The Stages of a Divorce Proceeding in Snohomish County, Washington State
Divorce (also known as dissolution) actions are unique to the parties involved and the issues that arise when ending the marriage between the spouses. The divorce process in Washington can take as little as 91 days when the parties agree on all the terms of the dissolution. However, the process can extend much longer if the parties have difficultly reaching an agreement on certain issues, like those related to property allocation, child custody, and continuing maintenance payments. Below is a brief overview of the stages of a dissolution (divorce) action in Snohomish County. Each county may have its own particular rules, so be sure to consult with an attorney about what requirements apply in your specific case and county.
Filing the Petition. To begin the dissolution action, one of the spouses files and serves a Summons and Petition for Dissolution of the marriage. Once served, the respondent spouse must reply in writing to the petition to the children, property, and support issues raised in the petition. If children are involved, the parties will also have to file and serve a Proposed Parenting Plan outlining at the minimum a schedule for residential care, allocation of decision-making between the parents, and provisions for resolution of future disputes regarding parental decisions.
Obtaining Temporary Orders. Temporary orders govern the relationship between the spouses during the pendency of the dissolution action. These orders may set who lives in the family home, can place restraints on the parties, may determine termporary child custody, can order temporary spousal maintenance (formerly called, “alimony”), and may address other issues between the parties
Discovery. During discovery, the parties obtain relevant information from each other. This is most commonly done through interrogatories and requests for production. During discovery, parties may request financial information from each other in order to determine separate and community liabilities and assets considered in the dissolution action. Washington State provides for “just and equitable” division of property so it is important to obtain a complete picture of the financial status of the parties and the marital community.
Alternative Dispute Resolution. Snohomish County requires that divorcing spouses meet with an unbiased, neutral third person to try to negotiate the terms of the dissolution. The hope is that the parties can reach an agreement and avoid the need to proceed to trial. Before going to trial, the parties must mediate. If an agreement is reached, final orders can be drafted, approved by the parties, and entered by the court. However, if mediation is unsuccessful on some or all issues, the action will then proceed to trial.
Trial. If the parties are unable to agree on any issues regarding the dissolution, parties can then request a trial date from the court. In Snohomish County, a trial date is not automatically given upon filing of the Petition for Dissolution, but may be requested by a party.
Final Orders. All issues between the parties must be resolved in order to complete the dissolution. Whether through trial or settlements negotiated by the parties, final orders must be entered by the court, including a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
Although these are the basic stages in a dissolution action, every divorce is different and other issues may arise which need to be addressed before the final Decree of Dissolution can be entered. To consult with an attorney about your dissolution and receive counsel during the divorce proceeding, contact one the Washington State Divorce & Family Law Attorneys at Beresford Booth PLLC.
Beresford Booth PLLC (425.776.4100), www.beresfordlaw.com
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