If you live in the Seattle or King County area and want help reaching agreements in your divorce, please contact Seattle divorce mediator Mark Weiss at (206) 622-6707.
Is it best to file with the court when starting a divorce? Likely not. Filing with the court makes you subject to the court’s rigid rules about when and how things should get done. A unilateral court filing can easily create unnecessary acrimony. Some options for reaching agreement may also become unavailable once you file—for example, some mortgage options that may be helpful for a successful settlement become unavailable. Unless a court filing is required to provide necessary safety protections or for tax filing purposes, we generally recommend delaying filing a divorce with the court until all options have been considered and the timing of filing is considered by both spouses.
Must I have grounds to dissolve my marriage? Washington is a “no fault” state. No specific grounds are required to end a marriage, so long as the marriage is irretrievably broken. The parties are legally unmarried (single) after a decree of dissolution of marriage has been entered by a Judge or Court Commissioner of the Superior Court. In an agreed divorce, the court’s role is essentially limited to ratifying agreements.
What is the difference between a legal separation and dissolution of marriage? The legal proceedings for a legal separation are similar to a dissolution of marriage. The same issues are addressed: spousal maintenance, property division, parenting, and child support. The primary differences are: (1) there is no waiting period for a legal separation, and (2) the spouses remain legally married after a legal separation. Legal separations can be converted to dissolutions of marriage after six months (in Washington).
Do unmarried couples have rights and obligations? Yes, even when not registered as domestic partners. For the many couples who choose a long-term committed relationships without marriage, there are legal considerations that flow from those relationships. Mediation is well-suited to help unmarried couples arrive at good solutions for their futures.
Do I have to be a Washington resident to file for divorce in Washington? One of the spouses must be a resident, or must be in the military service and stationed in Washington, in order to file in Washington. There is no specific time requirement. Even if you just arrived, your presence will be sufficient if you intend to permanently remain in Washington.
Who issues a divorce decree? Only the Superior Court can grant a dissolution of marriage decree. After Mediation, court approval of the required orders is normally just a formality.
Is a process server necessary? Process servers are common only in litigated divorces if cooperation is not expected. Even in those cases, your spouse can sign a “joinder” or an “acceptance of service” form to avoid the use of a process server. In mediated divorces, the paperwork is typically prepared such that serving papers would not even be contemplated.
What if I have needs between now and when the divorce is final? In a mediation, short-term agreements can be reached to address immediate needs. Commonly, those agreements address items such as logistics for moving into separate housing, how to tell the children about the divorce, residential arrangements, how bills and expenses will be paid, and any other agreement needed to address short-term questions. Because the result is reached by a constructive dialogue, these short-term agreements can also set the stage for making further agreements.
How important is information before reaching agreement? Transparency and good information is very important. You (and your spouse) should each have a good understanding of all factors that could impact your decisions, including the value or amount of all assets, debts, income, etc. You should also have an understanding about the effects of different choice points on your future. In mediation, transparency is critical, and ground rules typically require sharing all material financial information.
How long will a dissolution of marriage take? By law, a final decree ending a marriage cannot be entered until 90 days after filing or service of the papers, whichever occurs later. If you and your spouse agree on all issues, a Decree of Dissolution may be entered on the 91st day or later.
In Mediation, each couple makes its own decision as to when the filing is appropriate for them. One couple may decide to file for dissolution when they start the process; another couple may decide to delay filing until some or all agreements are reached.
Do I have to attend the parenting class? You do if you have children. Almost every county requires that parents take an approved parenting class as part of the dissolution of marriage. Most parents report that it is interesting and helps them understand what the children are going through. In some counties, including King County, your case cannot be completed without the parenting class.
Should I use a paralegal or document preparation service? We do not recommend it. Contrary to popular belief, there are no licenses for “paralegals.” While there are some certificate programs offered by colleges, anyone, regardless of background or education, can call himself or herself a “paralegal.” A “paralegal” is not the same as a paramedic. Paramedics are carefully trained and regulated and work under a doctor’s supervision. Paralegals may or may not be trained, may not be working under supervision of anyone, and may be preparing documents that are the legal equivalent of brain surgery. Some mistakes that a “paralegal” can create by improperly preparing documents can never be fixed; when a mistake can be fixed, it will cost more than doing it right first.
If you live in the Seattle or King County area and have want to work with your partner to address the issues in your divorce or separation, please contact Seattle divorce mediator Mark Weiss at (206) 622-6707.