The first thing that you should know about the divorce laws in Washington is that it is not, like many other states, a mixed state. You cannot assess fault when filing for a divorce. It does not matter why you have decided to split up; you are simply not allowed to say that anything that your spouse did is the reason for that split. Instead, you have to file a no-fault divorce. Many of these are filed with a statement that the two parties just have irreconcilable differences.
The only time that fault could come into the picture is if you or your spouse are seeking alimony payments. These are assigned so that one spouse, who may have left school or a career when getting married, can still be supported. Fault can then be considered, for example, because it could be shown that you did not want the divorce before the wrongdoing of your spouse, and you need the support because the trust you displayed when getting married and leaving the workforce has been undermined by that action.
Washington is also a state that operates under community property laws. These are used when dividing your assets and possessions, which can be everything from your home to your bank account. Community property means that you both have a claim on all items to an equal degree. They are split up roughly 50/50 -— with rare exceptions -— because the items belong to you both. This is important because, even if you made all of the money during your marriage, for instance, half of that money is still considered to be the property of your spouse. This only applies, however, to money that was earned —- or items that were purchased —- while you two were married.
Initially, it is assumed that you both have custody rights, and joint custody will be sought. This usually still means that a child lives with one parent most of the time —- since this makes things like going to school easier -— but that the other parent will get joint custody and visitation rights. It has been observed that children are better off if they still have both parents in their lives, even after a divorce, and the best interests of the child always will come first in the eyes of the court.
Of course, if there are circumstances that require it, you or your spouse could seek sole custody. This can sometimes be done if one parent does not have a safe place to live, for instance, or if there are allegations of abuse and other unsafe behaviors.
Many people think that one party has to pay child support, while the other does not. In reality, though, this is not how it works. Instead, both parents have an obligation to provide for the child within their means.
The monetary amounts that are required are not always equal, however. For instance, you may earn significantly less than your spouse, and this can be factored into the equations, seeing as how you were both using your total income to support the child during the marriage. Additionally, if one spouse has more realistic responsibilities -— providing food and housing, for instance —- the other may be asked to pay more to offset this.
While divorce may be common, when you go through it yourself, you still deserve dedicated, personal focus on your rights and unique situation. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you figure out the best way forward, explain the law, and represent you in court if it is ever necessary. Take the first step now and contact a local divorce attorney to discuss your divorce.