A divorce is different from a Legal Separation. While at the conclusion of a divorce, all matters will be settled and you are restored to the status of a single person, in a legal separation all matters may or may not be settled, but your status will remain married.
THE PROCESS BEGINS with the filing of a Petition. At the same time or soon after, if a spousal support order, a child support and/or custody order, or other orders are needed, a Request for Temporary Orders may be filed, which asks the Court to make orders in the interim, before the divorce is finalized. Keep in mind that temporary Orders have a way of becoming permanent orders.
If there are issues that need immediate attention (child welfare, domestic abuse), either party may request Emergency Orders, which if granted will take effect immediately. We can generally get into court the next day.
THE PROCESS CONTINUES when the other party files a Response to the petition. This party (the Respondent) must also respond to any Request for Temporary Orders. If no response is filed or it is filed past the deadline, the Court may grant the Petitioner's requests, with the Respondent having no say in the matter. If you have been served divorce papers, do not delay talking to your lawyer - there are strict time limits to respond.
HOW LONG DOES THE PROCESS TAKE?
The process can be over as soon as the parties agree to a settlement, or may take much longer if there are contested issues. A contested dissolution with no agreement by the parties may not be final until after a trial.
There are many steps between the filing of the Petition and the final decree of divorce. Each party must prepare and file financial information, and either party may engage in Discovery to determine the other party's assets and other matters.
In Washington, the earliest your divorce can be final is 90 days from the date the Respondent is served.
A final decree of dissolution (or legal separation) may include orders for Spousal Support, Child support, custody and visitation; property and debt division, name changes, and of course, your status as a divorced or separated person.
If you have an Estate Plan in place during marriage, remember that a final divorce decree voids that plan, so you need to re-write it to meet your future needs. In certain cases, you may wish to re-write your estate plan after you are separated but before the final divorce, to avoid an unwanted result. Please call for more information.
Call to schedule a consultation with Attorney Moses to discuss the specifics of your matter. Initial consultations are at no charge.
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