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Divorce Law

Couples divorce for many different reasons. The process can be quick and easy, or drawn out and complicated. This depends on how cooperative the partners are, and the efficiency of the legal team involved.

In some cases, a spouse’s behavior can create so much turmoil that their partner becomes distrustful, frightened or angry. These are an unfortunate by-product of an emotionally turbulent process. The process can become even more dynamic if both partners engage in bad behavior.

For many couples, deciding to divorce does not happen overnight, especially when children are involved. There are a variety of issue to resolve beyond a parenting schedule such as:


  • Spousal maintenance
  • Division of assets
  • Debt dissolution
  • Pre- or post-nuptial agreements
  • Legal separation
In any situation, it’s best to consult an experienced Family Law Attorney licensed in the State of Washington. I have over 25 years of experience and I am confident I can assist you through the process. Regardless, the attorney you decide upon should negate many of the stressful situations that arise during the process and help you navigate the system in a way that minimizes the impacts upon the children, you and your finances.

There are many facets to a divorce, so the page below lays out more detailed information like how the process works, why people opt for a legal separation versus a divorce and finally the most common and frequently asked questions for those considering or moving into a divorce.

Divorce in Washington State

In Washington State, divorce is officially known as a dissolution. Once a judge signs a final divorce order terminating the marriage, the marriage is over.

In Washington State, you don’t need to provide a specific reason for divorce or legal separation. Washington is a “no fault divorce” state, which means you can simply acknowledge that the marriage is irrevocably broken with no chance of reuniting.

How to Divorce in Washington State

To start, one spouse (called the “petitioner”) files a “summons” and “petition” for dissolution of marriage. This document is then served upon the other spouse (known as the “respondent”).

Depending on the Respondent’s location in this state or another, He or She has 20 to 60 days to reply in writing to the petition. This is the opportunity to identify which parts of the petition they agree or disagree with.

Under Washington State law, parties must wait 90 days before their petition for dissolution of marriage can be granted by a court.

As the case works its way toward finalization (settlement or trial), it is sensible to obtain “temporary orders” from the court to guide the conduct of the parties. Temporary orders can be agreed upon or issued on a motion by either party. Typically, temporary orders cover subjects such as: housing arrangements for the children, spousal maintenance, occupancy of the family home, payment of bills, and other concerns for protecting people or preserving property.

If terms cannot be negotiated between spouses, a trial will be held to decide any disputes. On the other hand, if spouses agree on a solution and no aspect of the marriage dissolution is contested, the case does not have to go to trial.

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Opting for Legal Separation in Vancouver Washington?

Due to religious, health or financial reasons, some couples choose legal separation rather than divorce. Others choose legal separation because they are not sure if they really want to divorce, but they know they cannot live together.

Whichever you decide to do, you can count on the Chris R. Sundstrom Law Firm to negotiate an agreement that provides you with security and peace of mind.

Here are some of the more common questions people have in a Washington divorce or marriage dissolution: What if I can’t locate my spouse?

If you cannot locate your spouse, the law requires you to file an “affidavit of due diligence” setting forth your good faith efforts to locate and then serve your spouse. Once the court is satisfied with your efforts to carry out “personal service”, it may entertain a motion for “service by publication” – something you often see in the “Legal Notices” section of your local newspaper.

Is there a residency requirement?

You only need to be a Washington state resident on the day you petitioned for a divorce. Before a petition for dissolution of marriage is filed in Washington, it’s required that a child has resided in the state for at least six months.

Does there have to be grounds for a divorce?

Washington is a no-fault divorce state. Meaning, you don’t need particular grounds for divorce. Wrongdoing by a spouse may affect some of the judge’s decisions but has no effect on filing the petition, nor granting final relief.

What is a community property state?

According to Washington state law, all property and income acquired by a couple during their marriage belong to both parties equally. The assumption is that the property will be evenly divided, although ultimately the court need only arrive at a “just, fair and equitable” division of the community property and debts.

What is an uncontested divorce?

In an uncontested divorce in Washington State, the parties have reached an agreement on the essential issues before filing the petition for marriage dissolution. The parties’ agreements are reflected in the petition, and the respondent executes a “joinder” indicating that they are in agreement with the terms and provisions outlined in the petition. A final decree of dissolution is then granted on those terms.

Consult a Vancouver Divorce Attorney

If you are moving towards a divorce, the first step is to call the Chris R. Sundstrom Law Firm to arrange a consultation. We will discuss your thoughts on your children’s welfare, support, living arrangements, and how to start dividing your assets and debts.

Call Chris R. Sundstrom Law Firm, a Vancouver, Washington Family Law firm, at (360) 896-7477 to arrange for your consultation, or fill out our online contact form. Our conversation will be held in the strictest confidence.

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