If you and your spouse cannot resolve the important issues in the process of dissolving your marriage, your case may be decided in court through litigation. The court's final decisions regarding these matters will be largely determined based upon the evidence presented to the court at trial. Therefore, it is absolutely critical that you have high-quality legal representation to prepare and present your strongest case. Preparation for trial often begins before the petition for dissolution is filed. It is especially important to speak with a family law attorney early in the process if you think you will be dealing with a contested divorce. This can be a more time consuming and expensive process, but when you need results that work in you or your children's favor, it may be the best and only way to protect your interests.Where a Couple May be Unable to Agree
There are many parts of a divorce that can be challenging for divorcing couples to resolve. In an already stressful time, these are highly sensitive issues, and often, the mix of emotions combined with spouses acting defensively can lead to more and more discord. In family law, perhaps more than any other area of law, extremely personal matters are influenced by the outcomes of a case. This can make spouses afraid to give up any ground, and even less likely to reach a compromise.
Often the most personal, and most contentious issues are those related to the children of the marriage. When dealing with issues such as child custody or child support, it is common to feel protective. There is good cause to pay special attention to issues related to children. Decisions that are made early in the dissolution process (even during temporary orders phase) can impact the future of a parent's relationship with his or her children for the rest of their lives. Our attorneys understand the huge ramifications of decisions regarding our client's children and as such, these issues will be given close and careful attention from the beginning.
Also of great importance and deserving of special attention are issues related to the financial aspects of a dissolution. Especially after a lengthy marriage, or one involving various assets and/or debts, these issues can be quite contentious. Issues of maintenance (commonly known as "alimony") and division of the parties assets and debts can also be difficult to resolve without court intervention. Both spouses may believe they have a right to the property due to the role they played during the marriage. Our attorneys are ready to advise clients on the best way to protect their financial futures, and to be there every step of the way to help them do just that.Contested Divorce Process: Beginning to End
In a contested divorce case, our attorneys can help you devise a litigation strategy to protect your current and future interests. Our attorneys will keep both your long and short-term goals in mind in crafting these strategies. It is beneficial to meet with an attorney prior to filing a petition, or prior to responding to being served with a petition (keep the response deadline in mind). It is important to have legal counsel from the very beginning of your divorce case.
The various county courts have different rules and procedures (often found in the county's local rules). The specific procedures of the county court where your divorce will be handled will need to be understood. King County has two courthouses: one in Seattle and one in Kent. Whether your dissolution will be handled in Kent or Seattle is determined by where you live. There is a fee for filing a petition in King County. To view forms commonly used in King County family law cases, please visit the official website for the county. For those in another county, the local court or the Washington Courts website will also have the necessary forms. For those that are served with a petition, you have between 20 and 60 days to respond in writing. Failing to respond within this time frame may result in a default being granted by the court.
After the petition has been filed, information will be gathered by both parties. The information gathering process is called the discovery process. After a petition is filed, you have more tools available to discover information about the assets and debts of the other party. In a contested divorce, it is often necessary to ask third parties (i.e. banks and other financial institutions, businesses and financial experts) to provide information or input regarding the character and value of the spouses' assets and debts. Our attorneys work to provide efficient and thorough discovery, constantly balancing the cost and benefit of this process.
Information may also need to be discovered regarding the children's best interests. In some cases, this information gathering includes use of a parenting evaluator. A parenting evaluator is an expert that can observe and make recommendations regarding the best interests of the children. Our attorneys are ready to advise you about the usefulness of a parenting evaluator in your case.
You and your attorney may decide to move the court to enter temporary orders. Please see our Temporary Orders section for more information on this phase of litigation.Final Orders Entered
Most family law cases settle prior to trial. Even in a case that begins with a lot of acrimony, a settlement can often be reached. If this cannot be accomplished, the case will go to trial and the court will give a ruling. Whether your contested case settles prior to trial or is resolved by decision of the court, preparing and putting forth your best case will improve your chances of receiving the results you want. Our attorneys are prepared to assist you with the planning for, preparation for and representation you need at your family law trial.