Washington is a “no‑fault” divorce state and thus you do not have to prove specific grounds in order to obtain a divorce. One party must simply state to the Court that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”. There is also no requirement of actual physical separation before a spouse may file his/her Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
The first step is the preparation and filing of the Petition, which is a fairly simple document that, for the most part, just states the names and ages of the parties and their children (if any), the date and place of marriage and separation, and general requests for relief (e.g. division of assets, spousal maintenance, a parenting plan, a child support order, attorney fees, etc). Parties must then wait at least 90 days following service of the Petition on the other party to enter agreed final orders. Our experience indicates a normal interval of about 95 days for uncontested dissolutions and up to 12 months for contested dissolutions.
Sometimes immediate orders are needed at the very outset of proceedings so that both parties know their respective rights and responsibilities regarding parenting, property, and finances until discovery has been completed and final settlement documents are negotiated. The Court can issue temporary orders regarding nearly any issue that may arise in a dissolution case, a motion for temporary orders can be filed at any time after the Petition has been filed, and multiple hearings may be scheduled if necessary throughout the proceedings. Again however, these orders are only temporary and they simply govern your respective rights while the dissolution is pending, with the orders terminating when the final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage is entered by the Court at the end of your case.
After temporary orders have been obtained we usually engage in the discovery process to obtain information and documentation regarding all of the community and separate assets and debts, parenting, and any other relevant issues of concern. And after discovery has been completed to the satisfaction of both parties, we then engage in informal or formal settlement talks. Settlement is always preferable to trial, but whether a case settles through informal settlement talks or formal mediation prior to trial depends on the issues involved and the personalities of the parties. Mediation is purely voluntary and thus no one can be forced to accept a settlement, with resolution via trial always an option.
The facts surrounding your divorce are unique so be careful about well-meaning advice from friends or family. We will work together to carefully analyze your family’s particular circumstances to ensure appropriate resolution.