In the State of Washington, there is a mandatory waiting period of 90 days between the time you request a divorce and the time you may obtain one. This means that it takes a minimum of 90 days to obtain a divorce. However, it can take much longer. Your divorce will be resolved in one of two ways.
The first and most common way is known as "settlement." A "settlement" occurs when you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement, often through extensive negotiation, as to how to resolve the issues of your marriage. Most divorces are resolved through settlement. If you are able to reach such an agreement within 90 days, your divorce may be resolved on the 91st day. However, sometimes it takes longer than 90 days to reach an agreement. This can result in a longer delay before resolution of your divorce.
The second method by which divorces are resolved is through trial. In a trial, a judge decides the issues of your dissolution. Usually, trials are scheduled for between 10 and 12 months after the time you request your dissolution. Thus, an average divorce can take as little as 90 days to resolve or as long as 12 months. Most are resolved at some point in between these two extremes.
In mediation, the parties negotiate to reach an agreed resolution of their dispute. A resolution is only reached if a solution is found that both sides can agree to. The role of the mediator is to help suggest compromises, carry offers, provide feedback, and test positions to assist the parties in reaching a resolution. Mediation allows the parties to find the solution that works best for them and to retain control over the outcome.
Arbitration differs from mediation in that the parties submit their dispute to a designated arbitrator and that person then determines the outcome. This process is more like litigation in that it does not require the parties to agree to a resolution. Rather, the arbitrator makes a decision regarding the outcome that the arbitrator believes is fair and reasonable and both parties accept that result.
In the State of Washington, the amount of child support is based on you and your spouse's combined net monthly incomes, the number of children of your relationship, and their ages. The more the parents' earn and the more children they have, the more child support will be paid. Child support is relatively easy to calculate provided that both parent's incomes are easily determined. An attorney should be able to provide you a rough estimate in a matter of minutes. However, child support calculations can be complicated by factors such as self- employment, overtime income, and shared residential schedules. In order to resolve these more complicated issues, it is best to consult directly with an experienced attorney.
Mediation services are billed at an hourly rate. Generally, we ask that the parties reserve a period of either 4 or 8 hours to resolve their dispute. We request a fee deposit in advance to cover the anticipated mediation period plus 1 to 2 hours to review each side's mediation submissions. Unused funds are returned to the parties although there is a cancellation fee if mediations are cancelled at the last minute. Please contact us to get our current rates and to check availability.
For parents who are already divorced and already have a residential schedule for their child, a frequent question is how do I change custody or visitation? As children grow older, their needs and desires may change such that a residential schedule which once worked well no longer does so. Parents also can change and these changes can have an impact on children. A once effective parent can have problems with drugs, alcohol or other issues which raise concerns about the safety of a child. Generally, a child's residential schedule can always be modified by agreement of the parents.
Where agreement is not possible, modification is only possible in limited circumstances. A parent seeking a modification must be able to show that there has been a significant change in the parents' or the child's circumstances since the time of the previous court order which justifies a change. A parent must also frequently show that the current residential schedule is actively detrimental to a child. Courts are reluctant to change a child's residential schedule without very good reasons so a parent should consider carefully prior to trying to modify their child's custody or visitation arrangements. It is best to consult with an attorney and find out whether modification is even possible in your case before taking any significant legal steps. There are few things worse than spending significant amounts of money and creating conflict only to have your case dismissed by the court.
In Washington, spousal support or alimony is known as "maintenance." Whether maintenance is appropriate in a given marriage depends on the relative earnings of the parties, the length of the marriage, and other factors. Generally maintenance is awarded in longer term marriages where the spouse's have a significant difference in earnings. The amount and length of the award varies widely depending on your particular circumstances.
It can be very difficult to predict the expense of a divorce or other family law matters. Where matters have already been resolved through agreement and there is little conflict, a dissolution can be relatively inexpensive. However, where issues such as custody or property division are disputed, a divorce can be costly. Most attorneys require substantial retainers to handle such cases of several thousand dollars depending on the circumstances. Further, you should always keep in mind that it only takes one person to make things expensive. Even if you try to keep your costs as low, your spouse may have a different approach which leads to increased costs for both sides.
We always advise both parties to consult with their own separate attorneys as part of any mediation or settlement conference. However, we do not require the parties bring an attorney to a mediation session and we frequently mediate cases where one or both parties elects not to bring an attorney. It is important to understand that when Matthew Jolly is acting as a mediator, he does not represent either party and is not able to give legal advice to either party. It is therefore very helpful for each party to consult with their own attorney to obtain legal advice. In addition, he is not able to draft the legal documents and filings you might need to complete your divorce and you will need to either draft those documents on your own or have an attorney do that drafting.