Terminating a marriage involves serious and complicated legal and economic considerations. In addition to serving as your advisor, a lawyer knows the process to be followed and which documents must be submitted. Your lawyer can advise you on your rights and obligations, can help in reaching an agreement when it comes to conflicts and can represent you to give strength to your rights.
Q#1. I have lived in the U.S. for many years. I got married in 1991 in Mexico. My spouse is in Mexico and we have been separated for many years. Can I obtain a divorce here from my spouse in Mexico?
A#1. Yes. If a marriage falls apart and is considered to have “irreconcilable differences” either party in the marriage can seek to end the marriage. This legal procedure terminates the marriage and makes provisions for the parenting plan of the minor children, child support, spousal maintenance and the division of properties and debt.
Q#2. Is it necessary to prove that my spouse has done something wrong before I can obtain a divorce?
A#2. No. In the state of Washington, the spouse does not have to prove that something wrong has been done to obtain the divorce. The “No-Fault” system is to help spouses come to an agreement about the issues without the need to have resentment or bitterness.
Q#3. Do I have to be a U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident to obtain a divorce?
A#3. No. You only have to live in the state of Washington the day your petition for dissolution is filed.
Q#4. How can I begin the process for a divorce?
A#4. To start the procedure for a divorce, a spouse (called the “petitioner”) must file with the court a Summons and Petition for the dissolution of the marriage. The petition contains the proposal for the parenting plan of the minor children, child support, spousal maintenance and the division of properties and debt. The Petition and Summons is presented to the other spouse (known as the “respondent”) normally by giving him/her a copy.
Q#5. Can I obtain the divorce if I can’t locate my spouse in Mexico?
A#5. Yes. It is common for couples who are separated for a long period of time to not be able to locate their spouse to present the divorce documents to them. It is nothing out of the ordinary for the spouse to be in a different state or a different country, like Mexico. Normally the court allows that a notice of the divorce be announced in a newspaper within the U.S. The notice should be publicized in the newspaper once a week for six consecutive weeks. Due to the complexity of the process, your attorney can and should assist you during the process. But under the law, it is possible to begin (and complete) a divorce if you don’t know where your spouse is and if the person who is trying to obtain a divorce puts a notice in the newspaper here in the U.S.
Q#6. How much time does it take to obtain a divorce?
A#6. There is a waiting period of 90 days for the dissolution of a marriage in the state of Washington. This means that the Summons and Petition needs to be presented in court and to the spouse (or announced in the newspaper) 90 days before the divorce can be finalized.
Q#7. Can I change my name through the divorce?
A#7. Yes. If you are the wife making the petition, as part of the dissolution of the marriage you can reclaim your maiden last name or the previous last name you had.
If you have other questions about divorce matters you can call the office. The attorneys that specialize in divorce cases at Roach & Bishop are Jeremy Bishop and Ben Dow.
Thomas W. Roach and Eamonn P.S. Roach are attorneys of the firm Roach & Bishop, LLP in Pasco, Washington, who practice immigration law. This information does not constitute legal advice. It is possible that this information does not apply to you. Each case depends on specific facts. If you have questions regarding the immigration laws that you would like answered in this column, please send them to: Thomas W. Roach and Eamonn P.S. Roach, 9221 Sandifur Pkwy, Suite C., Pasco, WA 99301, phone: (509) 547-7587, fax: (509) 547-7745; or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com