practice area

Divorce (Washington)

Divorce Guide

When you and your partner have decided that divorce is the best option for your marriage, you need to make many important decisions. In addition to the actual process of divorcing your spouse, you need to consider division of assets and the future income you both will need for a comfortable lifestyle.

Depending on where you are seeking to divorce, it is important to consult a family law attorney who can help you understand the differences between the statutes of these two states. When it comes to divorce, Oregon and Washington are both “no-fault divorce” states, meaning the spouses can end their marriage simply because it isn’t working out the way they’d planned. The court can grant a divorce if either party claims that “irreconcilable differences” exist, which caused the marriage to break down.

Oregon is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning that in a divorce, the court will allocate, but not necessarily evenly allocate, property between the two spouses in an equitable and fair manner. This can lead to complexities based on the unique set of circumstances of each case. Washington uses community property principles to divide property and debts in the divorce process. Additionally, in both states, there are residence requirements that must be met and other factors that may affect how documents are prepared and presented to the court.
If you and your spouse cannot agree and one of you will challenge the divorce issues in court, a judge will have to decide about the issues. Temporary orders may be issued concerning custody, parenting time, support, and costs before your divorce trial. A custody decision may be made prior to a decision on any other issue.

Every case is different. Depending on your circumstances, a divorce may include the resolution of these issues: custody, parenting time (visitation), child support, spousal support (alimony), and the division of all property (property division) of any kind in with either party has an interest.


Custody/ Support/ Property/ Resolution

Child Custody: Although “custody” is the word people think of primarily when talking about issues concerning children, Washington does not use this terminology.  Generally speaking, “joint decision making” is the standard term for parents who are divorcing in Washington—determining who will make non-emergency medical, educational, religious, and other decisions for the children.  The residential schedule or parenting plan is the document which outlines where the child will be living when and with which parent.  These terms are different in Oregon, so it is important to discuss their significance with a lawyer licensed in the state where you live.  Although divorce and child custody issues can be stressful and difficult for parents, it is important to maintain focus on what is in the best interests of the children and generally that includes contact and a continued, meaningful relationship with both parents.

Child Support: Along with determining an appropriate residential schedule/parenting plan for the children, the court will determine child support. Child support in Washington and Oregon are based upon Child Support Guidelines. Each uses a different formula to determine the proper amount of child support paid.

Alimony /Spousal Support: Depending on the circumstances of each party, one spouse may be ordered to alimony or spousal support in order to provide for their former husband or wife. Spousal support or alimony payments are generally ordered when the separated spouse needs to pursue education or training programs to maintain their standard of living or when there is a disparity in earning capacity between the spouses.  Both Oregon and Washington have spousal support statutes.

Property Distribution: Most often married couples accumulate important belongings and possessions, and debts, which must be divided when a marriage ends. Washington’s community property principles presume that all property and debt acquired during the marriage should be equally divided between the parties.  Although there are exceptions to this premise, and circumstances can alter this presumption, the court will generally do its best to equally divide the property and debts between the parties. Oregon’s “equitable distribution” approach means that the court will allocate, but not necessarily evenly divide, property and debt between the two spouses in an equitable and fair manner.

Collaborative Law / Alternative Dispute Resolution: Collaboration is not for all cases, but the attorneys at McKean Smith are qualified to act as collaborative attorneys for those clients who want to explore it as an option.  In addition to collaboration, there are other methods of alternative dispute resolution that might be right for your case.

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