If you are a resident of Washington and are ending your marriage, you will need to understand how divorce laws in the state work. Being well-informed about state legislation will help you plan appropriately for the process and create realistic expectations.
Marriage and common-law marriage
In Washington state, only legal marriage is recognized when it comes to divorce. Cohabitation, or common-law marriage, is not recognized as a legal marriage. However, if the partners have been living for a significant length of time in a relationship that can be interpreted as marriage, they can resolve their issues and dissolve their union through the court system.
Community property and division of assets and debts
Washington is a community property state, and therefore, assets and debts accrued during the marriage are assumed to be marital property and divided equally between the two spouses during the divorce process. These assets and debts include:
- Real estate property
- Credit card debt
- Other liabilities
If the spouses wish to divide their property differently, they will need to work together to reach an agreement and then present it to the court.
Addressing family issues
Spouses who have children will also need to resolve child custody and support issues when they decide to end their marriage. Child custody arrangements will be unique to each family depending on their situation. Child support agreements will be negotiated at the same time as the child support arrangements are made. Both parents are responsible for covering the financial needs of their children so there is a chance that a parent who is not working will still need to pay child support depending on the family’s arrangement.
Be prepared for a lengthy process that can take from months to years, depending on how fast you and your spouse are able to reach agreements on the divorce issues. Being aware of how divorce works in the state will help you through this situation.