Basic Process is Easy!
The basic procedure of divorce in Washington State is fairly straightforward:
Unfortunately, many cases become complicated by conflict over issues such as property division, spousal maintenance, child custody, child support or a combination. It is also an inherently high conflict situation. Conflict from the relationship itself causes conflict in the dissolution.
So, even though it is possible for a divorce to be relatively straightforward, in reality it's frequently rather complicated...and complicated can become expensive quickly.
Divorce: Litigation or Alternative Dispute Resolution?
On one end of the dissolution/custody spectrum is full litigation of all issues: property, maintenance, child custody, child support.
Pleadings are drafted and filed. Temporary Orders are requested and opposed. Papers are served (sometimes personally, and in embarrassing locations - such as work).
The stage is set for a very high conflict, prolonged, and expensive dispute. Parties are almost inevitably displeased with forking out large amounts of money for an attorney, as well as with the inevitable inconvenience caused by a Court case.
Depending on how much investigation is required, how long the case lasts, the experts needed, etc. - the price will be anywhere from $10,000.00 upwards. Really, there is no upper limit to how much a high conflict and fully litigated case can cost. A few years ago, a client had paid over 150k to previous counsel simply because of the conflict between the parties, before I had even been retained.
Sometimes litigation is an unfortunate necessity. The financial stakes may be big enough, and there is a question whether assets are being hidden. There may be a real concern of child abuse, alienation, or abusive use of conflict and the abusive parent is unwilling to admit the issue and seek help. In such a case, counsel must be both a litigator and a problem solver; aggressive use of rules, motion practice, and investigation tempered with consistent consideration of alternatives to promote cost and time efficient outcomes at every stage of litigation.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers broadly to any method of resolving a dispute other than traditional full litigation of all issues to trial.
The basic methods are:
Hybrid: Litigation and ADR
ADR can be proposed even before a Petition is filed. However, rarely are parties able to agree to ADR before the petition is filed. For any number of reasons, approaching your STBE to propose ADR before filing the petition may not work for you. This is especially true if there is abuse in the relationship.
The method that often provides the best balance between full litigation and pre-litigation ADR is to file the initiating documents with the Court, but immediately propose ADR to the opposing party. But....
Which method is best for you?
The best option for you depends on many different factors. The less formal dispute resolution methods may be less expensive, but are also subject to less court oversight (and thus may allow one or both parties to wrongfully withhold information). Full litigation may give you access to more information and require more court oversight, but may not be a viable option due to financial concerns.
The best method for you should be determined after a thorough consultation with an experienced and knowledgeable advocate.
Breckan Law PLLC provides initial in-office consultations for $150.00. After you contact us to schedule the consult, we ask that you email us a general statement of your situation, as well as any particular questions you want to make sure are answered, prior to the consultation. This allows us to provide the best service we can during the consultation; our goal, regardless of whether you decide you need an advocate moving forward, is for you to leave the consultation with a full understanding of your situation, the law that applies, and the best options for you to obtain the desired result.
Breckan Law PLLC