Family Law

Family Law

Divorce can be expensive. We believe in the ability to work through the divorce proceedings with as little conflict as possible. Our goal is to file an uncontested divorce, saving all parties time, money, and upset. An uncontested divorce means that the parties are in agreement on all major issues. We believe that the process can be handled in a cooperative manner and suggest that the forms be looked over by both parties when contemplating an uncontested divorce. For answers to more questions, check the Family Law FAQ Page

Free Information Packet

We’ve condensed all the information you’ll need to file an uncontested divorce in the State of Washington. This questionnaire is easier to start with then the entirely blank mandatory court forms, and will also provide us with all the necessary information to handle your case for a flat fee. It will also help explain the decisions you need to make during your divorce.You can download a printable version of the form below, or we will mail it to you for free, just contact us.

Divorce with Dependent Children

 

Divorce with NO Dependent Children

Divorce, Separation, or Anullment?

Divorce. In a divorce (dissolution of marriage) the court will terminate your marriage, divide your assets and debts, enter a parenting plan, provide for child support, and take care of other matters such as alimony and protective orders. There is only one ground for divorce in the State of Washington: The marriage is irretrievably broken. You do not have to explain why the marriage is broken, and the courts usually do not want to hear why it is broken. Consequently, it is not necessary to say anything bad about your spouse. This “no fault” procedure is designed to avoid unnecessary conflict. There is a mandatory 90 day waiting period between the time you commence your divorce and the time the court will grant your final decree.Legal Separation. A legal separation allows you to separate your financial affairs and live separately without ending the marriage. The court does all the same things as in a divorce except that the marriage is not terminated. It is important to understand that the division of property and debts in a legal separation is final. You cannot get a legal separation and go back later and re-divide the property when you get a divorce. There is no waiting period for a legal separation, but you cannot get a divorce for at least six months after your legal separation is granted.Annulment. You can get your marriage annulled only if there was something invalid about it at the time you got married. You will be granted a decree of invalidity (annulment) only if you can prove one of the required grounds.

Information Gathering

This is the most important step, and it is not difficult. The information you gather will assist the attorney in protecting you and your children and in saving you money. Without the correct information the attorney cannot answer your questions or prepare your court documents. You must include certain personal information or the court will not accept your papers.Property and Debts If you leave out a retirement plan, real estate, vehicle, bank account, or some other property, you may get a real shock later when you find out that your ex-spouse owns half of it! You must correctly describe all your property in order to make sure that you get what you want – even if you believe that it already belongs to you alone. If you do not list the debts you want your spouse to pay, you will not be able to force your spouse to pay them later.Dependent Children If you have dependent children, you must provide adequate information for the preparation of a parenting plan and a child support order (even if you do not want child support) or the court will not grant your divorce. Some people refuse to give income information because they do not want to pay child support and get a surprise when the state calculates the support due based upon an “imputed” income which is much higher than their actual income.Help Gathering Information The free information packet/questionnaire above is designed to help you list all your property, debts, and other information easily. For a free consultation or more information about the free packet, contact us.

Preparing Your Documents

The State of Washington has mandatory forms which are different from the forms used in any other state. If you do not use these mandatory forms, the clerk will refuse to file your papers and the judge will refuse to grant your divorce.The county clerk at any county courthouse in the State of Washington will sell you a copy of the mandatory forms or you can download a copy of the forms from the Web site for the office of the court administrator at dw.courts.wa.gov//.

Filing Your Papers

The Courthouse File To start your waiting period a file for your case must be opened at the county courthouse, and you must make your spouse a party to the court case. The attorney takes care of opening your court file by paying the clerk of the court the filing fee and filing your petition in the file.Joint Petition The simplest and least expensive way to make your spouse a party to the court case is have him or her sign a joint petition. If your spouse signs the petition, the 90 day waiting period begins as soon as the petition is filed in your court file. In other words, the 90 day waiting period begins after these three things happen:
    1. You sign the petition;
    2. Your spouse signs the petition;
    3. The petition is filed with the court
    4. If your spouse will sign the petition, you can skip the rest (the Summons) because it is not necessary to prepare a summons or serve the papers on your spouse.The Summons If your spouse is missing or refuses to sign the petition, things get a little more complicated. In order to make your spouse a party to the court case, you will have to attach a summons to the petition and have the summons and petition “served” on your spouse. In this case, the 90 day waiting period does not begin until the following three things happen:
      • you and the attorney (if you are using an attorney) sign the petition and the summons;
      • the summons and petition are filed in the court file;
      • a copy of the summons and petition are served on your spouse.
      Serving the Summons and Petition There are three ways to serve the summons and petition on your spouse.
      1. The first is by having a process server hand your spouse a copy of the summons and petition. This is called “personal service.”
      2. The second is by mailing the summons and petition by certified mail, but this cannot be done until after a judge has signed an order giving permission to use certified mail.
      3. The third method is to publish the summons in a newspaper, but this cannot be done until you have demonstrated to the court that you have looked for your spouse and have inquired of relative and friends who might know where he or she is. The courts are reluctant to allow service by certified mail or publication because there is no guarantee that your spouse has actually been notified of the fact that you are divorcing him or her. In addition, you may not get child support or other things you want because of the limitations of service by certified mail or publication.
      Once you have served a copy of the summons, you must file another document with the court as proof that the summons was served on your spouse. If you do not file this proof, the judge will not sign your papers at the end of the 90 day waiting period.
Proposed Parenting Plan If you have dependent children of this marriage, you will also have to prepare and file a proposed parenting plan on the mandatory forms. This contains your proposal regarding which of you the children should live with and when the children should visit the other parent. If your spouse is not signing a joint petition, you will also have to serve a copy of your proposed parenting plan on your spouse.

List of Fees

Uncontested Cases: The free information packet/questionnaire is a useful tool in helping you and your spouse work out an agreement. If your spouse is willing to sign the court papers (an uncontested case), we can usually handle your case for the following fees:
DivorceLegal SeparationAnnulmentModification
With Children$850$750$750$650
Without Children$750$650$650$500
Filing Fee$290$290$290$86
Splitting retirement benefits (QDRO): $500Public Assistance Hearings (Initial Paperwork): $150Presentment Fee for Decree: $30There is also a Public Assistance Hearing fee of $75 if either party is receiving Public Assistance, and there is a minor child involved.For this fee, the attorney will meet with you, prepare your court papers, file them at the court for you, and appear in court to finalize your divorce so that you do not have to.Your case can be handled through the mail and over the telephone for an additional $50.If your spouse will not sign the court documents, there will be additional fees depending on the situation. The additional fees will be explained at your free initial conference with the attorney. If your spouse makes any changes on the original documents, marking them up in any way, a $50 reprinting fee will be charged.