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Seattle Divorce Attorney

If you’re in the midst of marital dissolution, it’s important to be proactive when it comes to the practical and legal aspects of the process. To this end, you need to start working with an experienced Seattle divorce attorney as early as possible.

Divorce may well be the most difficult and emotionally taxing process you ever undergo in your life. However, failing to take the appropriate steps to protect your interests is almost guaranteed to make it far worse.

Having a knowledgeable and experienced divorce lawyer in your corner will give you the best possible chance of starting your new life with a fair portion of shared marital assets. At Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, our family law attorneys are equipped to handle your case regardless of its size or complexity.

Washington Divorce Law

In Washington state, a divorce is referred to as a “dissolution of marriage.”

Washington is a “no-fault divorce” state, which means individuals can file for divorce without one holding the other responsible for the failure of the relationship. Also, unlike in other states, it’s not necessary for both spouses to want a divorce in order for separation to proceed; all that’s required is a declaration by one party that the union is “irretrievably broken,” meaning that no available measure will successfully repair it.

A divorce may be filed in Washington as long as either of the separating spouses is a current state resident. You must file in the county you live in; if you and your spouse live in different Washington counties, you can file in either one.

After you submit the filing, there is a mandatory 90-day waiting period before the divorce takes effect. Disputes and complications surrounding the circumstances of the divorce may increase the length of this waiting period.

Not every marital dissolution requires court involvement. However, if a given divorce proceeding is particularly hostile, or if there are a lot of assets to be accounted for and divided up, the matter is more likely to end up in front of a judge.

Filing for Divorce in King County

If both you and your spouse ordinarily reside in Seattle, you’ll have to file for divorce in King County. If you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce, you can fill out the forms in this packet to request a dissolution of marriage. You will need to submit the original documents to the Clerk’s office and keep copies for yourself and your partner, as well as a further copy for the Family Support Section of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office if you have a child who has ever received public assistance.

However, as the form states, you should speak with a lawyer before completing this process in order to make sure you’ve done everything correctly and that your rights are protected.

You will still need to make a court appearance to finalize your divorce. However, it may be possible to do this remotely.

How Does Legal Representation Work for Each Party During Seattle Divorce Proceedings?

Even if you and your spouse agree on all the important aspects of your separation, you’ll probably need to use different attorneys from separate firms. It would likely be a conflict of interest for one lawyer to represent you both. A potential exception to this rule may apply if you decide to settle your divorce via mediation; we discuss this in more detail below.

It’s never too early to consult with a trusted Seattle divorce lawyer if you think your marriage may be coming to an end. Even if you haven’t openly discussed the possibility of parting ways with your spouse, there are advantages to talking about your situation with an attorney. The sooner you get an idea of your rights, your obligations, and the likely practical implications of your separation, the stronger your position will be.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation. You can reach us via our online contact form or call us at (206) 621-1110.

Divorce Mediation

Litigation is frequently unavoidable in divorce proceedings, but this isn’t always the case. In more amicable or straightforward cases, mediation is often a viable alternative.

Under this system, a neutral third party (the mediator) helps the separating couple to split their assets and make other important decisions, rather than leaving their case in the hands of a judge. It’s important to note that, unlike a court of law or a court-appointed arbitrator, a mediator does not have the authority to make binding decisions in your case. Their function is to help you and your spouse come to an agreement yourselves, not to decide on the best course of action on your behalf.

A successful mediation procedure will culminate in the signing of a contract dictating the division of your assets, arrangements regarding the custody of your children, and other important issues.


Sometimes referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance, alimony is a payment one spouse must make to the other following marital dissolution. A court might deem alimony necessary for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Income disparity: If there’s a significant difference between the incomes of the spouses, alimony may be awarded to ensure that the lower-earning or non-earning spouse can maintain a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage. Courts will try to ensure that neither spouse experiences a drastic change in lifestyle post-divorce.
  • Financial dependence: Courts will typically award alimony payments to spouses who have become financially dependent on their partners, particularly in longer marriages.
  • Age or health: If one spouse is older, in poor health, or has medical issues that require extensive care or impact their ability to work, alimony might be considered necessary to meet their needs.
  • Diminished earning capacity related to the marriage: If one spouse took a lot of time away from their careers to focus on child-rearing, or on supporting their partner’s career, they will likely be entitled to compensation for this.
  • Childcare responsibilities: A spouse who will take on primary physical custody of children post-divorce will generally receive alimony to help them meet the costs associated with this and to cover the shortfall in their earnings from the time they’ll spend out of work. This type of payment is called child support.
  • Division of assets and liabilities: The manner in which marital property and debts are divided can also impact the decision to award alimony. For example, if the court allows one party to continue residing in the marital home, it is likely to make an allowance for this in the calculation of alimony obligations.
  • Tax considerations: Alimony can have tax implications for both parties; courts may take these into account.

Alimony payments can come in the form of continual payments over a period of time (or indefinitely) or a one-time lump sum.

Child Custody Arrangements

There are two distinct types of custody that must be divided between parents during divorce proceedings. Both can be awarded jointly or entirely to one parent, depending on the circumstances of the case at hand. The two types are:

  • Legal custody: Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make significant decisions about their child’s life, including the way the child is educated, how their health care is handled, and their religious upbringing.
  • Physical custody: Physical custody relates to the child’s living situation. It can be either sole, where the child resides with one parent the vast majority of the time, or joint, where the child spends a substantial amount of their time with both parents. Courts consider various factors when deciding on physical custody arrangements, including each parent’s living situation, the child’s age and preferences, and the parents’ ability to cooperate.

The state of Washington generally encourages separating parents to work together to create a parenting plan that suits their children’s needs. This plan should detail how they will handle daily child-rearing responsibilities, as well as how they intend to make more significant decisions. Courts will only make these kinds of decisions on behalf of a family where parents show a complete unwillingness or inability to cooperate.

The state always keeps the welfare of the child as its first priority when making any decision about custody. Factors that often become relevant here include the child’s relationship with each parent, the parents’ work schedules and stability, the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community, and any history of domestic violence or substance abuse on the part of either parent.

It’s also worth noting that courts tend to prefer arrangements that allow the children of divorcing couples to maintain a stable and consistent relationship with both parents, as long as this provides a net benefit to the child.

Prenuptial Agreements

Though the idea of signing a prenup can seem a little unromantic, it’s a sensible step for many couples preparing for marriage. It’s also becoming more mainstream; according to a 2022 study conducted by The Harris Poll, 35% of unmarried Americans believe themselves likely to enter into a prenuptial agreement in the future.

Prenups are legal contracts drafted and signed before marriage that outline how assets and financial matters will be handled in the event of a divorce or death. For couples who are already married but wish to establish similar agreements, postnuptial agreements serve a similar purpose.

These agreements may be particularly useful in certain situations, such as where:

  • One partner is a high net-worth individual
  • One partner has a significant amount of debt and the other does not want to risk taking any of it on in the event the marriage breaks down
  • There is a requirement to protect assets on behalf of children from previous relationships
  • One partner owns a business.

Even in marriages where none of these factors are at play, prenuptial or postnuptial agreements can provide financial transparency and establish useful guidelines for managing joint finances throughout a marriage. Given that disagreements about money are among the leading reasons for marital discord, this could prove very useful.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does the divorce process typically take in Washington?

In Washington divorce proceedings, there’s a mandatory 90-day waiting period from filing to finalization. This is merely the minimum duration of the process, though; contested cases can take significantly longer than this, sometimes stretching on for more than a year.

How are debts divided in a Washington State divorce?

Debts incurred during the marriage are generally considered community property and divided equitably between the spouses. Debts acquired before the marriage or after separation are typically the responsibility of the individual who incurred them, though there are limited exceptions to this rule.

Are there any special considerations for military divorces in Washington?

If you’re a service member, or your spouse is, there may be additional issues to contend with during a divorce. These may include residency determination, the division of military pensions, and the granting of physical custody to a parent who spends time on military deployment.

Is legal separation an option in Washington?

Yes, Washington provides for legal separation. This option allows couples to live apart and divide assets and responsibilities without officially ending their marriage, providing a useful alternative for those who may not wish to divorce due to financial or religious reasons.

Are there any distinctions when it comes to same-sex divorce?

Washington treats same-sex divorces the same as heterosexual divorces, with identical laws governing issues like property division and child custody.

How can I modify a child custody or support order?

Only a significant change in circumstances can warrant a modification in arrangements are child support or custody. In all cases, the change must serve the best interests of the child in order for a court to approve it.

Getting the Legal Help You Need to Move on With Your Life

Divorce is immensely difficult, but it’s also the beginning of a new life for you. It’s imperative that you get the best possible start in this next chapter, and we can help you do just that.

Contact Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess Law Firm today. Call today on (206) 621-1110 for your phone consultation, or introduce yourself via our online contact form instead.