Law Office of John S. Palmer Attorney at Law

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1-Year Waiting Period for Divorces?

Posted Friday, March 29, 2013 by John S. Palmer

Washington currently requires a 90-day waiting period between the filing of a divorce petition and entry of a decree of dissolution. The delay is intended to create a cooling off period during which the parties have an opportunity to reconcile and fully consider the ramifications of divorce before ending the marriage.

A bill was introduced in the Washington legislature last month that would amend RCW 26.09.030 to require a full year to elapse after filing a petition for dissolution of marriage and serving it on the respondent before a decree ending the marriage could be entered. The bill, entitled the “Family Second Chances Act”, would allow a court to waive the one-year waiting period if either party has been convicted of a violent or sexual felony against the other party or a minor child, or if a court has entered a final civil protection order against either party for committing or threatening physical violence against the other party or a minor child of the party seeking the divorce.

The bill proclaims that extending the waiting period would be beneficial because divorce causes poverty, juvenile delinquency, and lower scholastic achievement among children. It would require amending the state court system’s Family Law Handbook to include information about the option of reconciliation, the potential benefits of avoiding divorce, and non-adversarial approaches to ending a marriage.

Opponents of the bill believe that the longer waiting period could be detrimental to children by lengthening the divorce process, rather than letting the parties move on with their lives. They also contend that the waiver provisions will not protect victims of domestic violence, because they often do not file the complaint necessary to bring criminal charges or obtain a protection order out of fear of antagonizing their abuser, and therefore the longer waiting period will only give an abuser more time and opportunity to use the legal system to further torment and control their victim.

The Senate Committee on Law and Justice held a hearing on the bill (formally known as SB 5614) on February 18. Its chances of passing appear to be unlikely.

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Law Office of John S. Palmer11911 NE 1st St, Ste. B204,Bellevue, WA 98005-3056