A Washington divorce can be obtained on the no-fault ground that the marriage is irretrievably broken. A divorce can be granted in as little as 90 days, but if there are any contested issues, they must be decided in court. Most divorce litigation centers around issues such as the division of marital property, child custody and support, and spousal maintenance. The court has wide discretion on how to rule in all of these areas; it is important to have skilled and effective legal representation to make sure your rights are protected and your interests are served in the final divorce decree.
Although both spouses own community property equally, the job of the court is to make a just and equitable property distribution. The court looks at factors such as the financial contribution each spouse made to the marriage, each spouse's earning capacity, and whether the custodial parent should remain in the home for the sake of the children. The court also determines whether each asset should be categorized as community property or separate property. It is critical to have an attorney who understands all of these complex issues and can successfully argue for the correct characterization, valuation, and distribution of the various marital assets.
The court starts with a presumption that some form of joint custody will be awarded, although it is possible that the judge will award custody solely to one parent. Even under a joint custody arrangement, the child may not necessarily spend an equal amount of time with each parent, and a parenting plan will need to be developed that addresses issues of physical possession and legal custody.
Since both parents have a legal duty to support their children financially, the court will order one or possibly both parents to pay child support. The amount of support is determined using a complicated formula based on a number of factors, including income and expenses of both parents and needs of the child for health care, day care, or any special needs. The judge does have the ability to deviate from the statutory formula if convinced it would be in the best interest of the child to do so.
The court has a wide amount of discretion to decide whether or not to make an award of spousal maintenance, including how much to award and how long to order maintenance to be paid. Factors considered by the court include the financial need of the receiving spouse and the financial ability of the paying spouse.
Parenting plans and orders of support can be modified with various degrees of difficulty. In order to change a child support award, it is necessary to show changed circumstances that would justify the modification, such as a change in the needs of the child or the income of one of the parents. Changes to the parenting plan can be made if the court finds it to be in the best interest of the child, but anything more than minor changes can be difficult to accomplish.
Whether a separation eventually leads to divorce or reconciliation, formalizing the separation allows the parties to establish boundaries for issues such as custody and support, which can help decrease the chances of fights and legal disputes arising over these issues.
Nonparental Custody Petitions
Grandparents, other relatives, or court-appointed guardians may at times be the best choice for the child's care and custody.
Parentage proceedings are often necessary to establish the legal status of fatherhood. A child's legal father can claim the right to custody and visitation, as well as become subject to child support orders and other domestic relations orders.
We assist families in the legal proceedings required to achieve a step-parent adoption or agency adoption, including public, private, and international adoptions.
Termination of Parental Rights
Recognition of parental rights in one person, such as through adoption or paternity, may also result in the termination of parental rights in another. In most cases, the biological or legal parent must first consent to the termination, although several grounds do exist to be able to terminate a parent's rights over the parent's objection.