ALWAYS DO WHAT'S BEST FOR YOU
We only want to work with you if we can provide the best solution for you. Feel free to check in with a free 30-minute consultation where you can ask questions and get a feel for how we would work together.
Our process is simple and our fees are capped, so you always know what you will pay beforehand. No surprises. We can help you customize every part of your divorce for your individual situation. First we help you understand your options. Then we file your paperwork for you, so you never have to go to court. Check out our services and fees here.
WRITE YOUR OWN DIVORCE AGREEMENT
When Bill and Melinda Gates filed for divorce, they didn't file a petition and wait to see what the court did with their assets. They wrote a Separation Contract/Settlement Agreement/CR2A first. Then they filed a petition that told the court to follow the Separation Contract that they had worked out together. Melinda Gates bought her new house three weeks before the petition was filed and their other property was transferred before they started the court paperwork. It's an organized, logical process. And it's the process that we always follow at Divorce Without Court: Westside Collaborative Law PLLC.
In an uncontested, amicable divorce, the court forms and paperwork are like the ingredients in a pie. You need the ingredients, and you also need to know how to put everything together with a Separation Contract/Settlement Agreement/CR2A, so that both of you can move forward without waiting for the court.
In a Seattle, Kent, and King County divorce, your Separation Contract/Settlement Agreement/CR2A divides your finances and sets up your co-parenting relationship, including child support, spousal support, pets, refinancing your home, and any other decision you have to make.
At Divorce Without Court, we help you with the court forms and we can also help you “bake the pie” with a fair, legally enforceable agreement that protects your assets and your relationships. Learn more here.
PRIVATE, FAIR, AND RELIABLE
If you are able to agree to an uncontested divorce, and you already know you want to keep your divorce as private and easy as possible, then sit down together to work this out - either on your own or in our office.
We offer settlement agreements, mediation, legal review, asset/debt division, parenting plans, support order calculations, and all other services connected to an out of court, uncontested, amicable divorce. We help you create an optimal agreement in a way that is calm and fair. Learn more here.
We make sure our advice is always backed up by sources. We show you everything you need to know, so that you can understand your options. For example, the Family Law Handbook for Judges listing all the rules is here and the Domestic Violence Handbook is here. These books contain all the rules and can give you a pretty good idea of what would happen to your case if you were to go to court. We can also give you case law and any other rules that will help you understand. Your final decision is up to you (within certain legal guidelines) but a lot of people want to know as much as they can about the divorce process. We can help.
ONE OF THE FIRST UNCONTESTED DIVORCE FIRMS IN SEATTLE
Uncontested divorce is increasingly popular. In the last few years, even Seattle's largest litigation firms have started to offer uncontested divorce services. Divorce Without Court was one of the first, and at the time as far as we knew, the only Seattle firm to offer only uncontested divorce services. Jeff Steen started the firm to give people neutral advice, useful information, and a way to stay out of court. The first business manager we hired spent several weeks on a report that, in the end, boiled down to, "You can't only do uncontested. You have to do litigation too. The money won't work." But Jeff Steen refused. Lots of firms offer the option to include an uncontested divorce service. But uncontested divorce is all that we do. You know when you work with us that we will never try to get the high fees of litigation. We stay in our wheelhouse, and we know the area of uncontested divorce better than firms that only moonlight, sometimes, with the out-of-court divorce process.
UNDERSTAND YOUR OPTIONS
Everyone starts their divorce thinking, “I can just fill out divorce forms and we're done.” And if you have no assets to divide, and you both completely agree on what you want in the future, then this option could work for you. If you choose to fill out your own divorce forms, then you don't need to pay a lawyer. The King County Clerk has all the forms available for free here and the Court Facilitator will help you with the forms for $30.
Many people find, however, that the forms have legal repercussions. Filing a divorce can change the rate a bank will offer you for a loan, or even hurt your credit score. And a financial asset/debt division that's left to be sorted out after the divorce can easily leave you in a less than ideal situation for several years after your divorce. Many women, in particular, end up losing their home, or having to sell at an inconvenient time, because the paperwork wasn't handled correctly. Divorce rules are confusing and counter-intuitive. And even if you hire a divorce lawyer, most lawyers tend to focus on fighting in court, not on you and your needs.
We can help you sort out what you want and save money in the long run. In Washington State, it is family law “best practices” to use a Settlement Agreement as a contract. The Settlement Agreement sets up everything that you both agree to do and pay in the future. This keeps everything clear, and everyone is on the same page. It lowers stress because you know what's going to happen and how you will work out any future issues.
This Settlement Agreement can be customized to fit your situation. The state sets a minimum for child support, and there are some legal requirements for your property and asset division. Outside of these guidelines, your divorce is up to you. You can use our services to make your divorce work for you.
Courts in Washington will not allow children to testify about what they want. Children can only participate in your divorce through interviews with third-party professionals, such as a child specialist or Guardian Ad Litem. These professionals interview everyone in your family, your friends, school teachers, any therapist or other professionals, and then make a recommendation, usually based mostly on whatever the professional evaluation from a therapist listed as a recommendation. These child specialist and Guardian Ad Litem reports are expensive and time consuming. Most people find the process pretty stressful - no one wants your child's teacher to know anything more than necessary about your divorce, for example. And these reports cost several thousand dollars. Sometimes professionals charge as much as six figures for one report, and the process can last up to a year.
We can help you include your child, legally, in a way that's private, fair, and respectful of all your family's relationships. We help you set parameters for when you will bring in a therapist, counselor, or other professional - who will pay for it, how the professional will be selected, and other factors can all help reduce the stress. Then both of you can decide how the therapist or counselor's advice will be used, privately, to improve your family relationships and help your children feel more comfortable during the divorce process.
BUILD ON THE GOTTMAN INSTITUTE'S RESEARCH IN YOUR DIVORCE
A divorce can be a new beginning. Dr. John Gottman was divorced twice before he met his current wife, and together, they became famous for his research on successful relationships.
A successful relationship is not necessarily one where two people live together forever. A successful relationship during a divorce is one where each person can listen and help each other write the “story of your divorce” in a way that helps both partners, and any children, to grow and feel safe during the family's transition.
Our mediator has taken the training offered by The Gottman Institute to professionals who want to work under the framework developed by Dr. John Gottman's research into couples and their relationships. Learn more about the Gottman-Rapaport Intervention style here. If it's time to start a new life, you and your partner can find a way to both feel heard.
HOW WE HELP YOU
- We help you in your divorce because you don't know what you don't know when you start a divorce. We help you fill in data points and create workable budgets. Who will keep the house? How much money will be needed to cover the mortgage? What is a reasonable child support? How does the state calculate child support? What four factors increase the total amount of the transfer payment from one parent to the other? What expenses can you include in child support? How is spousal support worked out? How do you split your retirement assets? What are the tax implications of your decisions? We can help you make sure that both partners will be comfortable and able to move on. Divorce is a huge economic decision, and we're here to help you focus on ways to lessen the impact as much as possible. We always frame discussions around keeping you both comfortable.
- We help you in your divorce because you can plan your budget. We set a limit on fees. We lower the uncertainty around cost.
- We help you find neutral advice because we work as a third-party mediator. We don't represent either one of you, and we have no incentive to tell anyone to ask for more than you would reasonably be expected to get in court. Focusing on reasonable goals from the start will help you both. In divorce, once you start fighting, the fees add up quickly. The average divorce lawyer in King County asks for a retainer of $4500 to $7500 and then continues to charge several thousand each month as the litigation drags on and on. Your lawyers will tell you to ask for "twice what you think you can get" and otherwise blow up the situation. You end up paying a lawyer to write a brief for support levels that you already know that you can't get, just so that hopefully a judge will give you something in the middle. It's not the best use of your time or money. We can help you focus on goals that make sense all the way through the process.
- When you work with us, you never have to go to court. We help you to set up your agreements and your paperwork, then we file everything for you in court.
- And when you work with us, your process is private and involves much less paperwork. A litigated divorce requires a full financial declaration filed with the court. The financial declaration includes all of your financial information, including bank accounts, past tax returns, retirement accounts, revolving credit, mortgage payments, everything. Couples in court often end up hiding assets, too, because it's pretty easy to fool a litigation system that operates the same as it did in the 1950s. We still cover your financial information, and make a list of your assets and debts. But we rely on computer records and other updated means to verify income and make sure that both of you can fully understand everything connected to your finances without involving multiple other people who don't even know you.
COMMON ADVICE ABOUT DIVORCE MAY NOT WORK FOR YOU
Family and friends usually have a lot of advice when you tell them you're getting divorced. The rules around divorce in Washington State have changed in the last couple of years, however. Your loved ones' concerned advice might no longer fit your situation. Here's some common advice, and the updated rules to help you understand how to navigate the situation.
- One piece of common advice is "Hire a bulldog - you need a lawyer to protect you!" Years ago, when family law operated more like a criminal law case, this was true. A lawyer could make a big difference. Now, however, the judges will only follow the family law manual found here. Most family law rules are set by statute. A lawyer can argue, but the lawyer's arguments won't change the outcome. The judge has to follow the rules. So for example if one of you wants a parenting plan that gives 50-50 time to each parent, and one of you asks for "full custody," the judge will just go back to the rules. The rules say that a parent's time can be limited if there is risk to the children and evidence of damage from the relationship. This means the judge will not give one parent full custody if your children have never been placed at risk (either through physical abuse or risky behaviors) and your children can attend school normally, or otherwise show no symptoms of abuse that interfere with their daily lives. If your children are doing well, then all the time and money spent on a lawyer arguing parenting time just will not change the outcome. Another example is child support. Lawyers love to set up temporary orders for the "primary parent" based on the temporary orders rules. These temporary orders usually keep the status quo - if a mom was taking care of the children full-time, then she will get more time with the children, and she will get whatever amount of money was needed to run the household, even if that leaves the other parent with less money to live on. But temporary orders are only for a short time. The judge will not allow the mom to keep that money indefinitely. Within a few months, the judge will order child support based on the state formula and an equitable division of child-related expenses. Usually the money spent on a lawyer is more than the parent was able to get in temporary child support. We can help you avoid this. In an uncontested divorce, you can skip the temporary orders. We help you work out an equitable split of time and assets without waiting a year for a trial. In an uncontested divorce, you would forego the few months where one parent might be getting a short-term boost. But you can skip right to the long-term settlement where both parents are reasonably comfortable and operating under something that's more fair.
- Another piece of common advice is "Show your children you will fight for them!" This advice, though well-meant, is really a mistake. Children do not feel better when their parents are attacked. Children feel stressed when one or both of their parents are feeling stressed. Children are hurt when their parents fight. Children see everything, even what you think you're concealing. And it is not possible to hurt the other parent without hurting your child too. Show your children the lessons you really want them to learn. Teach them to manage conflict respectfully and prove that you care more about their well-being than you do about being "right" or "winning."
DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS?
Lots of people want to know the answers to questions such as, "What's fair?" "Do we have to get along to have an uncontested divorce?' and "What are the steps in the process?" Check out our FAQ page and feel free to call with any other questions you might have - our number is 206-747-3029