In Washington, couples who intend to divorce or get officially separated need to undergo particular legal proceedings. The state encourages the spouses to take their time to try and save their marriage (during a conciliation period). However, once the spouses decide to go their separate ways, they must complete and sign the Washington Marital Settlement Agreement Form. This article explores more about this legal form.
Sometimes, even a long and happy marriage can end up in divorce. It is normal since no one is immune to mistakes and failure. However, the process itself might take much of your time and effort. It is especially difficult when the sides openly express hostility towards each other, thus becoming unable to make concessions. In such a case, things may turn out to be painful for both sides. So, brace yourself and prepare to do legal research to make the divorce as smooth as possible for both partners.
Now, let us take a closer look at the legally binding document the Marital Settlement Agreement is. The spouses use it to secure their mutual rights and obligations. Usually, the agreement contains sections concerning joint property division, child custody, visitation, and payments matters. Spouses can also attach other records they find essential to include, like a Parenting Plan or Child Support Order.
The paper is quite long, but with our smart form-building software and step-by-step recommendations, you will have absolutely no problem creating it. Enter all the required information in the form, and the constructor will complete it so that you just sign and send it to the appropriate authorities.
The Marital Settlement Agreement signed by each spouse should be reviewed by a lawyer and notarized before applying directly to the court. It is good to understand all the indicated terms and conditions and ensure they are fair and exhaustive. The agreement is due to take effect after the court approval. Usually, breaching this contract causes legal penalties and actions towards the violator.
Guidelines and regulations regarding each step of the legal separation procedure can vary from state to state. In the following sections, we will cover the laws enforced in Washington and provide a detailed guide on filing for divorce in this state.
In Washington, divorce and separation procedures are governed by the Revised Code of Washington (Chapter 26.09). The Code contains the state’s general provisions and definitions used in related legal forms and comprehensive instructions for acting in particular situations.
Since it is not always easy to read and follow an official document, we have put together and highlighted some key points you should learn about the dissolution of marriage. Let us introduce you to them step by step.
There are some no-fault states in the country, and Washington is one of them. The concept of “no-fault” means that in legal incidents, no matter whose fault it was, all the parties have equal rights and obligations. If a divorce occurs, no party needs to prove their innocence in court, nor are they to prove the opponent’s guilt (fault). Alleging the marriage is irretrievably broken is about enough.
The property division process follows the community property law described in Chapter 26.16 of RCW. According to it, all assets acquired during marriage constitute marital property and should be distributed equally. The details of individual assets given in the marital settlement agreement help the court to distinguish community and private property for a proper division.
If the divorcing spouses share minor children, someone should take full custody of them. Some couples independently choose who gets to keep the minor(s) provided that both are adequate and capable of that. But the court sometimes takes on the right to determine the custodian for a child—either both parents or one of them.
The custody includes physical and legal aspects. The physical aspect implies living together in the same place, while the legal one means making parenting decisions for a child. Apart from this, there is a visitation option that the non-custodial parent can use to visit the child according to an established schedule.
When it comes to assigning the custodian, the court usually accounts for the child’s personal preferences and parental living conditions, paying close attention to the possibility of domestic violence. They can also assign an attorney for the child to defend their interests.
In addition to custody, if the divorcing couple has children, one of the parents should help the other financially. To determine the amount of child support, the court usually appeals to the Washington State Child Support Schedule Economic Table. It contains specific definitions, standards, and general instructions used for calculation.
However, some factors may cause the court to reevaluate the amount of child support and make necessary adjustments. This happens when, for example, a child has their own income or requires some special attention. A child born in previous marriages or gaining financial support from previous spouses can also be the case. Apart from this, there are specific situations concerning taxes, gifts, real estate, and outstanding debts that the parent cannot pay off.
As for the alimony amount, the court considers all the parties’ living conditions from their age to their psychological state. The judge considers such important factors as the recipient’s financial resources, obligations, paying capacity of the other side, standards of living in marriage and its duration, and the period needed for this kind of maintenance.
There is an alternative to divorce in Washington for spouses who want to live apart but prefer not to register their divorced status due to various reasons. Legal separation allows couples to still be legally married without sharing any assets.
Separation does not differ from divorce much. It also includes such steps as the division of joint property, parental plan development, and the evaluation of support payment amount. However, it can be beneficial in some ways. For example, it helps not to lose tax benefits, social security, and medical insurance acquired in marriage. Besides, it might be better for shared children psychologically.
So, before taking any measures towards divorce, consider other options. But remember that you cannot marry someone if you are legally separated from your spouse. Moreover, you might be financially liable for your spouse’s debts.
The filing requirements vary by county of the state. To know the detailed list of necessary documents, contact your local authority. We also recommend hiring counsel to facilitate the process. Amongst the required documents, the Washington Marital Settlement Agreement is the primary one. You will have to compile, sign, and file it with the Superior Court Clerk’s Office.
Now, we will briefly describe the process of filing for a divorce in Washington.
1. File the Petition
The divorce process starts with a Petition for Divorce filed either by one of the spouses or jointly. If the sides agree to file a Joint Petition, the process will be much easier as they will automatically skip some stages. Unfortunately, it is not always possible for couples to initiate divorce together, so hereunder, we will discuss only the disjoint process.
You can file the petition at your place of residence, your spouse’s, or in the counties where filing is allowed for Washington residents. In addition to this form, you will need a Certificate of Dissolution and Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage (or Legal Separation). Fill out a Confidential Information Form as well, if required.
Couples with shared children should also provide additional documents concerning their temporary parenting plan.
Filing all the forms costs about $300-325 depending on the county. If you can’t afford it, you can receive a waiver by proving your financial position.
2. Inform the Respondent and Get a Response
The next step is to serve the petition on the respondent and provide them with a summons form. They should fill out the Service Accepted form and the Proof of Personal Service within 20 days for the process to continue. After that, the case becomes uncontested, and the court moves to the final stages.
3. Negotiate Parental Issues
When both parties are ready and informed about the divorce, they have 90 days to reconsider their decision and cancel the process if they want. But if everyone is sure about the situation, they should proceed with filing other documents.
Spouses with shared children should attend parenting seminars for 60 days and set up a Parenting Plan. They should also negotiate the child custody and support terms to be included in the Child Support Order.
4. Fill out the Marital Settlement Agreement
Parenting Plan and Child Support Order are attached to the Marital Settlement Agreement. You can start filling it out any time you want, sign and notarize it, and then bring it to the court for a review at the hearing.
5. Complete Final Forms
Before the hearing, complete all the forms to finalize the process. They should include documents concerning your children, the agreement, Findings, Conclusions About a Marriage, the Final Divorce Order signed by the judge, and the Notice of Hearing needed to schedule the final appointment.
6. Wait and Attend the Hearing
After 90 days have expired and all the forms have been submitted, there should be a court hearing. During the hearing, the judge reviews all the terms and conditions of divorce and checks if they are fair and just. If yes, they sign the divorce order and officially dissolves the marriage.
7. Change Your Name (if applicable)
You can also change your name during the divorce process. You should affix your request in the petition or the response to do so. When the court approves your bid, you can use the dissolution decree as evidence.