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.