Trying to live life, let alone facing challenges, while negotiating with your soon-to-be ex-spouse can be overwhelming during a divorce. When disagreements on important matters arise and finding common ground seems impossible, the court may step in through litigation to make decisions.
This is commonly referred to as a contested divorce. When going through a contested divorce, it is important for both parties to understand what their rights and responsibilities are in order to get the best outcome.
In this article, we’ll discuss the key considerations, potential implications, and steps involved in a contested divorce, empowering you to make informed decisions and achieve the best possible outcome for your unique situation.
At Bliss Law Group, we understand the complexities of contested divorces in Washington State. Our dedicated family law attorneys are here to provide you with clear communication, protect your rights, and help you navigate the process. If you are in a contested divorce, we can help you understand your rights and make sure that any agreement reached is just and equitable.
How Long Does It Take for a Contested Divorce in Washington?
If either spouse contests the divorce (is unable to reach an agreement on the issues involved in dissolving their marriage, then both parties will have to schedule their case to go to trial. Trials are not necessarily handled immediately, and may take several months to start. Once the trial starts, it can last for weeks, months, or even years depending on the complexity of the case and how proceedings unfold.
What’s a Contested Divorce in Washington State?
A contested divorce arises when a couple is unable to reach agreements on the issues involved in dissolving their marriage. This situation necessitates court intervention, where a judicial officer makes rulings on any outstanding and/or disagreed upon divorce-related issues. It is important to note that contested divorces tend to be the most expensive, emotionally charged, and protracted among the available divorce processes.
The Most Common Reasons for a Contested Divorce
There are several reasons or combinations of reasons for a contested divorce. The most common include:
Division of Marital Assets
This usually involves disputes over the division of marital property and debts. This may include arguments about who is entitled to certain “property”, such as a family home, furnishings, vehicles, sentimental items, bank accounts, investments, family pets, insurance policies, or retirement benefits.
Spousal Support (commonly referred to as “alimony”)
If one party is entitled to spousal support, the amount and length of payments are often disputed. Whether or not a party is in need of spousal support is one argument. It may also include disagreements over whether or not one spouse has enough income to pay spousal support and if so, how much.
Child Custody & Support
When it comes to children, disagreements often arise over which parent will have “custody” of the children, what the other parent’s residential time will look like, as well as how much financial support should be provided.
Just because a couple enters into a prenuptial agreement before marriage does not mean that the court will automatically uphold the agreement. In some cases, couples may later challenge a prenuptial agreement for the purposes of validity, such as fraud or duress among other things.
Grounds for Divorce
In some situations, couples may disagree on the grounds of divorce. For example, one spouse may claim that the other has committed adultery while the other might dispute this claim. The other spouse may use this as leverage to get a better outcome in the divorce. However, Washington is a no fault state, meaning, as long as one spouse believes the marriage is irretrievably broken, they are entitled to dissolve their marriage.
Steps to Take if You are Facing a Contested Divorce in Washington State
There are many different reasons that may lead to a divorce becoming contested, which can make the divorce process more difficult.. However, if you find yourself in such a situation, there are certain steps you can take to ensure that your rights are protected.
A divorce lawyer can provide you with the expertise and guidance you need to navigate the process. Courts often appreciate parties who are represented by counsel, because they expect the rules will be followed. If an individual is self represented (also known as pro se), they are still held to the same standard as an attorney while representing themselves. That means that any pro se individual must become familiar with the local court rules, filing procedure, and court deadlines. When the rules are not followed, the court is rarely able to provide leniency. To the contrary, if it appears that you should have known the rules, or your negligence caused the other party to incur unnecessary attorney fees, the court may order you to pay fees to the other party. It is always a good idea to bring your best self to court, whether via your pleadings, yourself, or through your counsel.
Remember, you have rights, and even if you are in the midst of a contested divorce, those rights should be respected and protected.
Here are some of the steps you should take if you are facing a contested divorce in Washington State:
Step 1: Know What You Want to Fight For and What You Are Willing to Let Go
Before diving into the divorce process, it is essential to have a clear understanding of your priorities and goals. Determine what aspects of the divorce are most important to you and identify areas where you may be willing to compromise. This will help you approach negotiations with an openmind.
The more you fight over small matters, the longer and more expensive the divorce process may become.
Step 2: Discuss Your Options with a Family Law Attorney
Consulting with a knowledgeable family law attorney is crucial to ensure that you fully understand your legal rights and options. A skilled attorney can provide you with personalized advice based on your unique circumstances, explain the relevant laws, and guide you through the entire process. They can also assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case, helping you make informed decisions.
The importance of having legal counsel cannot be overstated.
Step 3: Attempt to Negotiate What Can Be Negotiated
In many cases, reaching a resolution through negotiation is preferable to going to court. Court is expensive, time-consuming, and can be emotionally draining.There are no guarantees in going to court.
Engaging in constructive communication with your spouse, either directly or with the assistance of your attorney, can help identify areas of agreement and work towards a settlement. Even narrowing the scope of what is at issue and what needs to be brought before the court for resolution is extremely helpful.
Some contested divorces can be handled through a process called mediation, where an impartial third-party mediator helps the parties reach a settlement.
Step 4: Make Sure Your Details are in Order
When facing a contested divorce where your spouse challenges the claims you made during filing, it’s crucial to strengthen your position by providing evidence. Gather as much supporting documentation as possible, such as financial records, witness testimonies, medical / treatment records, or even photographs; depending on the situation. Aim for detailed and well-organized evidence to bolster your case.
By following these steps, you can navigate the complexities of a contested divorce in Washington State with greater clarity and confidence. Remember, having the support and guidance of a qualified attorney is key to achieving the best possible outcome in your case.
Bliss Law Group is here to provide you with the legal advice and representation you need in a contested divorce. Contact us today for a consultation.
How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take in Washington State?
The duration of a contested divorce in Washington State can vary, but on average, it typically takes several months to a year or more to reach a resolution. Contested divorces involve disputes and disagreements that require court intervention to settle the issues at hand. Here are some key factors that can influence the timeline of a contested divorce in Washington State:
- Unwillingness to cooperate: When spouses are unwilling to work together and reach a mutually agreeable settlement, it can lead to protracted legal proceedings. Lack of cooperation hinders the ability to resolve various aspects of the divorce. This can start as early as service of process (i.e. evading service attempts).
- Custody battles: Disputes over child custody arrangements can significantly extend the duration of a contested divorce. Resolving custody issues often involves thorough evaluation, negotiation, and court hearings. If there are concerns about one parent’s ability to safely parent the child that can also require treatment (substance abuse, anger management, etc.) or the retention of a Guardian ad litem, who will need to investigate.
- Different types of allegations: Allegations of misconduct, such as abuse or financial impropriety, can complicate a divorce and prolong the process. Addressing these allegations often requires additional investigation and evidence gathering.
- Stalling from either party: When one or both spouses intentionally prolong the divorce process by delaying or avoiding necessary actions or decisions. This can be seen by evading service, as mentioned above, failing to provide requested documents, and failing to appear at hearings or depositions.
In contested divorce cases, the involvement of spouses goes beyond filing paperwork and attending a single court hearing. Instead, it entails a series of proceedings and the potential engagement of various experts who provide opinions to the court related to contentious matters that the divorcing individuals cannot agree upon, such as residential schedules for the child, assessment of income, value of property, and division of assets and debts.
With a contested divorce, the court’s schedule, and the necessity for both parties to gather and present the required evidence, or seek specific interim court orders, it can often lead to substantial waiting periods between any actual resolution. These waiting periods can create additional challenges, prolonging the overall duration of the divorce process.
As a consequence, the procedure becomes more intricate and time-consuming, demanding an increased number of hearings as both parties present their arguments, backed by the evidence and testimonies provided by their respective experts. The court, with its responsibility to carefully evaluate and adjudicate the disputed issues, ensures that all relevant factors are considered and a fair resolution is reached. However, fair to one spouse, and fair to another spouse may be very different than what a Court believes to be fair.
Understanding the potential length and complexity of a contested divorce is vital when embarking on this legal journey. It emphasizes the importance of meticulous preparation, strategic presentation of evidence, and securing the assistance of qualified legal professionals who specialize in family law. Their expertise and guidance can navigate the intricacies of the court system, advocate for your rights, and work towards a favorable outcome in this challenging and multifaceted process.
Should You Hire a Lawyer for a Contested Divorce in Washington State?
Yes, it is strongly recommended that you hire a lawyer for your contested divorce in Washington State. A contested divorce is often emotionally draining and has its own set of legal complexities. With the involvement of multiple aspects, such as child custody, spousal support (alimony), asset and debt division,, it is important to enlist the help of an experienced attorney who can guide you throughout the process.
A family law attorney will ensure all of your interests are represented, protect your rights, and provide a clear strategy to best reach a favorable outcome. They have experience in this area of the law, and will be prepared to handle any legal disputes that may arise during the course of the divorce proceedings. Additionally, they are knowledgeable in the court system and can provide insight into the potential outcomes of a contested divorce.
Are You Going Through a Contested Divorce? – We Can Help
Contact our Tacoma divorce lawyers at Bliss Law Group today by calling 253-844-4412. With our extensive expertise in handling contested divorces in Washington, we understand the unique challenges and complexities involved in these cases. Our dedicated team is here to listen to your story, providing a compassionate and supportive environment.