Divorce is a big decision and once you decide to divorce, what do you do next?
Here in Washington, we have a “no fault” divorce law. This means that if just one of you wants a divorce, even if this isn’t a mutual decision, eventually the court will grant the divorce.
If you want to streamline the process and you have the means to do so, hiring a lawyer, whether full representation or to work with you in a supporting role, will definitely help.
How to choose an attorney can feel daunting. Often, the best place to start is ask a trusted friend or look online at https://collaborativeprofessionalsofwashington.org, https://collaborativedivorcewashington.com/, https://whatcomcollaborativelaw.com or https://kingcountycollab.org
A Collaboratively trained lawyer will do their best to keep you out of court, which should be a last resort.
To start the legal process for your divorce, you and your spouse file a Petition for Divorce. You can file as Co-Petitioners, or if needed, your spouse can sign the Joinder provision, so no one is surprised by a stranger showing up at their door with divorce papers.
What happens once the Petition for Divorce is filed? You can expect the following:
- The clock on the minimum 90-day waiting period starts (you have more time as needed, but this is the soonest you can finalize your divorce after you file.)
- The court automatically issues a Temporary Restraining Order. This Temporary Restraining Order tells the parties that unless both agree in writing, neither person is to make any major changes to your financial situation or the arrangements regarding care for the children.
- If you have children, you will need to attend a mandatory parenting seminar.
Next, take a deep breath since the first step is behind you!
Legally, to finalize your divorce, you will need to make sure that you have fairly and equitably divided your assets and debts and determined whether spousal support (also called maintenance or alimony) should be included.
If you have minor children you will need a parenting plan and a child support order with supporting child support worksheets.
Sometime parties use a Separation Agreement or Property Settlement Agreement. This document has the details of your divorce and isn’t filed with the court. This is also a binding agreement. Lastly, the court signs your Findings and Conclusions about a Marriage and the Final Divorce Order.
You are legally divorced once the court signs your final divorce order.
After the divorce, depending on the types of assets you divided, you may need additional documents to transfer property or divide retirement accounts. Your Collaboratively trained attorney can guide you through these final steps.
I have been practicing law since 1988. I started my career as a King County public defender. I handled hundreds of cases both criminal and civil. Trial was the traditional way to resolve a case and in some cases, that was the best process. I excelled in the courtroom and felt the thrill of winning. That changed when I started doing family law and saw the degree of emotional and financial damage litigation can have on families.