It’s true, divorce can be mean, nasty, and riddled with conflict. But that isn’t always the case. It’s possible for a couple to file a joint petition using a joinder and work together towards a common end.
Most people think of divorce as an antagonistic process. TV and movies have pounded the image of a husband and wife bickering back and forth, arguing about every last detail, into our collective mind. But if you can and want to cooperate to smooth out the process it is possible.
What is Joinder?
In a divorce, the two parties are the petitioner and the respondent. They are the one who initiates the proceedings and the one served with the summons and petition, respectively.
This is set up as an adversarial relationship. But if the two sides are in agreement about the terms, the respondent can sign a joinder or an Agreement to Join Petitions.
Essentially, the non-filing spouse joins the petition for the dissolution of marriage.
How To File A Joinder
Even in these cases, one party technically remains the petitioner and the other the respondent. When the divorce petition is filled out, the respondent must also fill out and sign the joinder.
The petition and the joinder must then be submitted at the same time.
Once you file the petition and the joinder, you and your spouse must wait 90 days before the court can finalize the split. (Every state has such a waiting period, in Washington, it just so happens to be 90 days.) After this period, you can apply for the dissolution of marriage and file a motion for judgment without an in-court hearing.
At this point, you must submit any orders for support. If you have children, you must also have a parenting plan laying out custody, visitation, and child support.
Unless there are disagreements about the settlement, if everything in your file is in order, the judge reviews your case, signs the appropriate forms and documents, and your divorce becomes official.
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When Does A Joinder Work Best?
A joinder is designed to simplify and streamline the divorce process. By signing one, you and your soon-to-be ex state that you are on the same page. Ideally, there’s little conflict and you both have an idea of how to divide any property and move forward.
Like most other measures intended to shorten the divorce process, a petition with a joinder suits simple cases best.
This approach may be ideal for shorter marriages and those with no minor children. No kids means no long, tense custody battles or child support details to work out.
The same goes for situations where neither party seeks spousal support. The less complex and combative, the better suited the case is for a joinder.
A joinder may also work well in marriages with minimal shared property to divide.
A community property state, Washington views any assets, as well as debts, accrued during a marriage as equally belonging to both spouses. This doesn’t mean the courts split everything evenly, just in a fair, equitable manner. Division of property often complicates matters, so the less there is to divide, the easier the process becomes.
If both parties agree on who gets what, it’s still possible to make a joinder work even in divorces with extensive assets. It becomes trickier, but can still happen.
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Is It Right For Your Divorce?
Whether or not you should sign a joinder may become a big question in your divorce. It’s a solid deal if you lay everything out in explicit detail and agree to all of the terms in front of you. On the other hand, issues may arise if that isn’t the case.
Make sure you account for the exact split of assets, if not, this can lead to problems in the future. The same is true when there are kids to deal with.
If the initial petition for divorce doesn’t include a parenting plan or the specifics of custody, visitation, and child or spousal support, you may want to think twice about signing. All of this can come back to bite you down the road if you’re not careful.
Unless you’re absolutely certain about the terms, a joinder may not be ideal for you. You need to be acutely aware of what you’re getting and what you’re giving up.
It should be crystal clear how you will divide the assets and what financial obligations you will take on.
A joinder is one way to simplify and streamline a divorce. If you and your spouse are on the same page and can work together to come to an agreement, great.
But if things aren’t entirely clear, or you have questions, it may be best to consult an experienced attorney. You may still go through with a joinder, but it never hurts to have a professional make sure the terms work for you. Your divorce has a drastic impact on your parental and financial future, it’s best to get it right.
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