My spouse has filed a response to my divorce petition just because he doesn't want it to take place (not because he disagrees with any issue). I filed on my own, without lawyer as I expected it to be a straightforward, uncontested case. Now I'm confused as to next steps. Can this go to trial just because he doesn't want the divorce at all and I do? Should I get a lawyer (it is very hard for me to afford one)? What do I need to be doing now?
Washington is a "no fault" state for dissolution, meaning that if either party believes that the marriage is "irretrievably broken" then you have met the statutory threshold necessary for the court to grant a divorce. Other factors that support this determination are if you reside in separate households, divide your finances, etc. If there are no children and you agree to the division of your assets/debts/spousal maintenance then you can enter into a property settlement agreement to resolve these matters until your spouse is either willing to agree to sign the final dissolution papers or until the trial date comes around so the court can make the decision and end the marriage by entering the divorce decree.
Any party in a lawsuit has the right to be heard by the court. So, of course, your case can go to trial.
In WA, if at least one spouse does not want the marriage to continue, the court will eventually sign the decree of dissolution. The steps to get to the signing of the decree may be convoluted when one or both spouses do not agree to the dissolution.
As the petitioner, you have the job of keeping the case moving through the court. When you filed the petition (presumably, in King County), you were given copies of the order setting case schedule. In the order are the deadlines you are required to pay attention to.
Many counties have family law facilitators whose offices are in the superior courthouses. The facilitators do charge fees (less than $50).
Your spouse cannot prevent a divorce decree from being entered by contesting the divorce. Washington is a no-fault state, meaning that neither party needs to have done something wrong for a court to dissolve the marriage.
You haven't provided much in the way of facts, so there are several possible next steps. First, if you are unhappy about the way circumstances are as the divorce is pending, e.g., you are not receiving enough in maintenance, want possession of a certain vehicle, or want to occupy the home, you can prepare a motion for temporary orders where the court can address these issues. Second, and perhaps what might be more helpful here, is the schedule mediation. If your spouse believes he can drag his feet and prevent the divorce from going forward, the mediator should set him straight. I would recommend you retain the services of a professional mediator. Here is a link to a number of family law mediators in the Seattle area: http://www.mediate.com/SeattleMediators/index.cfm. Third, you can hire an attorney and let him/her handle it. You can use the Find a Lawyer tab to do so.
This response is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. I am not your attorney, and you should not rely on this information to take any action or refrain from taking any action related to this matter. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem before taking action or refraining from taking action. Use of or reliance on this information does not create an attorney-client relationship between the attorney and the user or browser.
The simple answer is that even though you will eventually get a divorce, as this is a no fault divorce state and he will not be able to stop the divorce (as other counsel have stated), you may be forced to go to trial to get this outcome.
Even if this is a straight forward case, with no child custody, child support, property or maintenance issues, if he responds and disputes any of the assertions in your petition for dissolution, then you may be stuck going to trial.
I encourage mediation as a good curse to take. Parties are also required by the court rules to participate in an alternate dispute resolution process (i.e. mediation). However, while a mediator might be able to convince him to accept the inevitable, a mediator cannot force any action nor make a decision. They are there to try and bring the parties together and facilitate a settlement. That said, this may be your best next course of action.
It would be well worth your while to talk to a lawyer to get some specific directions (whether they give free consultations or not).
Sign up to receive a 10-part series of useful information and legal advice about the divorce process.
Our Rating is calculated using information the lawyer has included on their profile in addition to the information we collect from state bar associations and other organizations that license legal professionals. Attorneys who claim their profiles and provide Avvo with more information tend to have a higher rating than those who do not.What determines Avvo Rating?Experience & background
Years licensed, work experience, educationLegal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awardsLegal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagementsDiscipline