These answers should in no way be construed as legal advice. For more in-depth and personalized information, give us a call at 1 (800) DIVORCE or fill out a free case review online. Our managing attorney will look at the details, assess your situation, and give you your options over the phone free of charge.
How long does a divorce take?
Do I need a divorce lawyer?
How much does a divorce cost?
Do I have to move out of my home?
Does the mother always get custody?
How does the court determine custody?
How can I protect my custody and visitation rights?
How are assets and debt divided?
How is legal separation different from divorce?
Should I mediate?
HOW LONG DOES THE DIVORCE PROCESS TAKE?
It’s called the divorce “process” for a reason. Washington has a mandatory 90-day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. That’s the minimum amount of time you can expect.
How long it actually takes depends on the people and details involved. In short marriages with no children and little or no property to divide, where spouses agree on everything, it can go this quickly. But the more details, complexities, and conflict you face, the more complicated it becomes and the longer it takes.
DO I NEED A DIVORCE LAWYER?
You can legally represent yourself in divorce, the law doesn’t require you to hire a lawyer. However, having representation on your side is in your best interests.
Even in relatively straightforward cases, divorce can become complicated in a hurry. An experienced divorce lawyer can guide you through the process and keep you from making costly mistakes.
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HOW MUCH DOES DIVORCE COST?
Divorce comes with a variety of different costs and expenses, both financially and emotionally. The financial costs include court filing fees, attorney fees, and sometimes fees to a third party such as a parenting evaluator, visitation supervisor, or expert witness.
At Goldberg Jones, we offer a free phone consultation. Our managing attorney will answer any questions you have at no charge.
DO I HAVE TO MOVE OUT OF MY HOME?
The short answer is no unless a court order specifically requires you to vacate. Choosing to move out prior to reaching settlement terms can harm your case for custody and often loses leverage on other issues as well.
We strongly urge you to remain in the home until you meet with an attorney to determine the best course of action for your case.
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DOES THE MOTHER ALWAYS GET CUSTODY?
Absolutely not! There’s a common perception that mothers always get the children in custody cases and many fathers feel that they’re at a disadvantage and face an uphill battle.
From a legal perspective, however, the laws are gender-neutral and do not favor one parent over the other. The real key is the parenting history that each parent brings forth. At Goldberg Jones, we are well-versed at counseling our clients as to their best course of action and telling a father’s story in a truthful and persuasive manner.
HOW DOES THE COURT DETERMINE CUSTODY?
Under the law, both parents have equal rights to pursue custody. The ultimate standard that a court applies is called the “best interest of the children.” Absent a settlement reached by the parents, the courts apply several legal factors to reach their conclusion.
It’s common to call in a third-party parenting evaluator to provide the court with a detailed report and recommendation. Ultimately, it’s in the children’s best interest to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
There will be a Parenting Plan created that tries to address every issue surrounding custody going forward such as residential schedule, transportation arrangements, decision making, etc.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MY CUSTODY AND VISITATION RIGHTS?
The more time you spend actively parenting your children, the stronger your case will be. Staying a major part of their life during the divorce process betters your chances of maintaining a similar role afterward.
Take advantage of the opportunities to spend as much time as you can with your kids. Courts like to preserve stability and consistency for children after divorce. If you have a large presence before, that’s more likely to continue after. This is one reason you shouldn’t move out of your shared home. That limits the time you spend with your kids.
It’s important you don’t allow yourself to be removed from their lives simply to avoid conflict.
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What Should I Do To Protect My Visitation Rights?
DOES THE COURT SPLIT EVERYTHING 50/50?
Washington follows community property statutes when it comes to dividing property. The general rule is that if it was earned or acquired during a marriage, it belongs equally to both spouses.
The courts are also able to consider separate property. However, this doesn’t mean you simply split everything in half. The courts have the discretion to divide property in a “fair and equitable” manner. The goal is for both parties to emerge on a stable financial footing and enjoy a quality of life similar to what they had during the marriage if possible.
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HOW IS LEGAL SEPARATION DIFFERENT FROM DIVORCE?
The biggest difference between legal separation and divorce is that in separation, on a technical level, you stay married. Legal separation often looks a lot like divorce in practice—a couple divides property, establishes child custody, and lives apart.
The legal process and laws are the same. There are a variety of reasons people choose legal separation, but it’s best to consult an attorney to find out if it’s right for you.
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SHOULD I MEDIATE?
Mediation is when both spouses meet with a third party in an attempt to negotiate a mutually agreeable divorce settlement. You can hash out child custody, the division of property, and other issues.
It’s often a useful, effective tool to reach your goals and reduce costs in divorce or custody cases. You don’t have to have a lawyer to mediate, but it’s likely in your best interests, especially if your spouse has representation.