Unusual Washington State Family Law Facts

Posted On October 21, 2022 Family Law

Going through the divorce process or a family law dispute can be overwhelming. Although Washington state’s family laws are for the most part straightforward, there are some unusual aspects that may surprise you.

Child Custody is No Longer Child Custody

The term “custody” is longer used by Washington state courts. Instead, the state has adopted new terminology and refers to child custody as parenting plans. Parenting plans are made in the best interests of the child rather than the parents. Parenting plans encourage both parents to remain involved in their child’s life and share decision-making responsibilities. It will detail the child’s residential schedule with each parent, household rules, which parents have decision-making authority, and how disagreements must be addressed.

Most Domestic Partnerships Were Converted to Marriages

The state transferred all registered domestic partnerships to legal marriages in June 2014, when same-sex marriage was legalized. Therefore, married same-sex couples must now divorce or legally separate to legally dissolve their relationship. However, if one person from the couple was over the age of 62 or there was a request for the domestic partnership to be dissolved, then they were not transferred to marriages.

The Custodial Parent Typically Gets the House

The parent with whom a child lives for the majority of the time will often be awarded the family home in a divorce or legal separation. The reason typically has to do with the court wishing to minimize the impact of a divorce on a child.

Property is Divided Equitably, Not Equally

In Washington, marital property is subject to “equitable and just” distribution between divorcing parties. Equitable does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split, but it must be fair. If you do not want to split community property equitably in your Washington divorce, then you and your spouse must decide what is fair in a written divorce settlement agreement.

Annulments Do Not Terminate Property or Parental Rights

Annulments in Washington State are not available for everyone, as they require evidence that either one or both spouses were underage or one spouse was unable to consent to the marriage because of insanity, intoxication, incapacitation, duress, force, fraud, or there was an element of bigamy or incest. However, even when a marriage can be annulled, it does not mean you lose rights to property or parenting time. The court can still decide property division, spousal support, parenting arrangements, etc.

You Can Be Ordered to Pay Child Support Even If You Are Unemployed

Parents cannot avoid child support responsibilities by purposely remaining unemployed or underemployed. If the court finds a parent is doing so, they have the authority to assign child support payments based on how much the parent could earn.

No Matter What, Divorce Takes At Least 90 Days

Washington State requires a 90-day “cooling off” period between petitioning the court for a divorce and the final decree. As a result, even if you and your spouse agree on all terms of the divorce, you must still wait 90 days for the final court order.

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