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Divorce FAQ's

  • Do I need to prove that my spouse was cheating (or other bad behavior) to file for divorce?
    No. Washington is a “no fault” state. That means that either spouse can ask the court to grant a divorce without needing to assert any reason for the request. All it takes is for one spouse to believe that the marriage is irretrievably broken. It also means that the court does not want to hear about the other person lying or cheating. From the legal point of view, the focus of a divorce case is to divide up your things and provide for dependent children.
  • Do we divide everything 50/50?
    Not necessarily. All the property and debts of the spouses is to “come before the court” and then be divided fairly and equitably. “Come before the court” means you have to tell the court and your spouse about all your stuff and turn over copies of documentation, and they have to do the same. Divided fairly and equitably means the whole estate gets divided. It is like dividing a whole pizza pie. The pie gets divided but not necessarily each individual slice. And, it is not always 50/50, sometimes it is 60/40 or somewhere in between. There are many factors that are to be taken into consideration like length of marriage, earning capacity, health, age, wealth, etc.
  • What is community property?
    Everything earned during the time of marriage is community property. Both spouses own all community property and it does not matter whose name is on the property or who did the actual work to earn the income or property. Likewise, all debt and liability incurred during the time of marriage is community debt or liability and both spouses are responsible even if just one spouse did the spending.
  • What is separate property?
    Stuff that you owned before marriage and kept separate, gifts given to just one spouse at any time and kept separate, and inheritance received by just one spouse at any time and kept separate. But if you receive, say an inheritance, and put it into a joint account, that is NOT considered separate property.
  • What if we were never officially married but have been together a long time?
    Sometimes that period is considered to be a “Committed Intimate Relationship.” It is kind of like a common law marriage but not really because Washington state law does not recognize common law marriage. Recognition of a Committed Intimate Relationship is highly variable. Talk to an experienced family law attorney regarding what it takes to have your relationship recognized as a Committed Intimate Relationship.
  • Will I have to appear in court?
    Not necessarily. Most couples are able to reach a settlement before reaching the trial stage. If you and your spouse do not reach a settlement then you must finalize the divorce case with a trial. Divorce trials are heard only by judges, no jury is involved. The judge will hear testimony, consider the admitted evidence and make decisions for you.
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