A dissolution of marriage is the legal reference for a divorce in Washington. Divorce and dissolution are often used interchangeably, but it doesn’t always have the same meaning in some other states.
Dissolution vs. Divorce
The primary difference between divorce and dissolution is that divorce requires that one party allege fault on the part of the other spouse as a reason for terminating the marriage—for example, adultery, extreme cruelty, etc. On the other hand, dissolution is a no-fault divorce as you do not have to assign blame to legally end a marriage. Since Washington is a no-fault state, the only grounds for dissolution is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
How Do You Get a Dissolution of Marriage?
As long as they are a Washington resident, one spouse can file a petition for dissolution of marriage in Superior Court to start the process. After that, either party can file a Motion for Temporary Orders. The parties have the option to agree on temporary orders. If they can’t, a judge will decide temporary spousal and child support, a residential schedule, and who has use of what property (e.g., the house, car, etc.).
The discovery phase will then begin, which involves both parties providing complete information on income, debts, assets, and property. If children are involved, a court-appointed neutral parenting evaluator or guardian ad litem (GAL) may conduct an investigation then provide a report with their recommendations on the children’s care.
At the end of this phase, the attorneys can help the parties settle any disputed issues, or they can attend mediation. If these options fail, the case goes to trial, and the Court will make final decisions on the remaining issues. Once a judge approves your settlement agreement, they will grant a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
How Long Will a Dissolution of Marriage Take?
There is no precise answer to how long a dissolution of marriage will take once the process is started. However, there is a 90-day waiting period mandated by the state once the petition is filed, even if both parties agree to the terms of their divorce. As a result, 90 days is the shortest amount of time a dissolution of marriage can take.
Do I Need an Attorney?
You are not required to have an attorney, but it is recommended to at least consult one before filing the petition. A divorce lawyer will know the applicable state laws and can explain your rights. However, there are certain situations when you should always hire an attorney. Those include when there has been a history of domestic violence, any type of abuse, a power imbalance, or if your spouse hires one. Even if you feel like you can represent yourself, when only one side has an attorney, the other party often walks away without a fair deal. When a lawyer advocates for you, you will have peace of mind knowing there is someone in your corner fighting for what you deserve.