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Washington Divorce Laws
Residency and Filing Requirements:In order to file for a dissolution of marriage in Washington, residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case. If the court discovers it does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case it will not be accepted or it will eventually be dismissed. The requirements are as follows:
When a party who (1) Is a resident of this state, or (2) Is a member of the armed forces and is stationed in this state, or (3) Is married to a party who is a resident of this state or who is a member of the armed forces and is stationed in this state.
Petitions for a dissolution of marriage, and alleges that the marriage is irretrievably broken will not be acted upon by the court until 90 days has elapsed since the filing and the service of summons on the respondent. (Revised Code of Washington - Title 26 - Chapters: 26.09.010, 26.09.030)
Grounds for Filing:The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage must declare the appropriate Washington grounds upon which the dissolution of marriage is being sought. The appropriate lawful ground will be that which the parties agree upon and can substantiate, or that which the filing spouse desires to prove to the court. The dissolution of marriage grounds are as follows:
The only grounds for a dissolution of marriage in the state of Washington is, "Irretrievable Breakdown of the Marriage".
If the other party joins in the petition or does not deny that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court shall enter a decree of dissolution.
If the other party alleges that the petitioner was induced to file the petition by fraud, or coercion, the court shall make a finding as to that allegation and, if it so finds shall dismiss the petition.
If the other party denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken the court shall consider all relevant factors, including the circumstances that gave rise to the filing of the petition and the prospects for reconciliation. (Revised Code of Washington - Title 26 - Chapters: 26.09.030)
Filing Spouse Title:Petitioner. The Petitioner is the spouse who initiates the filing procedure with the family law or domestic relations court.
Non-Filing Spouse Title:Respondent. The Respondent is the spouse who does not file the initial dissolution of marriage papers, but rather receives them by service.
Court Name:In the __________ Court of the State of Washington, in and for the County of __________. This is the Washington court where the dissolution of marriage will be filed. The court will assign a case number and have jurisdictional rights to facilitate and grant the orders concerning, but not limited to: property and debt division, support, custody, and visitation. The name of the court is clearly represented at the top of all documents that are filed.
Primary Documents:Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. These are the essential documents needed to start and finalize a dissolution of marriage according to Washington law. There are anywhere from ten to twenty other documents that may be required throughout the filing process. A few other documents that are typically filed during the process are: Case Information Cover Sheet, UCCJEA Information Sheet, Confidential Information Form, Sealed Financial Source Documents, Proposed Parenting Plan, and Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.
Court Clerk's Title:County Clerk's Office of the Family Court. The clerk or the clerk's assistants will be the people managing your paperwork with the court. The clerk's office will keep the parties and the lawyers informed throughout the process in regards to additional paperwork that is needed, further requirements, and hearing dates and times.
Property Distribution:Washington is a "Community Property" state. Community property is all property that was acquired during the marriage. This property will be divided equally (50-50) by the court if the parties are not able to come to an agreement.
In a proceeding for dissolution of the marriage, legal separation, declaration of invalidity, or in a proceeding for disposition of property following dissolution of the marriage by a court which lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse or lacked jurisdiction to dispose of the property, the court shall, without regard to marital misconduct, make such disposition of the property and the liabilities of the parties, either community or separate, as shall appear just and equitable after considering all relevant factors including, but not limited to: (1) The nature and extent of the community property; (2) The nature and extent of the separate property; (3) The duration of the marriage; and (4) The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to a spouse with whom the children reside the majority of the time. (Revised Code of Washington - Title 26 - Chapters: 26.09.080, 26.16.010, 26.16.020, 26.16.030, 26.16.220)
Spousal Support:Not all cases involve support from one spouse to the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially for a temporary or permanent basis is decided on a case-by-case basis as agreed to by the parties or at the court's discretion.
In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, declaration of invalidity, or in a proceeding for maintenance following dissolution of the marriage by a court which lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse, the court may grant a maintenance order for either spouse. The maintenance order shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, after considering all relevant factors including but not limited to: (a) The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including separate or community property apportioned to him, and his ability to meet his needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party; (b) The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find employment appropriate to his skill, interests, style of life, and other attendant circumstances; (c) The standard of living established during the marriage; (d) The duration of the marriage; (e) The age, physical and emotional condition, and financial obligations of the spouse seeking maintenance; and (f) The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his needs and financial obligations while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance. (Revised Code of Washington - Title 26 - Chapters: 26.09.050, 26.09.090, 26.09.120)
Child Custody:When minor children are involved in a dissolution of marriage, the Washington courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing. If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the issues involving the children, the court will establish the custody order at its discretion.
Custody, whether joint or sole, will be awarded to the father or the mother or both based on the best interests of the children. With each petition filed with minor children, the parties must also have a proposed parenting plan to be approved by the court.
The objectives of the Permanent Parenting Plan are to: (a) Provide for the child's physical care; (b) Maintain the child's emotional stability; (c) Provide for the child's changing needs as the child grows and matures, in a way that minimizes the need for future modifications to the permanent parenting plan; (d) Set forth the authority and responsibilities of each parent with respect to the child (e) Minimize the child's exposure to harmful parental conflict; (f) Encourage the parents to meet their responsibilities to their minor children through agreements in the permanent parenting plan, rather than by relying on judicial intervention; and (g) To otherwise protect the best interests of the child.
The Permanent Parenting Plan shall contain provisions for resolution of future disputes between the parents, allocation of decision-making authority, and residential provisions for the child.
The plan shall allocate decision-making authority to one or both parties regarding the children's education, health care, and religious upbringing. The parties may incorporate an agreement related to the care and growth of the child in these specified areas, or in other areas, into their plan. Regardless of the allocation of decision-making in the parenting plan, either parent may make emergency decisions affecting the health or safety of the child. (a) Each parent may make decisions regarding the day-to-day care and control of the child while the child is residing with that parent. (b) When mutual decision making is designated but cannot be achieved, the parties shall make a good-faith effort to resolve the issue through the dispute resolution process.
The plan shall include a residential schedule which designates in which parent's home each minor child shall reside on given days of the year, including provision for holidays, birthdays of family members, vacations, and other special occasions.
If a parent fails to comply with a provision of a parenting plan or a child support order, the other parent's obligations under the parenting plan or the child support order are not affected. Failure to comply with a provision in a parenting plan or a child support order may result in a finding of contempt of court.
The court shall approve agreements of the parties allocating decision-making authority, or specifying rules in the areas listed in RCW 26.09.184(4)(a), when it finds that: (i) The agreement is consistent with any limitations on a parent's decision-making authority mandated by RCW 26.09.191; and (ii) The agreement is knowing and voluntary.
The court shall make residential provisions for each child which encourage each parent to maintain a loving, stable, and nurturing relationship with the child, consistent with the child's developmental level and the family's social and economic circumstances. The court shall consider the following factors: (i) The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent, including whether a parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child; (ii) The agreements of the parties, provided they were entered into knowingly and voluntarily; (iii) Each parent's past and potential for future performance of parenting functions; (iv) The emotional needs and developmental level of the child; (v) The child's relationship with siblings and with other significant adults, as well as the child's involvement with his or her physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities; (vi) The wishes of the parents and the wishes of a child who is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to his or her residential schedule; and (vii) Each parent's employment schedule, and shall make accommodations consistent with those schedules. Factor (i) shall be given the greatest weight.
The court may order that a child frequently alternate his or her residence between the households of the parents for brief and substantially equal intervals of time only if the court finds the following: (i) No limitation exists under RCW 26.09.191; (ii)(A) The parties have agreed to such provisions and the agreement was knowingly and voluntarily entered into; or (B) The parties have a satisfactory history of cooperation and shared performance of parenting functions; the parties are available to each other, especially in geographic proximity, to the extent necessary to ensure their ability to share performance of the parenting functions; and (iii) The provisions are in the best interests of the child. (Revised Code of Washington - Title 26 - Chapters: 26.09.181, 26.09.220)
Child Support:Washington child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model for calculating child support. The monthly support amount determined by applying the guidelines is divided proportionally according to each parent's income. These two support amounts are then offset to establish which parent will pay the other parent for support of the child. All income is typically verified by examining past W-2's and child support worksheets are available at the courthouse.
Written findings of fact supported by the evidence. An order for child support shall be supported by written findings of fact upon which the support determination is based and shall include reasons for any deviation from the standard calculation and reasons for denial of a party's request for deviation from the standard calculation. The court shall enter written findings of fact in all cases whether or not the court: (a) Sets the support at the presumptive amount, for combined monthly net incomes below five thousand dollars; (b) Sets the support at an advisory amount, for combined monthly net incomes between five thousand and seven thousand dollars; or (c) Deviates from the presumptive or advisory amounts.
Completion of worksheets. Worksheets in the form developed by the Administrative Office of the Courts shall be completed under penalty of perjury and filed in every proceeding in which child support is determined. The court shall not accept incomplete worksheets or worksheets that vary from the worksheets developed by the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Court review of the worksheets and order. The court shall review the worksheets and the order setting support for the adequacy of the reasons set forth for any deviation or denial of any request for deviation and for the adequacy of the amount of support ordered. Each order shall state the amount of child support calculated using the standard calculation and the amount of child support actually ordered. Worksheets shall be attached to the decree or order or if filed separately shall be initialed or signed by the judge and filed with the order.
All income and resources of each parent's household shall be disclosed and considered by the court when the court determines the child support obligation of each parent. Only the income of the parents of the children whose support is at issue shall be calculated for purposes of calculating the basic support obligation. Income and resources of any other person shall not be included in calculating the basic support obligation.
Verification of income. Tax returns for the preceding two years and current paystubs shall be provided to verify income and deductions. Other sufficient verification shall be required for income and deductions which do not appear on tax returns or paystubs.
Reasons for deviation from the standard calculation include but are not limited to the following: (a) Sources of income and tax plannings, (b) Nonrecurring income. (c) Debt and high expenses. (d) Residential schedule. (e) Children from other relationships. (Revised Code of Washington - Title 26 - Chapters: 26.09.040, 26.09.050, 26.09.100, 26.09.120)
Copyright Notice:The above synopsis of Washington divorce laws is original material which is owned and copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This material has been adapted from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. Violation of this notice will result in immediate legal action.
The filing spouse must be a resident of Washington on the date that the petition for divorce is filed in the divorce court.
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