Divorce (Marital Dissolution)

The state of Washington is a no fault divorce state, meaning neither party is faulted for seeking a dissolution of the marriage. Regardless of who petitions the Court for the dissolution, both spouses have an equal right to the marital property and custody of any minor children. Once the initial summons and petition for dissolution of marriage are filed/served, there is a mandatory 90 day waiting period before the dissolution of marriage action can be finalized.


Collaborative Divorce: This is a cooperative process whereby the parties, their lawyers and other third-party professionals, if necessary, work together and engage in meaningful dialogue, with the intention of resolving all issues. The collaborative process involves several multi-party meetings with the goal being: to identify and work through all issues; explore alternatives in how to address these issues; to work toward an agreement that is acceptable to both husband and wife.

Mediation: Divorce mediation is a process in which divorcing parties attempt to negotiate an acceptable divorce agreement with the assistance of a trained mediator as an objective third party. The mediator helps the parties to communicate and negotiate, but he/she is not permitted to make any decisions for the parties. It is not the mediator’s job to resolve problems or force an agreement. Instead, he/she helps the parties come to an agreement by acting as an intermediary.

Litigation: Litigation is a legal process. In a divorce situation, the parties may each choose their own lawyer to represent him/her throughout the dissolution of marriage process. The communications, correspondence and exchange of documents/information is all done between the parties’ lawyers. Litigation often involves what is called discovery; specifically, an exchange of financial documents/information. Discovery includes, but is not limited to, interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and depositions. The Court process can include motions, status conferences, pre-trial conferences and (if necessary) trial, which finalizes the dissolution of marriage and decides all issues in the divorce.

Washington Law

There are essentially four (4) major issues in a divorce action: (1) property/debt distribution; (2) parenting issues (custody and/or the residential schedule); (3) child support; and (4) spousal maintenance.

Property/Debt Distribution: The Washington Courts divide property/liability equitably, with each spouse receiving roughly half of all marital assets/debts. Marital assets are defined as property acquired during the marriage. Marital debt is defined as debt incurred during the marriage. Assets a spouse acquired before the marriage, and any family inheritance received during the marriage, is separate property. Generally speaking, separate property is not subject to division between the spouses. There are many exceptions to these general rules that can result in significantly more than half of the marital property going to either spouse. On rare occasions, the court may even award some portion of one spouse’s separate property to the other spouse.

Parenting Plan (Custody/Residential Schedule): A Court uses the best interest of the child standard to determine which parent should be the primary parent and what the visitation schedule should be. Factors examined to determine what is in the child’s best interest include, but are not limited to: who has been the child/children’s primary attachment figure; each parent’s home environment; any special needs that the child may have; etc.

Child Support: The Courts determine child support based on the parents’ total income. The child support transfer payment is then proportioned based on each parent’s contribution to the total combined income of the parents. The child support calculation is statutorily governed by the Washington State Child Support Schedule.

Spousal Maintenance: Spousal maintenance, formerly titled alimony, allows for the requesting spouse to provide for his/her basic needs, including housing, utilities, food, transportation, etc. The Washington Courts apply several factors to determine whether spousal support is to be awarded. These include: the duration of the marriage; the discrepancy in income between the parties, weighing both spouse’s assets, income, and ability to earn income; whether or not the requesting spouse requires training/education to become financially self-sufficient; and the requesting party’s age and health. The amount of the spousal maintenance awarded and the duration of time during which spousal maintenance is to be paid are determined at the discretion of the Court on a case by case basis.


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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