Frequently asked questions about family and divorce law cases in Washington State

Question 1:

After the divorce action starts, how long will it take for the divorce to be final?


After the summons and Petition for Dissolution are served and filed, the soonest the divorce can be final in Washington State is three months. However, if the parties do not agree, the case will be resolved at trial which is usually set approximately a year after the petition and summons are served and filed. Fortunately, most divorces settle before trial. Thus, most divorces become final between three months and a year after they are started.

Question 2:

I am concerned about child support. Doesn't Washington State simply set child support based on a formula? How is the amount of child support determined?


Child support is based on a great number of factors including the number of children, income of the parties, other children of the parties, tax status, and other special circumstances. A competent family law attorney should work with you to present your situation to the court to obtain a level of child support that is fair and can be realistically paid by the parent having to make payments. Because child support payments over the life of a child(ren) can often amount to a total of $50,000 to $100,000, special care must be taken when the initial order of child support is first entered so that it is reasonable.

Question 3:

How much does it cost for a lawyer to represent me in my case?


Rates vary depending on whether there are children in the marriage, the number and amount of assets that must be divided, and the lawyer involved. Other factors are whether there are children involved, real estate or one or more of the parties are in the military. These create additional issues for the lawyer on the case to address. Of course, another factor is the number of issues the parties can agree upon and whether the case is one of the few that progresses to trial. In Pierce County, retainers ranging between $1500 and $3000 are typically required for cases with children. Because of the lower overhead costs and experience in handling family law cases, creating efficiencies, this law office is often able to begin representation with a significantly lower initial retainer.

Question 4:

Do I need a lawyer in Washington State?


It depends. This is a jurisdictional issue for the courts and depends on a number of factors depending on where the parties have been living and where the children have been residing. If you and your spouse have resided in Washington for a great deal of time, chances are Washington has jurisdiction over the marriage. Furthermore, if you have been served divorce papers from a Washington court, you should certainly seek an lawyer in Washington.

Question 5:

Where do I get information concerning military divorces?


If one or more of the parties is in the military, there are additional laws and regulations that must be considered including service, jurisdictional issues, military retirement and obligations for the service member to provide support independent of the law of Washington. Many of these issues involve military or federal law. See the Military Divorce Law section of this web site for additional information.

Question 6:

How much will it cost me to simply speak with a lawyer who practices divorce?

     Answer: Initial telephone consultations are free.

Question 7:

How should I select an attorney? How would an attorney handle a case with a higher amount of assets or retirement benefits?


See the information concerning selection of an attorney in Washington State and legal issues concerning a divorce with a higher amount of assets.

Question 8:

How can I schedule an appointment with an attorney to get more information?

     Answer: Call (253) 272-1434. You can also send the attorney Erik Bjornson an e-mail.

Question 9: With all of the blank forms on the internet, Can't I just improvise and do my own divorce?
     Answer: The blank forms online are only a small part of the divorce process and the considerations for obtaining a dissolution. This office has worked on dozens of divorce cases where people attempted to represent themselves and obtained disastrous and harmful results. An analogy is the case where someone might obtain dental instruments and a manual on dental procedures and attempts to perform their own dentistry. However, few people would be able to produce acceptable results.

A skilled divorce attorney in Washington is versed in Washington State law and how the Washington courts interpret the law. There are often additional considerations should the divorce concern real estate, retirement plans, or if one of the parties is, or has been in the military. Furthermore, Washington Civil Rules issued by the Washington Supreme Court must be followed if one is to receive relief from the court. Many counties, including Pierce, King and Kitsap County have local court rules issued by court system that must be strictly followed as well if one is going to obtain any relief from the court.

Finally, an improperly obtained divorce can many times be set aside by the court at a later time if something was done improperly. This can be very time consuming and expensive.

As a general principle, people are entitled to represent themselves in either criminal or civil court. However, whether it is a wise choice is another issues. A skilled Washington divorce attorney typically has a four year undergraduate degree, three years of law school, a knowledge of Washington statutory law (RCWs), a knowledge of Washington case law (Washington State Supreme Court and Court of Appeals cases), the general Washington Civil Rules of Civil Procedure, and the local court rules of the county where he is representing the client. Finally, the attorney should know the law concerning real estate, if necessary and any applicable Federal Statutory and case law.

Divorce Lawyer in Tacoma, Washington

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Law Office of Erik Bjornson
Attorney at Law
615 Commerce St. Suite 204
Tacoma, WA 98402
Phone (253) 272-1434

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