitive area of family law.

What does the term "community property" mean?

Washington is a "community property" state, which means that all property accumulated during a marriage is “jointly” owned by the spouses. The usual exceptions are property that is acquired by gift, inheritance, or the increase in the value of property owned by one spouse prior to marriage and kept separate during marriage. Community property does not necessarily mean 50/50 ownership. Property divisions pursuant to a divorce do not have to be equal so long as they are fair. Fairness can require that a spouse with a much lower earning capacity receive greater than a 50% share of the community property of the marriage.

How can I change my child's residential schedule?

After a residential schedule is put in place, there are times when a change in jobs or residence status requires a reappraisal of custody or visitation arrangements. As children grow older, their needs and desires may change to such a degree that a residential schedule that once worked well no longer does. Sometimes a parent with a stable background develops problems with drugs or alcohol or will manifest other problems, which raise concerns about the safety of a child in that parent's care. These changes may have a strong impact on a child. In such cases, a Modification of the Parenting Plan may be appropriate.

A child's residential schedule can be modified by agreement of the parties. In situations where an agreement is not feasible, modifications to a Final Parenting Plan are only possible in limited circumstances. A parent seeking a modification usually must show that there is a significant change in the non-moving parent's or child's circumstances occurring since the time of the previous court order which justifies a change in the child's primary residence. A parent must also frequently show that the current residential schedule is actively detrimental to a child.

Courts are reluctant to change a child's residential schedule absent substantial justification, so a parent should carefully consider his or her options before trying to modify child custody or visitation arrangements.

It is especially important to decide whether to file a Major or Minor Modification of the Parenting Plan. It is much easier to file a Minor Modification of a Parenting Plan, allowing the non-residential parent up to ninety overnight visitations with the parties' child per year. We can help you determine if modification is possible before taking any significant legal steps. There are few things worse than spending large amounts of money and creating conflict only to have your case dismissed by the court.

What is "Maintenance?"

In Washington State, “spousal” support or alimony is known as “maintenance.” Whether or not maintenance is appropriate in a given marriage depends on the relative earnings of the parties, the length of the marriage and other factors. In general, maintenance is awarded in longer term marriages, where the parties have a significant disparity in earnings. The amount and length of maintenance varies widely depending on the particular circumstances of the parties.


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