Historically, divorce has been a nasty business with equally nasty terminology. “Custody” and “alimony” conjure up images of bile-spewing, decades-long battles. Washington, like many states, has altered the terminology of many key divorce concepts in an effort to escape the loaded words of the bad old days, probably in the hope that more harmonious language will mean more harmonious litigation.
Is this Orwellian double-speak? Enlightened social engineering? Or just six of one, half a dozen of the other? You be the judge.
You may be surprised to learn that today we don’t even have Divorce in Washington. Instead we have “Dissolution,” suggesting that the process of unhappy spouses going their separate ways is as smooth and painless and sugar melting in a cup of tea. Gone too are the accusations of adultery and mental cruelty, once a prerequisite to even getting divorced, for we are a “No-fault State.”
So far as the law of Washington is concerned, an irretrievably broken marriage is like bad weather: we can figure out why it happened if we want to, but no one is to blame.
Scornful spouses are no longer Plaintiffs and Defendants (terms we still use in other civil litigation matters). Instead, the spouse who starts the litigation and pays the court filing fees is the “Petitioner” while the other is the “Respondent.” Makes it seem as easy as signing a petition at the mall for more hiking trails, or responding to a letter from an old college chum.
And here’s some good news for you high wage-earners: Alimony is a four-letter word of the past. Instead you will be heartened to hear that now you simply pay “Maintenance” – kind of like your home-owner’s dues. Feels better already, doesn’t it?
Gone too are ruinous Custody fights of decades past, because custody no longer even exists. Instead, divorced fathers and mothers “Co-parent” their children through a meticulously crafted “Parenting Plan” featuring all sorts of tranquil “Joint Decision-Making.” So now instead of Losing Custody, you simply become the “Non-residential Parent.” And who, really, could have a problem with that?
But traditionalists take heart, for some things never change: Child Support, even in the brave new millennium, is still just “Child Support.”