Frequently Asked Questions About Filing For Divorce in Bellevue
Making important decisions about your family's future can be difficult -- and learning about the legal avenues that can make those changes happen can also be hard. This page of frequently asked questions is here to help those who are learning about Seattle family law issues related to the divorce process.
Do you have a question that isn't addressed below? Contact us today to talk to an experienced Seattle family law attorney.
- Page 1
What if my spouse wants a divorce, but I don’t?
It often happens that one person in a marriage wants a divorce, but the other partner doesn’t. Perhaps there’s an objection for family reasons, religious beliefs, or maybe that partner just isn’t ready to move on. When only one partner in the relationship is ready for divorce, it’s important to understand the divorce laws in Washington State.
Washington No-Fault Divorce Laws
The state of Washington is a no-fault divorce state. This means, there is no legal need to prove that one spouse is responsible for the breakdown of the marriage or to find a “fault” with the relationship. A claim of “irreconcilable differences” by either party is enough for a court to agree to end the marriage.
In short, if one person wants out of a marriage, he is legally able to do so, whether the other person agrees or not. This is a freedom that hasn’t always been the case—prior to 1970, no-fault divorce laws didn’t exist in the United States. While a few states also maintain a fault-based divorce system, every state has since enacted some form of no-fault divorce. As a purely no-fault state, the state of Washington does not recognize fault in divorce proceedings at all, so claims and evidence of infidelity, abuse, or other issues aren’t needed to get divorced.
If you don’t want a divorce but your spouse does, you have few options if your spouse has made up his mind. You may try to talk through your issues as a couple, and you may consider marriage counseling or legal separation for a period of time. What’s most important, however, is not to be legally uncooperative.
High-conflict divorces are often time-consuming and expensive, and being the source of conflict is unlikely to make your spouse change his mind about ending the relationship. The emotional and psychological toll that a drawn-out and challenging divorce takes can be extremely high, not just for you and your spouse, but also for your family, especially if you have children.
However, you also don’t have to give up your legal rights in a divorce in the name of expediency. For example, you have a right to your fair share of marital property. Since Washington is a community property state, you typically have a right to half of all assets (and debts) that either partner has gained since the marriage. These can include:
- Cash, checking, and savings accounts
- Retirement accounts such as an IRA, 401(k), and pensions
- Investments, including stocks, bonds, profit-sharing plans, and mutual funds
- Life insurance policies
- Real estate, including the family home, vacation homes, and rental properties
There are many other kinds of assets to consider during the asset division phase of a divorce that you may have a right to, depending on your specific financial situation. Your divorce attorney will be able to review the facts of your case and help you negotiate with your spouse to obtain a fair settlement—or represent you in court if your spouse is being unreasonable.
Get Help With Your Divorce Today
Divorce can be legally complicated and emotionally challenging, but you don’t have to face it alone. If your spouse has asked for a divorce or has already filed, now is the time to seek legal help from a divorce attorney to discuss your options for moving forward.
To speak to an experienced divorce attorney about your situation, call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny. To arrange a private consultation with a legal professional at our Bellevue office, call us, or use our contact form to send an email.
Where can I file for divorce in Washington state?
When it’s time for a divorce, the question of jurisdiction can be a big one, especially if you and your spouse have already split up and no longer share a home. It’s important to know where to file, what’s involved, and how to get started.
Where to File Your Divorce Paperwork
At the start of any divorce, you need to file paperwork with an appropriate county court. You may choose to file in the county that either you or your spouse reside in, such as through the office of the King County or Snohomish County Court Clerk. You also have the option of filing for divorce in Lincoln County no matter where you live in Washington. Lincoln County is a unique divorce venue in Washington, as everything must be filed via postal mail there—no court appearances are required in Lincoln County.
If you have a choice of counties to file in, it’s worth consulting with your attorney before you make a final decision. Since divorces are handled on a county-by-county basis, each jurisdiction can make its own rules and laws about how marriages are dissolved, and there could be advantages or disadvantages for you depending on which county you pick.
How to Get Started
There are a few steps to take before you and your attorney file paperwork with the county. Once you’re ready to begin, there is a legal process to follow that is generally the same no matter what county you’re in. You’ll need to:
- Complete your divorce paperwork. In King County, the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage form will be your starting point. You’ll also need to fill out a Confidential Information form and complete the Notice About a Marriage or Domestic Partnership, also known as a summons, and a few other additional documents that your attorney can help you with.
- Legally serve the summons to your spouse. This document is the official notice to your spouse that you are filing for divorce. Broadly speaking, it cites the conditions of the divorce, including assets, child support, spousal support, and child custody. Your spouse has 20 days to reply, either by accepting or contesting the terms you’ve offered.
If your divorce is uncontested, the court will grant your dissolution of marriage after a 90-day waiting period. If your spouse contests your terms, you may enter into court-ordered mediation, so you and your spouse can work out an agreement that works for the both of you. Arbitration is another possibility, where you appear before an arbitrator who will make a binding ruling. If you still can’t come to terms, then you may need to appear before the court for a trial, where a judge will make a final ruling.
Trials can be time-consuming, as well as emotionally and financially draining, so in many cases it may be in your best interest to avoid trial, if possible. However, because you have certain legal rights in a divorce, it may be necessary to take things to court.
Get Legal Help With Your Divorce
An experienced divorce attorney is one of your greatest allies during your divorce. She will advise you of your rights and explain your legal options, help you with your paperwork, and represent you during mediation, arbitration, or a divorce trial.
The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny has been serving Washington families for decades. Every divorce is unique, and whether you are dealing with a high-conflict situation, extensive assets, or a later-life divorce, we are here to represent you when you need experienced legal help. To arrange a private consultation in our Bellevue office about your divorce situation, call us, or use our contact form to send us an email.
Is Washington a no-fault divorce state?
Divorce can be a confusing and stressful time for everyone, and there are many misconceptions about the terms “fault” and “no-fault” in the state of Washington. If you’re considering a divorce, it’s important to understand these terms and how they affect your divorce.
Fault Versus No-Fault Divorce in Washington
The first no-fault divorce law was enacted in 1970 by the state of California. Since then, every state in the union has recognized the benefits of no-fault divorce and has adopted some form of no-fault divorce law, and that includes Washington. There are some states that also maintain the option for a more traditional fault-based divorce; in those states, fault-based divorces may have an impact on spousal support (alimony) or other issues, depending on the local laws. Fault-based divorce is becoming less common across the nation, however, as a no-fault divorce is often simply faster, easier, and cheaper.
A no-fault divorce provides a freedom that a traditional fault-based divorce does not. No-fault divorce laws mean there is no legal need to make a claim of wrong-doing by your spouse. With a no-fault divorce, a marriage can be terminated at any time by either partner, and it’s not necessary to show evidence that the contract of marriage has been breached in some way. Thus, if either partner thinks that the marriage is irreparably damaged at any time, a legal divorce is possible for that reason alone.
The state of Washington, like many other states, is purely a no-fault divorce state. It does not offer a fault-based divorce at all.
Beginning a Washington State Divorce
To begin your no-fault divorce in the state of Washington, you’ll need to complete a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, as well as some additional paperwork. You may fill out and file this paperwork yourself, but a divorce attorney can help ensure that everything is correct and that you aren’t accidentally giving away your legal rights.
If you and your spouse are residents of King County, your petition and other paperwork need to be filed with the King County Superior Court; otherwise, you may file for your divorce in the county that either you or your spouse live in. After your paperwork is filed, you’ll have to legally serve both the petition and a summons to your spouse.
There are specific rules for legal service regarding who may deliver the papers and how they must be delivered. Typically, they must be delivered in person, unless you have permission from the court to do otherwise; further, you cannot usually deliver them yourself. You may ask a friend to deliver the papers for free, but often the better option is to use a commercial service that specializes in this type of legal service. When in doubt, talk to your attorney about what would be your best legal option with regards to how to serve your spouse. Once papers have been served, your spouse has as long as thirty days to decide whether to contest the terms of the divorce.
If your spouse agrees to your terms and follows the instructions on the papers, a ninety-day waiting period begins, after which the court will grant your request for dissolution and you will be legally divorced. If your spouse contests the terms of your petition, the process may take longer, as mediation may be required to negotiate terms that you both find acceptable. If mediation fails, a trial may be necessary, which can take up to a year or longer.
Get Help With Your Divorce
Getting a divorce can be a lot to handle, but you don’t have to do it on your own. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to help you with the entire process from beginning to end, so that you can focus on moving forward into a new chapter of your life.
If you have questions about your divorce, the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny is here to help you. To arrange a private consultation to discuss your divorce situation in our Bellevue office, please call us, or use our contact form to send an email today.
What is a civil annulment, and how does it differ from a religious annulment?
When you consider ending your marriage, divorce is often the most common solution. However, there is another way you can legally end your marriage—through an annulment. This legal procedure cancels a marriage and legally declares that it did not exist and was not valid. There are two types of annulment—civil and religious—and you may wish for one or both, depending on your personal needs and situation. If you choose an annulment over a divorce, it’s important to know the difference between the two types and how to get legal help.
Civil Annulments in Washington State
In the state of Washington, a civil annulment is usually reserved for special circumstances, as it is a more powerful legal option than divorce. Like a divorce, a civil annulment will terminate a marriage. However, unlike divorce, the annulment will also invalidate the marriage entirely as though it never happened.
Washington is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that either partner can initiate a divorce without needing a reason other than believing that the marriage is irreparable. However, an annulment must have statutory legal grounds to be granted, or a divorce is probably the better legal option. Some of the reasons the court may grant a civil annulment include:
- One or both parties were underage. In Washington, you must be 18 years old to get married or 17 with parental consent and a petition for special circumstances.
- Multiple spouses. Bigamy (having more than one spouse) is not legal under Washington law and is grounds for annulment.
- Close relations. Incestuous marriages are not permitted and may be annulled.
- Mental incompetence. If a spouse was determined to be mentally incompetent at the time of marriage because she was intoxicated, incapacitated, or mentally ill, she may not have been in a state to legally consent, and the marriage may be invalidated.
- Under duress. Coercion, through threats, blackmail, or force, is grounds for annulment.
- Fraudulent activity. If a spouse lied about an essential fact that would have influenced whether the marriage would have taken place, including past criminal history, sexually transmitted diseases, or certain other issues, the marriage may be determined as fraudulent and, thereby, annulled.
To attain an annulment, a Petition to Invalidate (Annul) Marriage form is needed from the Washington State Court. Since many marriages that are annulment end within the first year, there may be little need for asset division or child custody and support, but for a longer marriage annulment, there are state rules that can help with this process. Your attorney can assist you with the form and any supporting evidence you may need to make your case, as well as offer advice on the next legal steps during and after the annulment process.
Religious Annulments in Washington State
A religious annulment is a choice made by some people when their beliefs or religion disfavor or disallow divorce entirely. This process is not a part of the court system but, rather, a part of the church or institution to which you belong. However, it serves a similar purpose in that a religious annulment of a marriage typically decrees that the marriage was invalid from the beginning. In many cases, this allows you the freedom to re-marry in the future, depending on the policies of your religious institution.
To obtain a religious annulment, it’s common that you first obtain a civil annulment, but you’ll need to check with your church or religious leaders for details on what the requirements are and how to begin the process. In the Catholic Church, it’s common for a tribunal to have the final say, and it’s common for religious counseling to be required as a part of the process.
Legal Help With Marriage Annulments
If you have further questions about annulment or divorce and need help, the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny is here to provide the answers you need. Our experienced family law attorneys understand the difficult time you’re going through, and we will be there to help you every step of the way. Please call us, or use the contact form to send an email and arrange a private consultation in our Bellevue office today.
What forms do I need to fill out in a Washington divorce?
On a purely legal level, marriage and divorce are both matters of paperwork. At a time in your life that’s often full of complex and highly-charged emotions, the technical procedure required to get started with a divorce can seem overwhelming and confusing. It’s important to understand the paperwork needed to get a divorce, including the official forms and other documents that you’ll want to have ready.
The Forms You Need for a Divorce in Washington
There are multiple pieces of paperwork and documents you need to prepare for your divorce. While all are important, there are several key forms that must be filed in order to initiate the divorce. Here are some of the most important forms you may need:
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This is one of the longer forms you’ll need to fill out. It includes information about when and where you were married, information indicating that the court has jurisdiction over the marriage, whether you have children, marital debts and assets, spousal and child support, custody, and a formal request to dissolve the marriage. You can also use this form to change your name as a part of the divorce.
- Confidential Information. This form contains information not to be filed in the public record but is still necessary for the divorce. The only way that your spouse or his attorney can see the information contained on the CI form is by court order. It mainly asks about issues related to health and safety, including any restraining or protective orders—especially those that affect children. There is also an addendum form that may be required.
- Summons. The summons form, or Notice about a Marriage or Domestic Partnership form, is a two-page document that gets served to your spouse in order to begin the divorce proceedings. It notifies him that you have started an action to ask the court to end your marriage. This form is also used for ending a domestic partnership or engaging in a legal separation. Your spouse typically has twenty days to respond, unless he was served out of state, in which case the deadline is extended to sixty days.
There are other forms that may be required, including a vital statistics form. There is also additional paperwork if you’re requesting a restraining order or if you have children with your spouse. Your divorce attorney will be able to help you select which forms are necessary, how to fill them out, and how to file them.
In addition to filling out the right forms, you may also need to spend some time compiling some additional information to include with these forms. Financial paperwork such as credit card and bank statements, bills, records of debt such as loan or mortgage documents, retirement plan information, and deeds or titles to real property such as a home or a car may be needed. If your divorce involved domestic violence, you’ll want to compile medical records, police reports, logs of 9-1-1 calls, and other evidence of the situation.
If your spouse is the one who filed for divorce and you received a summons and a petition, the summons will include directions about how to reply. Typically, this reply is with a form called the “Response to Petition about a Marriage,” and is available, as are the other forms, on the website of the Washington State Courts.
Get Legal Help for Your Divorce
Legal divorce paperwork can be confusing, but you don’t have to face it alone. An experienced divorce attorney will be familiar with all of the necessary forms and can help you every step of the way.
To get the legal help you need with your divorce, the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny is here for you. Reach out to us by phone, or send us an email via our contact form to arrange a private consultation with an experienced and caring attorney in our Bellevue office.
Is legal separation required before a divorce?
When people are considering a divorce, one of the first questions they have is about whether they need to go through the legal separation process first. Because there are many misconceptions and myths surrounding legal separation and divorce, it’s important to know the difference between the two and whether you really need to go through a separation before a divorce.
Legal Separation Versus Divorce
In the state of Washington, legal separation and divorce are actually very similar—but there are a few key differences, including:
- You cannot marry someone else. When you’re legally separated in Washington, you are still technically married in the eyes of the state. This means you cannot get re-married if you enter a relationship with someone else unless you proceed to a full divorce first.
- You must wait six months for a divorce. When you go through a divorce, there is a 90-day waiting period before the decree of divorce can be issued. When you legally separate, you must remain so for at least six months before the court will accept a conversion to divorce.
- Legal separation is not a divorce. The name itself matters to some people for moral or family reasons, religious beliefs, or personal preference. Some people or religions have a preference to avoid divorce. Legal separation allows a way for some people to go their separate ways without ever officially being “divorced.”
- Legal separation may let you keep insurance. When you get divorced, most insurance policies (such as health insurance) won’t let someone who isn’t married stay on a family policy. By contrast, many policies allow legally separated partners to remain on a shared policy. It’s important to check with your insurance agent or insurer about this.
The procedures for a legal separation are nearly identical to those of a divorce. The same legal statute in the Washington Revised Code applies to both, and the same standards of asset division are followed. That is, alimony is calculated the same way, parenting plans for child custody are formulated in the same way, and any community property is divided up equally, just as with a divorce. The paperwork filed with the court is also almost identical.
Separation Before Divorce
You do not need to legally separate before a divorce. In fact, it may be against your own best interests to do so—many, if not most, legal separations end in divorce anyway. In most situations, a legal separation prolongs the process of starting your new life, since you must wait at least six months to convert a separation to a divorce.
Some couples choose to use this time to engage in marriage counseling or other therapy and attempt to reconcile, under the logic that a six-month deadline provides some incentive to work things out. After all, the decree of separation can be reversed if both parties agree and file a motion with the court. On the other hand, it’s also just as easy to convert the separation into a divorce because the legal separation already has laid the groundwork for the divorce, and both parties have likely been living as though divorced during that time.
Legal Help With a Separation or Divorce
Even if you choose legal separation instead of divorce, it’s still a good idea to have an attorney on your side. Remember that asset division, child custody, and spousal support are all negotiated as a part of legal separation. Should you wish to transition to a divorce after the six-month waiting period is up, you’ll already have an attorney who is familiar with your situation to help protect your rights and ensure that you get your fair share of marital property.
If you have questions or concerns about your legal separation, the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny is here to help you. To arrange a private consultation in our Bellevue offices, please contact us by phone, or use our contact form to send an email today.
Do I need a lawyer to create a separation agreement in Washington?
In the state of Washington, the court permits couples who wish to legally separate to do so without filing for a divorce. This option is available for those who may not wish to engage in a formal divorce for any number of reasons, including financial concerns, personal or religious objections to divorce, concerns for the children, or if the couple is unsure about whether they’re ready to divorce at all.
If you’re thinking about a legal separation in Washington, here’s what you should know about the process, including the advantages and disadvantages of separation versus divorce, whether you need a lawyer’s help to create your separation agreement, and how to get legal help with a separation or divorce.
Advantages of Legal Separation
The process for a legal separation is nearly identical to the process for a divorce. In a legal separation, you file a petition with the court that is similar to a divorce petition. Since Washington is a community property state with specific rules about the division of assets acquired by either partner during a marriage, dividing up your marital property (including debts) will also be required as a part of that process, just like in a divorce. Partners may come to a mutual agreement about what’s fair or may rely on the court’s help in splitting the marital assets fairly.
Much like with a divorce, it will also be necessary to make arrangements for the children in your separation agreement, including a parenting plan. It should include who will maintain physical and legal custody of the children, visitation rights, and plans for child support payments.
Why Legally Separate Instead of Divorce
The key difference is that after the legal separation has been filed, in the eyes of the law, the couple remains legally married and may not divorce until six months have passed. This can allow both partners time to disentangle their lives from the other and make financial arrangements, find housing, and work through asset division. After the six months have passed, the separation may be transitioned into a divorce by either partner by filing a petition with the court. Some couples choose to use the six months to work on aspects of their relationship so they may reconcile, in which case the separation can be ended without needing to go through the legal process of re-marrying.
Creating a Separation Agreement
Many people wonder if they can create a separation agreement on their own, without involving an attorney, and the answer is yes. The state of Washington does not require a lawyer’s help to create a legal separation agreement, and the forms are available online through the website of the Washington Courts.
However, keep in mind that it may not be in your best interests to sign a legal separation agreement without the advice of an attorney. Your separation agreement is considered a contract, and you want to protect your rights. Remember, the terms of your legal separation are almost exactly like those of a divorce—the biggest difference being only that after a legal separation, you cannot remarry without first obtaining an actual divorce. Your attorney can help you make sure that the terms of your separation agreement are fair and you’re receiving your due share, especially when there are significant assets at stake.
A major advantage to having an attorney help with your separation agreement is if you and your ex-partner do decide to go ahead with the divorce. After the six-month waiting period is up, you’ll already have an attorney on your side who knows you and is familiar with your situation, ready to help you with your unique family needs. On the other hand, if you and your partner reconcile, your attorney will be able to reverse the separation with a minimum of hassle, saving you time and headache.
Get Legal Help for a Separation Agreement
The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny has decades of family law experience and is dedicated to helping families like yours move forward into a new chapter of their lives after a separation or divorce. Our office is conveniently located in Bellevue, so please call us, or click the contact link to arrange a private consultation with an attorney who can help you today.
Do I need a restraining order as a part of my divorce?
A restraining order is often a point of confusion for people facing a divorce. There are different types of restraining orders available to use, depending on the situation. All of them are court orders, in that they’re authorized and granted by a court of law and are enforceable as such. If you’re considering a divorce, it’s important to know the most common types of restraining orders, when they might be necessary, and what they can and cannot do for you during your divorce.
Temporary Family Law Orders
A temporary family law order is usually the type of restraining order most people use during divorce, and it encompasses many areas not covered by the other kinds of court orders. Unlike a domestic violence protection order, it does not require violence or the threat of violence in order to be filed.
A family law order may require the respondent (the person whom the order is filed against) to vacate the family home, or it may allow you to collect personal property from the home. It can also:
- Divide up property
- Grant use of a vehicle
- Make child custody arrangements or changes
- Require child support payments
- Ensure that regular household expenses are covered
A key component of a temporary family law order is that it can protect your property during the divorce. It’s common for spouses to try and hide assets during a divorce in an attempt to deny a divorcing partner his fair share of the marital property, but a family law order can work to prevent that from happening.
Using this type of order, you can temporarily stop your spouse from selling, transferring, or otherwise disposing of any property during the divorce. It can also prevent your spouse from changing any insurance plans you may have, including medical, auto, property, and life insurance policies. This helps ensure that premium payments are kept up to date to avoid “accidental” cancellations that may be an attempt to deny you benefits or prevent you from receiving your rightful share during the asset division phase of the divorce.
Domestic Violence Protection Orders
A domestic violence protection order is only used when domestic violence is an issue, and it can be used to make the respondent leave a shared home or bar him from entering the victim’s residence; it can allow the victim to retrieve personal effects from the home; or it can grant the use of a vehicle. A domestic violence protection order can also force the respondent into counseling, and it may require the respondent to temporarily surrender firearms or other dangerous weapons to law enforcement. It is more limited in scope than a family law order but may be granted more quickly by the court.
Violation of a domestic violence protection order will lead to the arrest of the respondent, which may end in charges of contempt of court, a misdemeanor, or a felony, depending on the circumstances.
A no-contact order is designed to protect victims of repeated domestic violence when the criminal defendant has been released before a trial, and there is a risk of further violence or harm. This type of order is typically shorter-lived and serves primarily to protect victims from further violence during an ongoing criminal case.
Get Legal Help With Your Restraining Order
If you’re concerned about physical safety, child custody arrangements, access to your property, or the risk of your spouse hiding assets during your divorce, a restraining order may be what you need to protect yourself. Your lawyer will be able to advise you about what’s right for you and your family, so that you can make the best choice.
If you need legal help during your divorce, the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny is here to assist you. To arrange a private consultation in our Bellevue office, please reach out by phone, or use the contact form on this page to send an email today.
What should I do when I’ve been served divorce papers?
Being served with divorce papers can be a jarring event, whether you were expecting it or not. You may be confused and uncertain about what your next steps should be. Knowing what to do after you’ve received a petition for divorce can help alleviate some of the stress and worry about how to proceed.
What Does Being Served Mean?
When someone initiates a legal complaint against you, such as a lawsuit or a divorce, the act of delivering the paperwork to you is formally known as “service of process.” In the state of Washington, there are certain rules over who may serve legal papers, but it’s most common that a private fee-based process server is used or someone from the county sheriff’s office.
When served paperwork for a divorce, you’re actually receiving the following two documents:
- The Summons. A summons is the legal document that formally tells you there is a legal action in place against you and grants the court the power to hear the case. The form contains information specific to your case, including the case number and the time in which you have to respond.
- Petition for Dissolution of Divorce. The petition will include information such as the name the people involved in the complaint (you and your spouse), the legal claim being made, and the desired outcome or relief that your spouse is asking for, including any demands for specific assets and alimony. It also should make clear the consequences for not responding in a timely fashion.
Even though it may be difficult, take the time to read through the papers, so you understand the demands of your partner. Then contact a divorce attorney who can answer any questions you have about the process and help you make your next move.
Can I Refuse Service?
Refusing service is almost always counterproductive and will likely hurt your case. Washington also makes it very easy for papers to be served, so you won’t be able to avoid them forever. Even if you refuse to take the papers from the hands of a process server, the fact that you have been verbally notified of service is usually enough for the state of Washington to allow the petition to proceed, with or without your involvement. Even if you’re actively evading the process servers, the court may opt to allow your spouse to instead file service through alternative methods, including by mail or even in the newspaper. Choosing not to participate in the legal process by avoiding service will likely result in a default judgement against you. This means that the demands of your spouse may be fully granted by the court and will be legally enforceable, whether you like it or not.
How Long Do I Have to Respond?
In the state of Washington, you typically have 20 days to reply to the petition and summons with a legal answer. The clock begins from the date you received service. However, it’s always wise to read the paperwork you receive thoroughly, as it should state the legal timeframe that you have to respond. Your attorney will help you begin your legal response immediately to make sure that you stay within the specified deadline.
What’s in a Legal Answer to a Divorce Petition?
Your legal answer is an acknowledgement that you received the divorce petition (and the summons) as well as whether you agree with the terms and conditions proposed by your spouse. You’ll address each demand, paragraph by paragraph. This is often done with a simple list of checkboxes, indicating your acceptance or denial, or a request for further information before you make a decision. You will also need to make a brief supporting statement explaining your reasons for each demand that you deny, as well as specify any counter-demands that you have.
Get Legal Help With Your Divorce
Some people try to address the divorce process alone, but a family lawyer can help you through it. She can answer your questions, help you with your response, and see you through trial, if your divorce ends up contested.
If you’ve been served divorce papers and don’t know where to turn, contact the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny. Call or use the contact form to schedule a private consultation in our Bellevue office today.
How does a no-fault divorce impact the way property is divided?
All states now recognize some form of no-fault divorce, although some also maintain fault-based divorces as a legal option. However, Washington is considered a “pure” no-fault state. This means, you don’t need a reason to file for divorce other than that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
Courts in Washington do not need, and will not consider, any sort of accusation of wrongdoing by a spouse when considering the petition for divorce at all. Pure no-fault means that Washington only recognizes no-fault divorces. The positive aspect is that unlike a traditional “fault” divorce, either party can file for divorce at any time without proof of wrongdoing by a partner. As long as the correct legal procedures are followed during the divorce process, the court will grant the dissolution of marriage, regardless of what the other partner claims.
How Assets Are Divided in a Washington Divorce
Washington is a community property state, which means that generally, any assets or debts that occurred after the date of marriage are owned equally by both parties. Any assets or debts that belonged to an individual before the marriage are considered separate property that still belongs only to the original owner.
You may be able to negotiate an agreement with your spouse with the specifics of property ownership and submit it to the court. However, if negotiations fail, the court will step in to help take care of it.
When assets are split by the court, community property is typically divided equally between partners, including assets as well as debts. However, in cases where a fifty-fifty division is unfair or unwarranted, the court has the legal latitude to make a different arrangement. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW 26.09.080) states that the court will make a decision that is “just and equitable” and balance the financial situation of each divorcing spouse, but that doesn’t necessarily mean equal in dollar amounts. The court will make its decision based on the following factors:
- The nature and extent of both community and separate property
- The length of the marriage
- The financial situation of each spouse after assets are divided
The court may consider other factors as well, depending on the specific circumstances of your divorce. In certain situations, the court may even include separate property in its decision, although this is relatively rare—separate property usually stays with the original owner. Inheritances or gifts given solely to one partner also remain with that partner, as well, although there are exceptions. When separate property has been “commingled” with community property such that the two become indistinguishable, the court will consider the separate property as community property for purposes of asset division.
For shorter-lived marriages, the court will look less at an equal division of assets and more at putting each partner back in a financial situation that’s similar to the way things were before the marriage. However, since Washington is a pure no-fault state, the one thing the court will not consider is marital misconduct during asset division.
We Can Help You
Before the court must step in and guide asset division, you may consider enlisting the services of a divorce mediator to help you. If you and your spouse can come to a mutual agreement about asset division outside the courtroom, the process can be much faster, and it will save money, too.
Do you have questions about asset division during your divorce, mediation, or another divorce-related issue and need legal help? The attorneys at The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny are here for you, and we have decades of experience handling cases like these. Reach out today by calling us, or click the contact link on this page to arrange a private consultation in our Bellevue office.
Are there any benefits to being the first to file for divorce?
Even though your relationship has reached its end, you may be dragging your feet about being the first to file for divorce. You may have heard divorce horror stories from family or friends and are sitting on the fence, thinking that you should just wait for your partner to get the ball rolling. Maybe you think it’ll be easier if the paperwork is started by your partner first. Or maybe you’re just scared about the future.
For most divorces, there is little advantage to being the first to file, especially if you and your spouse both agree that the split is for the best. But if it could turn messy, there are a few advantages that make filing first worth thinking about.
Filing First Means Being Mentally and Financially Prepared
One of the big advantages to filing first is simply this: by taking the initiative, you are taking control of your life. It signals that you’re ready to move on, and you’re not going to wait around for your ex to make the first move. If your relationship has been a poor or abusive situation for you or the kids, it can be truly empowering to take the first step.
Filing first also means that you won’t be surprised or caught off guard by your spouse handing you the paperwork. You will have the time you need to think about your long-term legal strategy for the divorce process because you won’t need to scramble to meet a deadline to respond. You will also give yourself extra time to plan for any of the major life changes that a divorce can cause.
You Get to Speak First in Court
When you file for divorce first, you will be the first to present your case before the court. This means that the judge will get to hear you speak, listen to your side of the story, and look at any evidence you have before it’s your partner’s turn. Although the court will treat both parties equally in the eyes of the law, some people feel that this can help their case, as going first can be a confidence booster.
It May Mean a Financial Advantage
By being the first to file, you may be able to shorten the time that your ex has to try and hide any assets from the court. This can be a big help if you think he might try to deprive you of your fair share of community property. Vengeful spouses can sometimes try and drain joint bank accounts, sell property, or disappear with cash or other assets if they believe a divorce is coming. Make sure that you know the warning signs that your spouse may be hiding something from you, and speak to your attorney about it as soon as possible.
Being the first to file also means that you’ll have the time to put aside assets of your own in a legal, safe manner that ensures you’ll be able to support yourself adequately, pay for legal counsel, and cover any other expenses that may arise until the divorce is finalized.
Get Legal Help for Your Divorce
The biggest advantage of filing first may be that you’ll be able to take the time you need to find the right legal team to help you through your divorce. Your attorney will be your legal guide and support throughout the entire divorce process, so it’s worth spending a little time shopping around. Don’t be afraid to speak to more than one attorney or firm, and ask plenty of questions to make sure your lawyer will be a good fit for you and your situation.
The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny serves clients of all kinds for their divorce and other family law needs. When you’re ready to talk to an experienced legal professional about your family situation, we would be honored to serve you. Please call us to arrange a consultation in our Bellevue office.
Can my husband sell or remodel the house after we divorce?
Yes. If you and your husband both decide that the family home should stay in his possession, then he will be able to sell or remodel the house in the future without your approval. Of course, if you wish to give up possession of the home, but not your legal rights to it, this can be done during divorce negotiation.
Let’s say that your husband is keeping the home because it is closer to Ballard High School and is more convenient for the children. However, the house belonged to a former member of your family, and you do not want to let it out of your possession permanently. In this case, you should make sure that you preserve your legal rights to the property in the final Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA).
Here are a few things you should consider while drafting your MSA:
- Exclusive possession. Generally speaking, whoever takes possession of the house will usually expect exclusive decision-making power as to who lives there and what is done to the building and land. However, they may relinquish some control if both partners continue to pay the mortgage, taxes, or insurance on the property.
- Joint ownership. If you and your husband both want to retain some ownership of the house, your MSA should clearly outline who is responsible for maintenance, cleaning, landscaping, and general upkeep of the property. If a tree limb falls in the back yard and damages the pool, who will pay for repairs? If your windows need to be replaced will you split the cost evenly, or will the “tenant” spouse pay more?
- Financial implications. While you and your spouse may split the property, only one of you will be able to claim its tax benefits, such as the mortgage interest rate deduction. Consider the future: will your children inherit the home, or will it be sold when they are grown? If the property is sold, how will the proceeds be divided? You should also make provisions for what will happen to the home if one of you dies, such as buying extra life insurance to cover the costs of the property.
Do you have questions about the financial aspects of your divorce? Fill out the consult link on this page for answers, or read our free Washington women's divorce guide.
What questions can lawyers ask me about my assets in a divorce deposition?
The deposing attorney can ask any number of questions about your assets, so it is best to be armed with the facts before walking in to your deposition. For example, if you are not sure of a figure and you make a low guess as to its value, you could be seen as uninformed or intentionally misleading by a judge. Your attorney should walk you through all of the estimated values of the following before the day of the deposition:
- Land. You may be asked by the deposing attorney if you have purchased any land, including lots, acreage or land investments. This may also include burial plots at Evergreen Park Cemetery, or Seattle land or houses you are named to inherit after one of your parents pass away.
- Bank accounts and monetary investments. You may be asked how much money is in you and your spouse’s individual and joint bank accounts, as well as any certificates of deposit, U.S. Treasury Bonds, or contents of your safety deposit boxes.
- Houses and property. In order to determine what will happen to your shared residence and household items, you may be asked the value of your home, who intends to live in it, the condition it is in, and if selling the house is an option. You will also be asked to give a dollar value for furnishings in your home, so it is wise to have your valuable assets—such as antiques, guns, and heirlooms—appraised before the deposition date.
- Vehicles. You will be asked how many cars you have, their value, how much is remaining on each auto loan, and what you intend to do with the vehicle after the divorce. The same may be asked of additional vehicles, such as motorcycles, bicycles, or watercrafts (boats or jet-skis).
- Dividends. You may be asked to assign value to any stocks, trusts, bonds, mutual funds, royalties, tax shelters, or other investments that pay you regular dividends, interest payments, or income.
If you are not sure how to answer questions about any of the previous items, we can help. Fill out the short contact form on this page so we can get in touch with you as soon as possible.
What does “conscious uncoupling” mean exactly, and how might this differ from a typical divorce or separation?
A divorce or a legal separation can be a very difficult, and often stressful, time for each party involved. Anger, suspicions, denial, confusion, relief, and grief are just a few types of emotions that you might be feeling throughout this process.
If you’re looking for a way to avoid some of this frustration, one option could be to follow the now popularized by Hollywood “conscious uncoupling” method.
So How Is a “Conscious Uncoupling” Different From Most Divorces?
A conscious uncoupling features these requirements:
- The airing of grievances – This involves both parties sharing their frustrations and listening to the other’s points of view. This can be done with the help of a therapist or mediator to help aid in the process of keeping things amicable.
- Burying the anger – This is a crucial part of the process, because this allows for healing to occur, even if the relationship is ending. Learning to move past the anger and forgive allows both parties to maintain the bond they share, even if the romantic commitment to each other has ceased.
- Caring for each other because of your relationship – The goal is to focus on your former partner’s strengthening positives rather than emphasizing the negatives throughout the future.
Ultimately, the idea is to have a thoughtful and thorough completion of a relationship or marriage. All efforts should be made to end the union with closure and amity.
This can be different from a typical divorce because the primary focus is not on who gets the house in Bellevue, how’s the money going to get divided, or whether Issaquah or Bellevue has a better school district for the kids to live in. Rather, the end attempt is to aid both individuals in finding healing and wholeness through divorce. In the end, no one is “the bad guy,” and the entire family can remain as unified as possible under the circumstances.
All of those things do have to be considered, but ultimately happen as secondary issues, and not as the primary, “get what you’re rightfully owed” result.
Do you have any thoughts on the idea of “conscious uncoupling” vs. a more common divorce or legal separation? Want to learn more? Connect with Molly and the rest of the team on Facebook or Twitter to learn more.
Can a spouse’s financial deception be an issue in a Seattle divorce?
Yes. Unfortunately, financial deception is a common concern in Seattle divorce proceedings. While Washington State is a “no fault” divorce state, meaning that a divorce may be granted if one spouse believes the marriage is irretrievably broken, a financial deception may still be relevant to your Seattle divorce case.
Proving that financial deception occurred may be irrelevant to your grounds for divorce. However, it could be important in your divorce settlement. It could signal to your divorce lawyer that further investigation needs to be done into your marital, and separate, assets to make sure that you have a true accounting of your marital estate and to make sure that your property is fairly divided in a divorce settlement.
What You Should Do
Your spouse may have broken your trust and compromised your financial future. You shouldn’t have to suffer any more than necessary because of his or her actions. Instead, you should tell your divorce lawyer everything that you know about the financial deception and about all of your financial assets and liabilities so that a proper investigation can occur and a fair divorce settlement can be reached.
For more information about how to protect your assets during a divorce where financial deception is a factor, please contact us today for a confidential consultation. You can also learn more about your rights by downloading a complimentary copy of one of our books: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Divorce in Washington or The Thinking Man’s Guide to Divorce in Washington.
I was a stay at home mom to my kids on Bainbridge Island. My kids are now grown and my husband wants a divorce. I never contributed to a retirement plan, but my husband has retirement accounts. I’m scared about the future—how can I protect my rights in a Bainbridge Island divorce?
You are right to be concerned. If your kids are grown then you may be rapidly approaching retirement age yourself and you may have relied on the accounts that your husband was funding to support you during your retirement years.
Washington State divorce law recognizes that both spouses may be entitled to retirement account money, even if only spouse was contributing to the accounts during the marriage. The law recognizes that you and your husband were a team and that you built a life together. Accordingly, retirement accounts—including the 401(k)—may be divided when a couple divorces.
You Have Options
Generally, there are two ways to divide retirement property during a Bainbridge Island divorce. You can buy out the account and then divide it into separate accounts or you can avoid taxes and penalties that hurt you both by entering a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO, often pronounced QUADRO). Once a QDRO is entered, you may have the right to leave the funds where they are and access them later, move the funds to an IRA rollover account, take out some of the money and roll over some of the money, or cash out.
You do not have to make these decisions on your own. Each of these options have different tax implications that you should talk about with your Bainbridge Island divorce lawyer. Please contact us today for a confidential consultation.
Why should I compromise during my divorce?
Why should you bother to compromise with the person you are divorcing? Isn’t the time for compromise over? Isn’t it finally time that you got your way?
Not just yet. If you choose divorce mediation, you have a little more compromising to do before you are finally free to start your new life. During mediation, you must work with your ex to divide your property and assets. It can seem impossible to come to a fair and equitable solution. Here are three good reasons why you will want to try to compromise with your ex during mediation:
- Your divorce may become more expensive – If you choose not to compromise during mediation, mediation will last longer or even fail altogether. This means a more expensive divorce and less settlement money.
- You will fail to establish a solid co-parenting relationship with your spouse – If you have children, you will likely need to continue a relationship with your spouse, albeit a non-romantic one. One of the best ways to begin a healthy co-parenting relationship is by making sure the divorce mediation process involves open communication and compromise.
- Your mediation will likely fail – It is extremely difficult to find a solution to a problem without compromise—especially a solution that is fair enough to be approved by a judge. Without compromise, you may find yourself in court, battling for what you want. This can make the process long, expensive, and emotionally draining.
It can be extremely difficult to compromise with someone that you likely have a number of unresolved conflicts with. However, making compromises during divorce mediation can help you finalize your divorce quicker and for less money. It can also set the foundation for a successful co-parenting relationship, which will mean a lot to your children.
Want to learn more about divorce mediation in Washington State? Follow us on Facebook.
When Will My Washington State Divorce Be Finalized?
Your divorce is final when the judge in your case signs the final decision and the clerk files the signed decision. However, it is important to understand that even then, your spouse could file an appeal, request a new trial, or otherwise continue the divorce process further.
Before the judge signs his or her final decision, you must petition the court to end your marriage and your spouse must be served divorce papers. You must also divide your property and decide on important issues including: debts, assets, child custody, child visitation, child support, and alimony. You may accomplish this through mediation, divorce collaboration, or a settlement. If you are unable to settle these issues out of court, you will go to trial.
How long does it take to finalize a divorce? The answer to that question depends heavily on the details of your case. How complicated are your finances? Do you have children? How long have you been married? Are you likely to fight over property? Is there domestic abuse involved? Do both of you wish to be divorced? Will you need to go to trial? While a Washington State divorce can take as little as 90 days, many divorces take more time than that because of the above issues.
An experienced and knowledgeable Seattle divorce attorney could make your divorce go as quickly as possible considering the details of your case. If you would like to speak with a Washington family lawyer, call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today at 425-460-0550.
Can I delay my Washington divorce proceedings?
The court may reschedule or pause the divorce proceedings if there is a good reason to do so. However, when you wish to delay or stop your Washington divorce, it is important to ask yourself why you want to do so and what the delay will accomplish. You may also wish to speak with your Seattle divorce lawyer about why you may need more time before finalizing your divorce.
You must realize that although you may be able to delay your divorce, you cannot stop a divorce as long as your spouse wants to move ahead with it.
There are a number of valid reasons to delay a divorce or reschedule a court hearing (request a continuance):
- You need more time to seek legal advice or legal counsel.
- You would like to collect more evidence.
- You will not be able to make an appearance on the court date.
- You need more time to prepare.
The sooner you ask for a delay, the more likely you are that it will be granted.
If you would like to delay the divorce to try to work on your marriage, the divorce process may be able to be delayed as long as both parties agree that they would like to try reconcile through family counseling or mediation.
It is not advised to seek to delay your divorce simply because you do not wish to get divorced, because you would like to inconvenience your spouse, or because of a financial reason.
Do you need a Seattle divorce attorney? Call Molly B. Kenny today at 425-460-0550.
What should I wear to court for my divorce?
You might want someone to notice your clothing if you are dressing for a party or event. But when you have a court date for your divorce trial, you do not want anyone to be surprised by what you are wearing, especially the judge.
The best advice for how to dress for your divorce court date is this: pick something clean, respectful, professional, and plain.
Here is a short list of don’ts:
- Don’t wear anything revealing.
- Don’t wear trendy, designer clothing.
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry.
- Take out all visible piercings besides ear piercings.
- If possible, don’t wear anything that shows your tattoos.
- Don’t wear a hat.
- Don’t wear anything casual, including t-shirts, sandals, shorts, tank tops, sunglasses, or jeans.
- Don’t wear anything that is dirty or damaged.
- Don’t wear anything that is uncomfortable, especially to sit in.
- Stay away from very bright colors or anything that makes a “statement.”
So, what should you wear? Think about what you might wear to a business meeting or professional event and think about how you would like the judge to see you. Remember that you don’t want your clothes to be noticed or commented on, you just want to look clean, presentable, and respectful. Also make sure that you are comfortable, as trials can take time and require your close attention.
Is your divorce headed for court? You may wish to have the assistance of a Washington divorce attorney. To learn more about our legal services, contact the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today: 425-460-0550.