Washington State Divorce Legal Issues

People approaching Washington divorces are often surprised by the deficiency of clear rules. People ask their lawyers, ” How much alimony do I have to pay?” ”How much child support will I owe?” How long I will have to pay?” How much of my pension does she get?” With very few exceptions, Washington Divorce Online has found that the law itself cannot give you very precise answers to these questions.

Either you and your spouse will negotiate a settlement between yourselves or a judge will determine the arrangements for you. In Washington State divorce cases, there are now formal guidelines that the court must follow in awarding child support. However, on most issues, judges are unfettered to implement their own discretion after hearing evidence, and this discretion extends even to child support guidelines.

You take your chances when you and your spouse go to trial. It can be a roll of the dice. Most judges do their best to be fair and professional, but, like the rest of us, judges are susceptible to their own prejudices and biases. If you don’t like the judge’s decisions you will either learn to live with them or you can appeal to a higher court, but few people ever utilize the appeal process. Appeals are difficult to win because the burden is on the person making the appeal to prove to the higher court that the trial judge misinterpreted the law or abused the discretion permitted the judge by law. Even if you are one of the few who wins on appeal, all you get most of the time is a new trial. The only way to be sure that your Washington divorce meets your needs is for you and your spouse to negotiate the resolution yourselves.

When you negotiate your agreement, you negotiate a contract voluntarily. You sign it voluntarily. You cannot decide that neither of you will support your children, and you cannot subject your children to danger or neglect. But, within very broad limits you are free to decide together, how you will resolve the issues at hand.

Settlement arrangements are negotiated in the shadow of the law. That means, you negotiate with an eye on what you think would happen if you were to go to trial and let the judge decide. Experienced lawyers often think they can predict what would happen at trial. Washington State Divorce lawyers tend to develop a consensus or sense of industry standards about the results of trials. They may agree that the judges “always give the wife half the house” or ” a third of the husbands pension.” They might agree that in a particular case $200.00 a week for child support would be unlikely. Lawyers who have appeared many times before the same judge may acquire useful generalizations. Much of this may be true indeed, but the truth is that you cannot depend on it. You may get a particular judge, or you may get that judge on a bad day, or your lawyer may be wrong. Although most lawyers will sovereignly foretell the outcome in court, few will guarantee you the conclusion. You need to treat such predictions with healthy skepticism.

Judges understand that you can do a much better job of generating an agreement that works for you both, which is why they don’t meddle in a settlement agreement. Ultimately, the Washington divorce law governing your settlement agreement is what you together believe to be fair and in the best interest of your family.

Every uncontested Washington divorce form or Washington divorce decree must deal with five basic issues. These issues deal with: 1) alimony, 2) property division, and, if there are children, 3) custody, 4) visitation, and 5) child support. These five issues must be determined by the divorcing couple in order to obtain an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse agree on everything and put it in writing, you have an uncontested Washington State divorce; there is literally no contest. If there is any issue on which you disagree, you have a contested divorce. Invariably, contested divorces center around one of the five issues of divorce: property distribution, alimony, custody, visitation, and child support. When a divorce is contested, it is usually because the couple has not been able to agree on one or more of the above mentioned issues.

When a Washington Divorce petition is filed, the state has several concerns that must be satisfied before the divorce is proved up and approved. The state wants to know how the children will be supported, who will support them, and who is in charge of them. The state is the parent of last resort. If children are abandoned, the state must provide for them. Because it wants this role minimized, the state, through its courts, requires that provisions be made for children at the time of the Washington State divorce. Thus the court requires an agreement or a court order specifying the duties and rights of each parent with respect to raising and supporting the children.