Holidays can be stressful. End-of-year deadlines, extra expenses, travel headaches, and the arrival of winter can take a toll on your relationship. If you’re considering separating from or divorcing your spouse, here are some steps you can take now to help make that a smoother process.
Step #1: Check Whether You Can File for Divorce in WA
There is no mandatory residency period before you can file for divorce in Washington State (i.e., you can file as soon as you move to the state), and you do not need to be separated for any specific period before filing. You also don’t need to have “grounds,” or legally sufficient reasons, for ending your marriage; all Washington divorces are “no-fault.”
Step #2: Get Your Finances in Order
Figure out what assets and debts you and your spouse have, separately and together. A spreadsheet or list can help organize this information.
- Include assets like retirement plans (IRAs, 401ks, pensions, etc.), bank accounts, stocks and bonds and other investments, real estate equity, vehicles, and anything else of value.
- Itemize debts like your mortgage, car loans, credit card debt, student loans, medical bills, unpaid taxes, and any other outstanding payments or recurring obligations.
- Note how much income each of you earns, including wages, commissions, and other payments (income from rental property, dividends from shared assets, etc.).
- Calculate your household’s operational costs, including housing, insurance, utilities, tuition, transportation, food, and other expenses.
Memorialize the current balances on all accounts by printing out statements or taking screenshots. This can help prevent allegations of financial wrongdoing or attempts to hide assets.
Step #3: Consider the Benefits of an Experienced Advocate
Sometimes, spouses who separate on good terms with minimal assets can get an uncontested divorce without hiring an attorney. Unfortunately, many divorces are not simple or straightforward, and the process can be daunting. An experienced family law attorney can help you equitably divide your debts and assets, negotiate appropriate spousal support, and craft a parenting plan that works for your family’s unique needs. If domestic violence is involved, an attorney can help protect you and your children.
Step #4: Plan for the Future
To begin the divorce process, one spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, and the other files a Response. If you believe you may be in danger after serving your spouse with divorce papers, make sure you have a plan for your safety.
Once these documents are filed, the court must wait 90 days before issuing a final divorce order. During that time, however, it can enter temporary orders regarding:
- Temporary residence and visitation arrangements for children.
- Payment of interim child support and spousal maintenance.
- Occupancy of the family home.
- Payment of bills.
You should think about each of these issues before starting the divorce process. Don’t let yourself be bullied or rushed through careful consideration of your immediate and long-term financial needs.
Tip #5: Contact a Professional
An experienced family law attorney can save you significant time and frustration during the court process, helping ensure everything is filed completely, correctly, and timely. They can also help minimize the emotional disruption to your family and ensure you get what you deserve.