Can I get a divorce at the Legal Assistance Office?
No. You will have to go through a civilian court in order to get a divorce. Even though you are not required by law to have an attorney, obtaining a divorce without one may prove to be difficult. Although our legal assistance attorneys are unable to go to court for you, they still may advise you on some issues and procedures pertaining to your case.
What if my spouse won't give me a divorce?
If your spouse decides not to cooperate, please keep in mind that it is a judge that grants a divorce, not your spouse. It will possibly take a longer period of time, and will likely cost more money, but you are still able to get a divorce no matter what. Also, if the military member is the one filing for divorce, some jurisdictions may charge less.
Does a divorce mean that all of our issues are resolved?
Not necessarily. The child support, alimony, property division, and custody depend on the law that is in effect where you file for divorce of dissolution of marriage. In some places, every issue that is in dispute must be resolved by trial before the divorce will be granted by the court. On other occasions, the divorce is completely separate from these issues and may be granted independently, without the issues being resolved. You are then able to litigate (fight in court) any contested issues at any time, either before or after the divorce, and they are granted independently of the claims for property division, custody, child support, and alimony.
I am a dependent spouse and intend to ask the court for alimony, what should I do?
You need to start discussing this matter with your divorce attorney long before the divorce has been granted. You need to request this beforehand because, in many jurisdictions, it is required in order to "keep it alive" for the judge to make their decision.
Will I have to pay alimony to my wife?
It depends. The amount of alimony is ultimately up to the judge, but there are a few determining factors. Some of the factors include: marital fault before the separation, incomes and needs of both parties, the length of the marriage, the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of parties, the property and debts of both parties, the tax impact of the alimony, and any other economic factors that would be relevant in the decision. Although the state of Washington only allows "no-fault" divorces, if you file for divorce in a state that does have "fault-based" grounds for divorce (e.g., adultery, chemical dependency, cruelty or maltreatment, etc.), a judge may also take these factors into account. If either spouse has committed illicit sexual behavior (adultery), the court must take the matter into consideration. Alimony ends either at the date set by the court for termination (if applicable), at the date of the death of either party, or upon the occurrence of the remarriage or cohabitation of the dependent spouse, whichever comes first.
How will the judge divide our property?
Property division (equitable distribution), should be requested in your "pleadings", and is applicable in all 50 states. It would be wise to make a list of all of the property that either you, or your spouse, has acquired during the marriage. Some examples are real estate, motor vehicles, bank accounts, household furnishings, stocks and investments, retirement assets, etc. You will also want to make a list of the debts that either of you have accumulated during your marriage. The fairest split is not always an even division of the property, and having this information available will allow the judge to make a fair decision. Some factors that the judge will take into account are monetary and homemaker contributions to the marriage, tax consequences due to an unequal division, efforts of either spouse to preserve and increase the value of marital property, the health of both spouses, and the financial situation of both spouses. Finally, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA) was enacted by the federal government to govern how military retirement benefits are calculated and divided in a divorce. The act will not allow division or distribution of any of the military member's retirement to a spouse unless they have been married for 10 years or more while the member has been on active duty in the military.
Where am I eligible to file for divorce?
You are not required to file for divorce in your domicile, but you will have to meet the residency requirements of the state in which you are seeking to file. Residency requirements can vary from state to state. The state of Washington has no requirement, you simply have to be a resident in the state of Washington on the day you file your petition for divorce. If you get a divorce overseas, it may cause problems here in the United States. American courts are required to recognize the orders and decrees of their sister states, but they are not required to recognize court decrees from other countries. Also, foreign courts are unable to divide military pension benefits. Only American courts are able to do so. Our legal assistance attorneys are able to offer you some advice on where you are able to get a divorce.