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Posted On December 1, 2021 Divorce
Once you have decided to divorce your spouse, it is important to know your next steps. Here is how to file for divorce in Washington State.
There are three options for approaching the divorce process in Washington:
The option you choose may depend on the specifics of your situation. The DIY option is the least expensive but will require a lot of time and effort on your part, including researching the state’s rules and procedures for divorce. If you don’t have the time and can afford it, hiring an attorney will by far be the easiest choice.
To file for divorce in Washington, one spouse must be a resident of the state, but no length of time required. Depending on where the person filing resides, you can file in the Superior Court or the Family Court.
The most straightforward procedure is to file for an uncontested divorce, but you and your spouse must be able to agree on all issues related to the divorce. Additionally, both parties must agree that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” which is the only legal grounds for divorce under Washington law. If there is any issue that both parties cannot agree on, the divorce will be contested. However, that doesn’t mean the case must go to trial. Divorce mediation and attorneys may be able to help you reach a settlement agreement before you reach the courtroom.
The official court forms you need to file for divorce can be found online, or your local courthouse will have hard copies you can purchase. The main form is the petition for divorce (FL Divorce 201), which requires information about property, minor children, the need for spousal support, and your preference for handling these issues. If your divorce is uncontested and you are filing jointly with your spouse, they can co-sign this form and the Agreement to Join Petition (FL All Family 119).
You may also need to fill out a proposed parenting plan (FL All Family 140), a proposed Child Support Order (FL All Family 130), and Washington State Child Support Schedule Worksheets (WSCSS – Worksheets). In an uncontested divorce, you can also attach Findings and Conclusions About a Marriage (FL Divorce 231) and the Final Divorce Order (FL Divorce 241), which are required to finalize the divorce process and must be signed and notarized by both spouses.
You can bring the completed forms plus two copies to the clerk’s office of the superior court in the county where either spouse lives or in a county you both agree to. The court fees are generally around $300. After a mandated 90-day waiting period, you can typically finalize an uncontested divorce without attending a court hearing. On the other hand, if the divorce is contested, the spouse who filed must serve the other with the divorce papers and a completed Summons form. Serving a spouse is typically done by a process server, the sheriff, or another third party such as a friend. Once they receive the paperwork, you must file the Service Accepted form or Proof of Personal Service (FL All Family 101) with the court. Your spouse then has 20 days to respond.
Before your case is heard in front of a judge, both spouses must provide complete information on income, expenses, debts, and assets. If there are children involved, some counties require the spouses to attend a parenting seminar. Many Washington courts will require you to attempt alternate dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration, unless there has been domestic abuse. If you can reach a settlement agreement before trial, the attorneys can prepare a stipulated agreement for the court to review. The divorce will be final once the judge approves the settlement. If you and your spouse cannot proceed amicably, your case will head to trial. The judge will then listen to each side’s arguments on the unresolved issues and make the final decisions before granting a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.