Demystifying Washington Divorce in Kennewick and Tri-cities WA

Christopher M. Hoxie, Family Law Attorney

Divorce is one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. No one plans for the breakdown of one of the most, if not the most, important relationships in their life. For most people, they are emotionally unprepared for the process of disentangling their life from an individual with whom they have shared everything. Despite that, almost 50% of first-time marriages will end in divorce. The divorce rate is even higher for those marrying the second or more time. Nothing will prepare someone for the emotional toll, and this article cannot assist with that, but it seeks to shed some light on the process of Divorce. The hope here is that by providing a bit of knowledge, we can help remove some uncertainty from the process. Here are some answers to the most common questions I get.

Question 1: How long will it take to finalize divorce in Kennewick or Tri-cities WA?

In Washington State, a mandatory 90 day cooling-off period is imposed, by statute. That time begins to run from the date the nonmoving (the one who didn’t file the initial paperwork with the court) is served (is either handed the document by a sheriff or other process server, or signs an acceptance of service. This is a mandatory minimum. However, the Divorce process can take far, far longer then that. There is no actual maximum, and a divorce can continue until the presiding judicial officer loses patience.

Question 2: Why are there so many forms?

The easy, glib answer, is that the legal forms are written for lawyers, by lawyers. The more truthful answer is divorce is very complicated, and the huge packet of forms are each devoted to deal with one portion of the issue.

Question 3: Why is no one helping me with my Kennewick or Tri-cities WA Divorce?

The truthful answer is that no one is helping you because no one can. No one can give legal advice regarding a family case but a Lawyer or a Limited License Legal Technician. The clerks, court facilitator, judge, and bailiffs may know exactly what you need to do but are completely unable to help you. In truth, if you want someone to answer questions about a divorce, the only person who can help you is an Attorney or an LLLT.

Question 4: What does a divorce actually constitute?

As mentioned, Divorce in Washington, and thus Kennewick and the Tri-cities WA, is very complicated. There are four primary things that everyone facing a divorce should consider:

  1. Division of Property and Debt. Washington is a Community Property State. This means that a married couple owns the majority (though not all) of their property as a joint entity. Part of the divorce is ending that joint entity, and distributing the property of the community to the two former spouses.
  2. Spousal Maintenance. This is commonly called alimony. It is a payment from one spouse, to another, to provide for their support after marriage. The truth is that the court has wide discretion in awarding alimony, and it is very difficult to calculate the ‘right’ amount of maintenance. Not every divorce will end with maintenance, and those that do will differ in amount, purpose, and for how long it will last.
  3. Parenting Plan. If the two spouses share minor children in common, the court must establish a parenting plan. A parenting plan will determine which parent is custodial (that is who the child resides with by default) and what the visitation will be of the noncustodial parent. Also considered will be the decision-making for matters concerning the child.
  4. Child Support. Every parenting plan in Washington must be filed together with an order of Child Support. Child Support can be calculated by the Division of Child Support, or the court can do it.

Question 5: Why does the court keep ruling against me?

This is a complicated question. The honest answer is that if you are against an attorney, and are a pro se individual (that is, someone without an attorney) you are at an extraordinary disadvantage.