If you’re considering divorce, it’s important to contact a divorce lawyer – even if you aren’t ready to file or even discuss the idea with your spouse. Legal guidance is always in your best interest.

Our family law and divorce attorneys expertly handle contested and uncontested divorce, custody issues, property division, and more. We’re here to answer your questions and keep the case moving forward in a way that supports your goals and best interests.

What Is Divorce?

In the state of Washington, divorce is referred to as the “dissolution of marriage.” This means that you’re terminating a legal marriage and separating your life from the other person’s as much as possible.

The Process of Divorce In Washington

The state of Washington outlines four major steps in the divorce process:

  1. Complete the petition for divorce forms.
  2. File paperwork with the court.
  3. Serve the divorce papers to your spouse.
  4. Sign and file the finalized documents.

If your spouse does not agree to the terms outlined in the paperwork and refuses to sign, you may enter a period of negotiation, mediation, and possibly a trial. Settling without a trial is generally the easier route and takes far less of your time.

Working with a divorce lawyer from the beginning ensures you’re doing things in the right order and addressing all important aspects.

How To Prepare For Divorce

Unless your spouse already agreed to divorce, you generally don’t want them to know you’re considering it. This is for your own protection–once your spouse knows of your intentions, the relationship may quickly become strained.

For example, they might start concealing information or property, or ruin your chances for a fair outcome.

Tactics can include:

Withdrawing money from bank accounts

  • Hiding information about income
  • Hiding assets
  • Obtaining legal counsel without your knowledge

It’s best not to let on until you have consulted with a divorce lawyer and collected all of the information you need.

Please remember that all communications with an attorney are privileged/confidential; therefore, meeting with a divorce attorney does not have to be shared. In some cases you may need to take emergency action.

Whether you are ready to file or not, it’s vital to gather all the financial information you can. Collect and make copies of as many of the following documents as possible and keep them in a safe where your spouse will not find them.

This may be needed for proof if your case becomes contested or your spouse won’t provide the information:

  • Your tax returns and W-2 tax forms for the last two years for you, your spouse, and any businesses
  • The last six months of pay stubs for you and your spouse
  • Any other income documents (such as interest, stock dividends, retirement compensation, etc.). Note: if your spouse owns a business, try to copy its income and expense records for the last three years.
  • Deed to real estate and mortgage documents
  • Pension, stock, or retirement fund papers and statements
  • Bank statements for all accounts held in your or your spouse’s name
  • Any account statements for funds held at financial institutions
  • Any other papers showing what you and your spouse earn, own, or owe
  • Your prenuptial agreement, if you made one

The Negotiation Period

If you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement on terms, the court may bring in a mediator.
Although your attorney is a skilled negotiator, the mediator is a fully neutral third party whose job is to move the conversation forward.

Unfortunately, some couples cannot reach an agreement, even with the help of their attorneys and a mediator. This is when divorces may end up in court, which is a costly, often lengthy process.

Absent a complete agreement with your spouse, you should be prepared to offer the judge a reasonable, fair solution.

Numerous strategies exist for presenting an argument to the court to adopt your proposal, though many of these are beyond the knowledge and skill level of those who aren’t legal professionals.

This is one of the major benefits of having experienced and confident divorce attorneys.

Envision Family Law divorce lawyers are experienced trial attorneys, but our goal is to help you reach a settlement before that point.

FAQs About Separation and Divorce

We’ve gathered some frequently asked questions about divorce and separation in the state of Washington.

Do you need your spouse’s consent to divorce?

No. Washington is a no-fault divorce state, which means either party can decide to end the marriage, regardless of what either person did or said.

How long does divorce take?

In Washington, you must wait at least 90 days for divorce to be final. In cases where the terms are contested, it tends to take longer. If you need to schedule a trial, the process may take well over a year.

Who gets what in a divorce?

The goal is to divide assets and debts fairly, not necessarily 50-50. The courts will consider what you each owned or owed before marriage (“separate property/debt”), and your current economic situations – and how they’ll allow you to retain housing and support any children. Assets and debts acquired during your marriage are generally split in half (“community property/debt”).

How do I get my spouse to reach a divorce agreement?

If you’ve done all you can to be fair and still hope to avoid a trial, opt for mediation. A neutral third party will facilitate a conversation between the two of you with the goal of reaching common ground. The next step is arbitration, when an arbitrator examines the case details and makes decisions for you.

What is legal separation and how is it different from divorce?

Legal separation divides property and debt, establishes plans for child support and custody, and provides the couple an easier path to divorce. The main difference is that they’re still legally married. If the couple does decide to divorce, there’s a six-month waiting period.

People may choose legal separation:

  • As a trial period before divorce
  • To maintain existing health benefits
  • For fast asset and property division

What is a conflict of interest in a divorce?

A conflict of interest refers to the legal representation in a divorce case. Washington’s court rules define a conflict of interest as the following:

  • “The representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client,” or
  • “There is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.”

Essentially, divorce attorneys may not represent someone if they’ve previously had access to information that will hurt the other person’s case. It’s seen as an unfair advantage of one spouse over the other.

How much does divorce cost?

Divorce costs vary depending on individual situations. In general, the sooner you and your spouse agree on terms, the faster and more affordable the divorce. Issues such as disagreements over children, property, alimony, debt, etc. will lengthen the process and use more resources, costing more money.

You will pay set fees for filing with the court, having your spouse served the papers, and other administrative tasks.

Who Are the Best Divorce Lawyers Near Me?

Envision Family Law has highly experienced Washington state divorce lawyers.

For decades, our team has guided Washington families through some of the hardest periods of their lives. We’re dedicated to serving every client with compassion, respect, and discretion while working tirelessly in their best interests, and that of their children.

We’re proud to help the  LGBTQ community with divorce, custody and child support issues, too.

If you’ve been searching online for “divorce attorneys near me” and haven’t yet found the right lawyer, give us a call today.

Call or text now and get the advice you need. You can also complete the simple contact form on our website.