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What is the legal process that ends a Washington marriage?

While couples walking down the aisle on their wedding day may never dream that they will one day part, the fact is that divorce is a reality for many Washington couples. Couples contemplating getting a divorce should make sure they understand what the divorce process entails.

To start a divorce, one spouse file a summons and a petition for a divorce with the court. The summons and petition is then also served to the other spouse. The petition will include basic facts about the marriage, as well as what the petitioner wants with regards to child custody, the division of assets and spousal support. The respondent then has to provide a written reply that can include the respondent's wishes with regards to the couple's children, property and spousal support.

After this, in many cases, temporary orders will be established with regards to such topics as who the children will live with and when, who will pay child support or spousal support, who will live in the family home, how bills will be paid and other considerations. If there are disagreements, a court hearing can be held to establish a temporary order.

If there are immediate problems that need a court's attention, a "show cause" proceeding can be held. This proceeding begins when one spouse obtains from the court an order mandating the other spouse to "show cause" why the first spouse's requests should not be granted. Restraining orders may also be obtained.

Spouses will have the opportunity to negotiate their divorce legal issues. In order for a divorce case to be finalize, all issues need to be settled. If a couple agrees on all aspects of a settlement, a trial is not necessary. If there are issues they don't agree on they can have a trial to settle those issues.

Finally, after a certain waiting period passes, the court will sign a document called a "Decree of Dissolution of Marriage." If the couple negotiated their own settlement, it will be put into writing and signed by the judge. A divorce is not granted until the decree is signed by the judge.

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