Contested Divorce Roadmap

divorce process

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This information is not legal advice

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Washington State Basics

Washington is a no-fault divorce state, so you don’t need a reason to get a divorce. Meaning, you don’t need to prove your spouse was at fault; instead, you must only prove irreconcilable differences (ex. you no longer get along).

A divorce legally ends your marriage and the court can divide property and debts, award one of you spousal maintenance (alimony), limit one spouse’s contact with the children, change a spouse’s name, and, if you have children, enter a parenting plan and order child support. The Contested Divorce Roadmap gives an high-level overview of what to expect in your dissolution proceeding.

Legal Terminology

  • Dissolution: means divorce
  • Party or litigant: is any person involved in a court action
  • Petitioner: the person who starts the court action
  • Respondent: the person who is responding to the court action
  • Pro Se: a party that does not have an attorney
  • Order Setting Domestic Case Schedule: Provided by the clerk at the time of filing, it provides the important dates applicable to your case. The petitioner must serve a copy to the other parties. It may be the only notice of deadlines you receive. Failure to comply may result in sanctions or dismissal of your case.
  • Confirmation of Issues: The parties must file a Confirmation of Issues which notifies the court whether or not the parties are ready for trial. It also acts as a referral to Family Court Services. If all parties do not sign and the first box is not checked, the parties must attend the status conference hearing listed on the case schedule.
  • Status Conference: A formal hearing between the parties and the court to determine where the parties are in the process and direct them as to remaining procedures.
  • ADR: Alternative Dispute Resolution = A way to resolve your case before trial. All parties with disputes involving children must participate in ADR unless the court waives it.
  • Mediation: a neutral third person helps the parties to agree upon an outcome
  • Arbitration: the parties agree to let a neutral third person decide the outcome
  • Settlement Conference: the parties meet with a judge, commissioner, or experienced attorney in an effort to resolve the case before trial
  • Temporary Orders: A temporary order gives certain rights and/or protections while the dissolution is pending. A temporary order may order many things, including restraining orders, orders for maintenance (spousal support/alimony), attorney’s fees, or use of property.
  • Restraining Orders: A restraining order may be entered to prevent injury, loss or damage. For example, restraining a spouse from (a) harassing or coming near the other; or (b) giving away or selling property, or taking out loans in both names, or taking a name off insurance policies.
  • Pretrial Conference: If you are unable to settle your case, you will receive an Order Setting Pretrial Conference in the mail. The judge will (a) want to know what issues are agreed upon; (b) make sure all the necessary papers have been filed and that you are ready to proceed to trial; and (c) want to know if you and the other party have taken the parenting seminar. At the end of your Pretrial Conference the judge will give you a copy of the Order on Pretrial Conference. Read this order carefully, as it may possibly change deadlines.
  • Family Law Orientation: Mandatory for all unrepresented parties to dissolution proceedings.
  • Parenting Seminar: Mandatory for of all parties in matters involving minor children.
  • Family Court Services: Family Court Services works with parents who have difficulty developing a parenting plan for their children following separation, divorce and/or on-going parental conflicts. Commonly called “FCS.”

Go to Determine Whether You Can File for Divorce in Washington State

Chad Foster is a trusted Washington lawyer serving Snohomish and King counties with an office in Bothell. Contact us today to discuss your legal issue.

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