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Yes, all of the Washington State Divorce Forms can be found at: http://www.courts.wa.gov/forms. If you decide to complete the paperwork on your own, then be sure to also go to the website for the county in which you intend to file. Some counties have additional county-specific forms necessary when you file for divorce in their county. Finally, if you complete your divorce papers on your own, then it is a good thing to meet with the court facilitator or with an attorney to review your paperwork to make sure everything has been completed correctly.
Before meeting with a divorce lawyer, it is important for you to think about how you want your divorce to proceed. Remember: this is your divorce. It’s not your lawyer’s divorce. If you want to proceed in an amicable way – or if you at least don’t want to take a “destroy my spouse” approach, then you want to make sure that you are able to articulate this to any attorney with whom you are meeting. If an attorney refuses to hear you or listen to you, then that is a red flag. Any attorney you meet with should have the ability and the willingness to listen to your wishes about how you want to proceed. This does not mean that the attorney will just tell you what you want to hear. In fact, you don’t want that. You are paying an attorney for their advice based on their experience and expertise.
Many attorneys have the ability to adapt to the situation. Their approach is – let’s make this as cooperative as possible, so long as it is possible, but they also have the ability to effectively represent their clients if the other spouse is acting aggressively in the divorce process.
Unfortunately, some attorneys have only one mode: the “slash and burn” mode, and that is not good for anybody. The goal of a divorce is not to destroy your spouse. The goal of a divorce is to end your marriage with as little damage to you, your spouse, and your kids, if you have kids.
Though the word “sue” is not usually used when discussing divorce, filing for divorce means you are filing a Petition for Divorce with the court, and you are asking the court to dissolve your marriage. Filing the Petition for Divorce is, in fact, filing a lawsuit. So, yes, you can sue for divorce.
All states are “no fault” divorce states. That means, in order to get a divorce only one spouse needs to say the marriage is irretrievably broken – or broken beyond repair.
A “no fault” divorce means that either spouse can request and receive a divorce by stating under oath that the marriage is broken beyond repair. There are different phrases used – “irretrievably broken” is one of them and “irreconcilable differences is another” – but they all mean broken beyond repair.
States no longer require one spouse to show that the other did something bad or wrong as a basis for the divorce.
If one spouse requests a divorce and asserts that the marriage is irretrievably broken, then the court will grant the divorce. Both spouses do not have to agree to end the marriage in order for the divorce to be granted.
In its purest form an “uncontested divorce” is when both spouses agree that the divorce will happen, and also agree on how all issues will be addressed. If there are no dependent children, then the spouses agree on how all their property and debts (also known as assets and liabilities) will be divided. They also agree on whether or not alimony will be paid. If the spouses have dependent children together, then they agree on the residential schedule for the children, and they agree on all of the financial issues related to the children including child support.
If a couple agrees on these things but needs help figuring out the details, then their divorce could be considered uncontested, too. Even if they opt to participate in divorce mediation together so that they can be sure they’ve covered all issues, their divorce could be considered uncontested.
This evolution of the term “uncontested divorce” is primarily because “contested divorce” suggests conflict and battle (i.e., a contest) which is not a part of processes like divorce mediation and Collaborative divorce.
In the United States, there are about 875,000 divorces per year. Eight years is the average length of a marriage that ends in divorce. Those who remarry, wait an average of three years after a divorce to remarry.
When picking a divorce attorney, the most important thing to remember is that this is your divorce. Is your goal to reach an agreement as quickly as possible with as little input from attorneys as possible? Do you and your spouse have dependent children together, and you need guidance and ideas about how best to create a plan that will be best for your kids? Is your goal to destroy your spouse? Those are three examples of very different situations, and, depending on what you want, there is a different attorney who would be the right fit for you.
A “good divorce attorney” for you may be very different from a “good divorce attorney” for someone else. You can do research (by talking with friends or surfing the internet) to find out the different options and the different divorce attorneys who work where you live. Ideally, you and your spouse can agree on the type of divorce process you are going to use, and then you can each find attorneys who focus on that particular process. (Divorce processes include Collaborative Divorce, traditional representation with a focus on cooperative resolution such as mediation, traditional litigation.)
Whomever you choose to represent you, it’s important to remember that this is your divorce (not your attorney’s divorce). Know what you want in a divorce attorney and divorce process before you hire your attorney, and make sure your attorney is going to represent you in a way that matches your values. Get informed. Educate yourself. Trust your instincts. #ownyourdivorce
If you are going to attend a custody mediation without an attorney representing you, then here are several things you’ll want to do to prepare.
First, it will be important to prepare a list that describes the “parenting history” for your children during the relationship. When you and your co-parent were living with the children, which of you was primarily responsible for daily routines for the kids? Who made their breakfast before school? Who made their lunch? Who bathed them? Who put them to bed? Which parent scheduled doctor and dentist appointments, and then went to them with the kids? Which parent attended parent-teacher meetings? Create a list of all of the different “parenting tasks,” and write down which parent did this? If both of you did it, then write that down, too.
Next, if you and your co-parent are separated, write down and describe the residential schedule you’ve been following during the separation. Write down the positives in the current schedule, and then write down the things you believe should change. Explain why. Be sure to include information about both parents’ work schedules, and how the proposed residential schedule is influenced by the parents’ work schedules.
Third, write down what you believe will be the best residential schedule going forward. How does your proposed schedule mesh with what was done during the relationship and during separation? To the extent that it is different, why do you think it is best to change it?
Finally, remember that one of the most important characteristics in a “primary parent” is the ability to support the relationship between the children and the other parent. Your goal is not to show how bad the other parent is, but to talk about how the schedule you are proposing is best for the children.