The divorce process takes a minimum of 90 days in Washington, beginning from filing the initial petition. However, dissolving a marriage can take much longer, depending on your specific situation. Contested issues or delayed proceedings, for instance, can extend the timeline, but here is the general divorce process.
Initial Filing and Service
If you file for divorce in Washington, you are the “petitioner,” and your spouse is the “respondent.” To begin the process, you must first determine which county you can file, then complete a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and file it with the court clerk. You must then arrange to have the petition served to your spouse (the respondent). There are several options for doing so, including hiring a professional process server or paying the sheriff to deliver the papers.
Once your spouse is served, the 90-day waiting period begins until the court will schedule a hearing. This time allows the parties to attempt to settle all relevant issues to the divorce.
Your spouse has the opportunity to file a response to the petition for divorce, which is typically 20 days from being served. If they do not respond, your divorce will be uncontested, but you will still have to wait the 90 days until a hearing can be scheduled for final orders.
If the respondent contests the petition for divorce, either party can file a motion requesting the court to issue temporary orders regarding spousal support, child custody and support, use of the marital home, attorney fees, and other relevant issues. On the other hand, if the parties can agree on these issues, agreed temporary orders can be signed and entered in the courthouse’s Ex Parte Department at any point.
Parenting Education Course
When divorcing parties have minor children, Washington state requires the parents to attend a parenting education course. Information will be provided on how divorce impacts children, and the course must be completed within 60 days from when the divorce papers were served.
A fact-finding process where the parties exchange information and disclose facts and documents related to the case in preparation for settlement or trial. The state requires complete disclosure of properties, debts, and assets.
Many Washington courts require divorcing parties to attempt to resolve their divorce by alternate dispute resolution (i.e., mediation/settlement conference, arbitration) unless domestic abuse has occurred. In mediation, a neutral third party known as a mediator will help the parties communicate and facilitate settlement.
If the parties can agree to a settlement proposal, the Spokane divorce lawyers can prepare a stipulated agreement which the parties will sign then submit to the court. The divorce will be final once the court reviews and approves the settlement.
When a divorce cannot be resolved amicably, the case will proceed to trial. Each side’s attorneys will present evidence, call witnesses, and make their arguments. The judge will decide on support, asset division, custody, parenting time, and other unresolved issues. They will then approve financial orders and grant a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.