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Basics of Divorce in Washington State - Part 1 of 3: Filing for Divorce

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FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Divorce, or dissolution as it is known in Washington state, can be a stressful time for a couple or a family. The Basics of Divorce series is meant to relieve some stress by providing general legal information for those considering a divorce in the state of Washington.

A Washington court can grant a divorce for a legally married couple if one spouse is a Washington resident, or if one spouse is a military member who will be stationed in Washington for at least 90 days after the divorce is initiated with the court.

Either spouse may initiate a divorce by filing the proper forms with the county court, which can be found on the Washington Courts website at http://www.courts.wa.gov/forms, and pay a filing fee. The filing fee for Spokane County is $314. The forms basically explain to the Court who is involved in the divorce and what they want to have happen as a result of the divorce. The filing spouse must give one copy to County Clerk of Court, called "filing," and have one copy served on the other spouse, called "service." At some point, no earlier than 90 days after filing, the Court will determine whether the parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and whether there are other disputes regarding the parenting plan, child support or property division. If the parties agree on all the issues, the Court will grant the divorce.

If a spouse objects to the conditions of the divorce, then it is considered a contested divorce. A spouse can argue issues, such as division of property and debts, alimony, child support and custody and visitation. Keep in mind that attorney fees and costs will increase with each dispute.

When both spouses agree upon the conditions of the divorce, it is considered an uncontested divorce. Some Washington counties, like Lincoln County, allow a couple to mail in the non-contested divorce forms to the County Clerk without having to attend a hearing. The couple does not need to reside in Lincoln County to be divorced there. If the forms are in order and both parties agree, then the divorce is granted.

Washington does not require one spouse to prove any kind of wrongdoing by the other spouse. Wrongdoing typically includes things like adultery or abuse. One spouse just needs to believe that the marriage is "irretrievably broken," which means the spouse does not believe the marriage can be fixed.

Washington law does not require the use of an attorney for a divorce; however, a Washington attorney's expertise is highly recommended, especially if children or large amounts of property are involved. Another option for assistance with divorce paperwork is the Limited License Legal Technician.  LLLTs are able to assist clients with preparing the documents needed to get through a divorce for a fraction of the cost of an attorney. However, LLLTs are not able to represent clients in Court or negotiate on behalf of clients. To learn more about LLLTs, visit the LLLT FAQ at http://www.wsba.org.  

Although a Judge Advocate cannot appear in state court on your behalf, you can visit the base legal office for basic advice and more information regarding divorce, as well as other legal issues. We are located in the Wing Headquarters building, Suite 121.  Below are our office hours of operation and services provided:

· Wills for Active Duty Members and Dependents by appointment only: Every Wednesday
· Power of Attorney and Notaries:  Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
· Legal Assistance Walk-ins:  Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

The material in this article represents general legal principles. The law is continually changing. Although the information in this article was current as of the date it was drafted, some provisions may have changed. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities regarding your particular case.

To make an appointment, call the Legal Office at 509-247-2838.