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  • You can take back control

    Divorce Without Court: Westside Collaborative Law PLLC gives you the tools you need to manage your divorce

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  • Answers from a neutral party

    Divorce Without Court: Westside Collaborative Law PLLC answers your questions about child support, financial asset/debt divisions, and everything else you need to move forward

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  • Less Paperwork

    Divorce Without Court: Westside Collaborative Law PLLC keeps your process private and fair

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  • Recent Reviews

    “You were wonderful to work with and I so appreciate the ease you added to this process.” February 2022

    “Thank you so much for working with us through this difficult process. You have been absolutely extraordinary. We really appreciate all that you have done.” October 2020

    “You have a level of grace that is vital in this role. Thank you again for your support.” December 2020

    “Thank you! you were a god sent you primed me for what to expect. Thank you so so much. I feel that’s the best advice I got offered in the whole process.” December 2020

    “You are the moment that turned this all around. I will never be able to thank you enough.” November 2020

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WE OFFER TWO OPTIONS

If you already mostly agree, and only want a fast, simple way to get through your court forms, we have a class. We will walk you through how to fill out your forms for an uncontested divorce. At the end of the class, you will have a set of forms that you can take to the King County Facilitator's office to finalize a divorce. 

Or, for a flat-fee, we will help you with mediation and setting up a formal contract. At the end of mediation, you will have a Separation Contract/CR2A/Settlement Agreement that you have both signed. Effectively you'll write your own court order. You'll also have a set of court forms that we have filled out for you, and we will file the petition for you for free. (There is a $314 filing fee that goes to the court). Our portal will walk you through all the steps. You will have an email reminder of what to do, and how to do it. 

Free Consult/Flat Fee Package - Which is right for you?

WHAT DO YOU NEED?

We only want to work with you if we can provide the best solution for your divorce or separation. We have helped more than 350 couples, many in high-conflict situations, to resolve their differences and separate or divorce without going to court. Here are some situations where we can be helpful: 

  • You can't stop fighting, but you want to keep as much of your money as possible. Paying lawyers to argue about how to divide your money is the most expensive option available. We can help you focus on the areas where you do agree, and help you build the future that you both want. You have more options to borrow money if you're not in an open court case. 
  • You want a decision as soon as possible. Court resolves a dispute, but suing for a divorce takes longer than a settlement. A judge does not give you permission to get divorced or make your divorce official - a judge only resolves your dispute about HOW to get divorced. Most people who sue for divorce eventually settle anyway. About 98% of all divorce trials end with a settlement. We can help you skip to the end and give you a contract that is the same as if you had sued to get a settlement before a trial, or a judge's order after a trial. Ending your dispute is the whole point of court. You can also end your dispute without court, if you want to move faster. 
  • You know that you want to stay out of court, but you don't completely agree on all the financial decisions, such as who will keep the house or what the house is really worth. We can help you talk through options to cooperate and protect your credit together without having to sell the house at a time that might not be convenient. 
  • You want to know exactly how much everything will cost, and plan your budget for the next steps. We help you set up your finances, and we bill as a flat-fee, so you always know what to expect. 
  • You want to co-parent effectively, but addiction or substance abuse issues have hurt trust between you. We can help you set up a contract so that you can both move forward and feel comfortable while giving each other space in a safe and protected way. 
  • One of you has moved out of town, or wants to move out of town quickly. We can set up your paperwork so that you are legally separated and you can rely on your Separation Contract to set up a new rental, qualify for a new loan, or other financial goals. 
  • You want to divorce your finances but keep your relationship. We can help you separate your finances while protecting your relationship from the pressure that comes with sharing credit. 
  • You have already started a court process and the fees are adding up. Now you want to settle all the issues between you without paying two attorneys by the hour. Most lawsuits end with a settlement. And a judge's order doesn't make your divorce "official" anyway. Even if you go to trial, the judge can only end your dispute with an order. You can skip the fees and time and write a contract/settlement agreement/CR2A to settle your own dispute. 
  • You both mostly agree and you want to save fees by hiring one person to make your paperwork and a contract that you write yourself. We can help you get what you need without wasting time. We help you make the paperwork and make a quick, informal agreement. Your court paperwork, again, is only the end of your dispute. It is a record. We can help you quickly make a record that reflects what you want and we can file the petition right in front of you. It is very important that you understand there is no one right way to do the paperwork. Court isn't like a spelling test. Most services that charge you to "check your forms for accuracy" are not helpful. There's more than one way to create an "accurate" form because every clerk and commissioner at the courthouse has slightly different individual preferences and the court process has a lot of built in redundancy. Instead of wasting your time giving you a form that is "accurate" but not tailored to your situation, we can help you do what a court would do. We end your dispute with an agreement, and send over the paperwork. It's exactly as if you had gone to court and waited for a judge's ruling. When a judge rules, the judge says "Here's what will happen. I'm ending your dispute by telling you to do this..." Usually there's an order written right there that everyone signs before they leave after the trial. Then the order goes to the court clerk for processing. You're already done at this point, once your dispute is settled. Nothing is going to change after you have an order. It's just a matter of waiting for the court to get the order processed, but the process at the court won't change anything. It's the same with your court forms. You write your own order and give it to the court clerk for processing. There's nothing left to wait for. You've basically had your own trial without paying a lawyer. You settled your own dispute. You gave the clerk your forms. What matters is what's in the forms NOT when the court finishes processing the forms. 

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.  Check out our full services and fees here

WHAT AM I PAYING FOR IN A DIVORCE? 

A lot of people call around to different divorce attorneys trying to get a short answer. You want to know "What can I do now?" "What are my rights?" "How do I divide my property?" "How do we settle child support?" "What are the rules for maintenance in Washington state?" and other common questions. Then it's confusing when lawyers give you hypothetical examples of what they could argue in court and you're not sure what that means for you now. This is because a lawyer cannot tell you "your rights." A lawyer can only tell you what might happen if you get sued. For example Washington is a community property state. That doesn't mean you have a different "right" to your property than someone who lives in Alabama, which is an equitable distribution state. It only means that if you sue each other, the judge in Washington will use community property rules and the judge in Alabama will use equitable distribution rules. So your legal arguments would be different in each state in a trial. If you're not suing each other in a trial then it doesn't matter. You own your property and you can do what you want with it. 

Litigation: In a trial, you are paying a lawyer to make arguments about the rules. It's all a hypothetical. You're also paying a lawyer to follow the litigation calendar. A lawyer needs to know what paperwork to file, when to file it, and what arguments to try to use to persuade a judge. A lawyer is all about using the "inputs" of a legal hypothetical to get the "output" of an order from a judge. A trial is a dispute. You bring your fight to the court, and the judge tells you who wins. 

Mediation/ADR: In an uncontested divorce, you skip the "inputs" of legal argument and go straight to the "output" of writing your own court order. This order is often called an "agreed order" or a settlement agreement/separation contract/CR2A. Whatever you call it, you're writing a piece of paper that says what will happen to your property. And your order is the same as if a judge settled your dispute by giving you an order after a trial. That's why mediation is often referred to legally as "alternative dispute resolution" or ADR. Mediation is a way to settle your dispute without a trial. 

With mediation you're paying for someone to help you create an agreement. You're settling your own dispute. You're both the judge and you can both decide what you think is fair. The mediator helps you talk it through. That's why mediation is significantly cheaper than a trial - there's no paperwork, no hypotheticals, and with our service at least, no hourly fees. 

Facilitator's Office or $150 "90-day divorce" service: When you pay for someone to do your paperwork in a divorce, you're basically paying someone to do the part at the end of a trial, where the judge gives the order to the clerk. This is a service that is free in King County, and many other Washington counties have started offering uncontested paperwork filing without forcing you to hire a lawyer. But some people still hire a lawyer for hourly fees to give their paperwork to the court clerk and get it in the record. Some people also try to do it themselves. This can be frustrating or confusing. The forms use words that don't make any sense. For example "Custodial parent" really only means "parent who can legally claim a tax break for your child in any given year." You wouldn't know that if you hadn't been trained in the divorce forms. And some people pay a paralegal or some service to fill out their forms. Local attorneys charge about $1600 to set a hearing and give your court forms to the clerk themselves, for a fee. It's up to you if you'd like to pay for this. Our service at Divorce Without Court skips the pricey hourly fees and just files your petition and then sends your court forms to the court for free. How your court forms get there doesn't make any difference. What matters is how you've settled your dispute. We help you settle a dispute, write your own contract, and then the part where you give the court clerk your forms is mostly not very important. You already have an "order" or ruling that you've both signed. 

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. Their petition 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. Their other property was transferred before they started the court paperwork. It's an organized, logical process preferred by many tech employees. 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 with us.

We offer separation contracts/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

Call 206-747-3029 or use our online booking to make an appointment for mediation, an uncontested divorce-without-court, or a collaborative divorce.

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 our first year 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 with us, 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. Because we stay in our wheelhouse, 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. Our subscription self-help process can supplement this low-cost option too. Learn More Here.

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.

CHILD-CENTERED DIVORCE

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.

 
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GOTTMAN INSTITUTE ON DIVORCE
 
 

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

 

 

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Divorce Without Court: Westside Collaborative Law PLLC is committed to answering your questions about divorce law issues in Seattle.

We offer a free consultation and we’ll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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