When one reads about celebrity divorce shenanigans in the popular press, one could reasonably expect to see a byline of New York, Los Angeles or, perhaps, Miami. However, a recent divorce settlement with distinctively Washington roots has made a splash in the national media. In May, Francis Bean Cobain - the daughter of late Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain and musician and actress Courtney Love - announced that her split from Isaiah Silva had been finalized.
Clearly, divorce is much more common than it once was in the United States, with a large percentage of marriages ultimately being dissolved. On the other hand, since the 1970s, divorce rates on a nationwide basis have actually been declining. Even so, one out of every 10 people in the country is a divorced person who has not remarried. According to a recent study, more than 30 percent of divorced men and over 50 percent of divorced women are not interested in being married again.
While Washington does allow for contested dissolution proceedings, it is one of the states that understand that sometimes marriages or partnerships just come to an end. Most dissolved marriages occurring in the state are "no fault" divorces. In this type of proceeding, the petitioning party alleges that the martial bond is "irretrievably broken," and if the other party does not dispute the allegation, the judge will order the divorce after a 90-day waiting period.
In many states, couples who are getting divorced must allege - and if contested, prove - that a divorce is necessary based on a ground laid out by statute. Examples include such things as adultery, bigamy, abuse, incarceration, etc. Other jurisdictions recognize a "no-fault" divorce. In these types of dissolution proceedings, the couples basically just agree that they want to get divorced and file the necessary petitions.
Divorce is typically not an easy process for the individuals involved. There may be heartbreak or sadness, and in some cases, disagreement or animosity. If there are children involved, their well-being will be of utmost importance for both the parents and the court. Clearly the process of getting divorced can be fraught with emotion and scattered with pitfalls that can derail the process at any time.
In the state of Washington, married couples who wish to separate but not divorce can file a petition for legal separation. Legal separation is not too different from marital dissolution. In fact, the processes for both are quite similar. The parties file a petition in court, and after the initial pleadings, the assigned judge may hear motions and make some early rulings.
In Washington, people who are not the biological parents of a child can be given parental rights under a legal doctrine established by case law over the last decade or so. The "de facto parent" doctrine was first introduced in the context of a same-sex divorce that involved a child. Since then, it has been expanded to anyone who can meet all four prongs of a test laid down by the Washington Supreme Court.
Divorce, unfortunately, always carries the possibility of having negative effects on the children involved. And most often, divorcing parents want to act in the best interests of their children. When the parents have a good relationship, they may consider a "handshake" child custody arrangement in order to do "what's best" for the children. In Washington, as in any other state, this is not the best idea.
A divorce or separation of domestic partners can be stressful - especially if it creates an extreme financial disparity between the spouses or partners. For example, if one party was the primary breadwinner and the other didn't work out of the home or perhaps had few marketable job skills, the latter may find him- or herself in relatively poor financial circumstances. In the state of Washington, a maintenance order can help to equalize such disparities.
People in Washington whose marriages are ending may wonder what their financial future will hold. After all, after the divorce is complete they will be living on a single income, and they may have been dealt a certain amount of the marital debt. Moreover, they will be responsible for their life expenses -- shelter, food, clothing, utilities and more -- all on their own. The whole situation may seem rather daunting. However, couples in Washington should note that there are financial benefits one could experience after divorce.