When can I get a divorce?
Washington State calls divorce “dissolution of marriage.” The court will grant the dissolution if you meet all the following:
- You are married either legally or through common law marriage in another state or country. (Washington does not have common law marriage.)
- You or your spouse is a Washington resident. This means you or your spouse live here and plan to stay here, or you are in the military and will be stationed here for at least 90 days after you file and serve the Petition for Dissolution.
- One spouse in the marriage believes the marriage is irretrievably broken (cannot be fixed).
- You file and serve the Summons and Petition for dissolution properly.
- At least 90 days have passed since the Petition for Dissolution was filed and served.
What if my spouse will fight the dissolution?
If you meet the above requirements, the court will grant the dissolution even if your spouse does not agree to it. Your spouse can argue about other issues, such as:
- How the court divides property and debts;
- Whether one spouse gets maintenance (alimony);
- Custody and visitation (parenting plan) of your children;
- Child support.
If you argue about any of these, it will take longer to get a dissolution.
What is legal separation?
It is like dissolution. The court enters orders for all the same issues as it would in a dissolution, including parenting plan, child support, and property/debt division.
Here are the differences:
- Most people choose legal separation instead of dissolution for religious reasons.
- With a decree of legal separation, your marriage is not dissolved.
- Neither party can legally remarry unless you first convert the separation decree to a decree of dissolution.
- The Social Security Administration does not recognize a decree of legal separation in figuring out benefits.
If either spouse wants to convert a decree of legal separation to a decree of dissolution, s/he can do so after waiting six months after the judge has signed the decree of legal separation.
What is an annulment of marriage?
The legal term for this is filing for invalidity. It is as if the marriage never happened.
Either spouse, or the guardian of an incompetent spouse, can file for invalidity. If a spouse is married to more than one person, a child of the later marriage or any other legal spouse may also file a petition for invalidity.
You can have your marriage declared invalid instead of getting a dissolution if:
- both spouses are alive AND;
- at least one spouse is a Washington resident (or in the military and stationed here) AND;
- You can prove one of the reasons for invalidity listed in the Revised Code of Washington at (RCW) 26.09.040(4)(b).
The reasons for invalidity include:
- One spouse was too young to marry;
- The spouses are related by blood;
- One spouse was already married to someone else;
- One spouse was not able to consent at the time of marriage because of mental incapacity or the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
What can a decree of dissolution, separation, or invalidity do?
The judge will rule on the status of the relationship. In a decree of dissolution or separation, if there is jurisdiction to do so, the judge will also:
- Divide any property and debts;
- Order any appropriate maintenance (alimony);
- Change the name of either party;
- Enter restraining orders or an Order for Protection as needed;
- Set custody and visitation (parenting plan) for any minor children of the spouses;
- Set child support.
Whether the court has jurisdiction to enter a parenting plan regarding custody and visitation depends, in part, on how long your children have lived in Washington. The court will have jurisdiction if our children have been living in Washington for at least six months AND another state or country has not entered custody orders.
Talk to me before filing anything if:
- your children have not been here for six months;
- your spouse lives elsewhere;
- custody/visitation orders have been entered regarding your children in another state (including as part of a domestic violence protection or restraining order);
- your situation is more complicated.
If you are interested in learning more about how I can provide legal support, contact me by calling (360) 676-0355 or by emailing Kathy@kjmarshalllaw.com or April@kjmarshalllaw.com.