Divorce & Legal Separation
GIG HARBOR DIVORCE ATTORNEY
Steadfast advocacy from a premier divorce attorney.
We are a Gig Harbor family law firm and divorce attorney that is committed to offering our clients compassionate, creative, results-focused guidance to get through every step of the divorce or legal separation process. Separating from a life partner is one of the toughest things you will ever go through. Trying to deal with that intense emotional pain while figuring out where to begin dividing assets, debts, and time with your children can leave you feeling overwhelmed and out of control. We get it.
Our founding attorney, Mark D. Nelson, has been a trusted and respected family law attorney in Gig Harbor, and the surrounding Pierce County communities for over ten years. Whether your matter is simple and collaborative or complicated and contentious, our family law firm will help you develop and execute the best strategy for achieving the results that are meaningful to you.
WE PROVIDE COMMITTED ADVOCACY DURING A DIVORCE OR LEGAL SEPARATION IN WASHINGTON STATE INCLUDING:
- Fairly dividing family businesses, assets and debts
- Resolving custody disputes
- Entering and beginning to receive child and spousal support
- Developing a parenting plan that works for the kids
- Managing a relocation
- Resolution through mediation and arbitration
- Drafting and accepting settlement agreements
- Understanding your rights in a divorce with a prenuptial agreement
- Filing domestic violence protection orders
- Maintaining your orders through post-decree enforcement (contempt)
PREPARING FOR DIVORCE OR LEGAL SEPARATION
Washington is a no-fault state, which means the court isn’t concerned with why the divorce is happening but rather what is being divided. As you prepare for divorce it will be helpful for you to gather financial Information, like the value and payoff of your home and any additional real estate, monthly income and payroll deductions for each person, the last three to five years of tax returns, credit card and loan balances, Kelly Blue Book values for all daily use and recreational vehicles, retirement account balances and benefits, insurance premiums, and items of unusual importance or other high high value assets like a business or even antiques.
If you have children, it may feel impossible right now to even consider dividing your time with them. Child custody, and the resulting child support, is a major component of most divorce cases and the unknown can be very scary. Developing a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the children will ease your worry and help you cope with the new routine. Our Washington family law firm offers honest, straight-forward guidance to help you navigate the toughest emotional elements of divorce.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT DIVORCE AND LEGAL SEPARATION
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DIVORCE AND LEGAL SEPARATION
The biggest difference between legal separation and divorce is marital status. Legally separated couples are still married while divorced couples are not. The other differences have to do with finances and benefits, which we will explain in greater detail below.
THREE IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT LEGAL SEPARATION IN WASHINGTON STATE
- The most significant reason people choose separation over divorce is versatility. Some couples who are going through a rough patch choose legal separation so their finances and households can be divided while they are working on the relationship. If ultimately the couple decides they wish to reunite their finances and households, a legal separation can be reversed. On the other hand, should a couple decide to completely part ways, a legal separation can also be easily converted to divorce after six months.
- During the legal separation process couples can decide how much of their lives they want to divide. It can be as simple as just separating finances or as comprehensive as a full division of the estate including all finances, accounts, assets and debts like the home, retirement accounts, credit cards, loans, and property. Additional orders for spousal support (formerly known as alimony), child support, and a parenting plan may also be entered.
- Legally separated couples are technically still married and therefore may continue to enjoy entitlements offered by the marriage like remaining on health care plans or making critical decisions for the other regarding medical care, finances and property. One way to think of legal separation is as a separation of the “business” elements of the marriage without ending the marital relationship.
Finally, it is important to note that no matter how much of the couple’s estate is divided, a legally separated person is still technically married and therefore cannot legally remarry until they file a motion to convert their legal separation to divorce and the divorce is finalized.
THREE IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT DIVORCE IN WASHINGTON STATE
Some couples know that reconciliation is not an option and wish to permanently divide their estate. In those cases, divorce is the best solution.
- One misconception about divorce is that it is always handled through court. In truth there are many ways to settle a divorce. The parties may agree to work through their attorneys to create a settlement agreement, similar to a contract, that outlines their intentions for everything from dividing accounts and property to parenting decisions and spousal and/or child support payments. Another option is mediation where the couples work with their attorneys through a neutral third party to come to an agreement. Sometimes a combination of one or more of the approaches is needed to resolve a matter. It really depends on how complicated the estate is and how much the couple can agree on.
- The marital estate may not be divided evenly. The court is concerned with fair and equitable division of the couple’s assets, debts, and property. That means a party with the means and ability to earn more may inherit more of the community debt. Similarly, if one person earned most of their retirement outside of the marriage, the other person isn’t necessarily automatically entitled to half.
DIVIDING DEBTS AND ASSETS
The impact of how assets, debts, and property are divided during a divorce is life-long and significant. Once final it is very difficult to change how the estate has been divided, even if it is crippling one party financially. For this reason alone, it is wise to have a divorce attorney advise you on your rights and options before agreeing to any division of the community estate.
- Divorce is final and irreversible. Unlike legal separation, once a divorce decree is entered, the legal contract for marriage has ended in the eyes of the court. Should a couple decide to reconcile they must get remarried. However, if a couple decides to stop the divorce proceedings at any point prior to entry of the final decree they can file a motion to dismiss the divorce petition.
MY PARTNER AND I AGREE ON MOST THINGS, DO I REALLY NEED A DIVORCE ATTORNEY?
During the marriage, you made big important decisions with your partner, which makes sense. However, from here on out you will be making big decisions without that person. This is a critical time to learn about your rights and what impact decisions made now may have on the future. An experienced family law attorney will provide the perspective and guidance needed to protect your best interest in the long run.
HOW MUCH WILL THIS COST TO HIRE A DIVORCE ATTORNEY
The honest answer is: it depends. The cost of divorce or legal separation is driven primarily by two factors: contentiousness and complexity. The more you agree with your partner the quicker a matter can be settled, which keeps costs low. Similarly, having less “stuff” to divide is more cost effective than, say, dividing a small business and multiple properties and bank accounts.
TIPS FOR KEEPING DIVORCE COSTS DOWN
There are a few things you can do on your end to control costs. Efficiency is a great way to make the most out of your billable hours. One way you can be efficient is to provide your family law, divorce attorney with the documents they request, within the timeframe they request it. Your attorney is looking out for your best interest. It is their job to know what documentation you need to produce and when. If they are asking for it, they need it. Waiting until past the deadline can result in back and forth emails between you and your attorney’s office, your attorney’s office and the other side, and, in some cases, a required court appearance by your divorce attorney.
Family law tip: stop trying to negotiate with your ex. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the reality is your attorney is helping you figure out what is best for you. Your ex is likely looking out for themselves and may tell you one thing only to turn around and tell their own divorce attorney something different. Hours of billable time will be spent only to get you back to where you started. If you know you and your ex are likely to agree on certain issues, let your attorney know up front. They may be able to work with the other side to settle certain issues right away, which will also save you money in the long run.
HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE
Again, the answer to this question is: “it depends”. The quickest a divorce can go from filing to final orders is 91 days. This is really only possible if you and your partner can agree on the big issues like child support, spousal support (formerly known as alimony), a parenting plan, and division of the assets and debts. Typically, this process takes closer to nine months. In more contentious and complex cases can go on for more than a year.
GIG HARBOR DIVORCE ATTORNEY
Our Gig Harbor family law firm is here to help! Are you looking for a divorce attorney? Call us and let us help you with compassionate, creative, results-focused guidance through every step of the divorce or legal separation process. Whether you are still in the contemplation phase or many months into the process, contact us.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided above is intended to be a general discussion of common mediation issues. It is not intended to be taken as specific legal advice that applies to your individual fact situation. Always seek legal counsel for advice on your own unique divorce case needs.