How to File for Divorce in Washington State
In the state of Washington, the courts have their own set of legal terms and procedures that must be followed in order to legally end a relationship.
Understanding these terms and steps will help you have a clear picture of what is happening, what to prepare yourself for, and what you can expect at each stage of the divorce process.
Table of Contents: Here’s what You’ll Need to Know.
- Common Legal Terminology Used in Divorce
- Grounds for Divorce in Washington
- How Long it Takes to Get Divorced
- The Washington Divorce Process Step-by-Step
- Why You Should Take Temporary Orders Seriously
- Need to Know Steps in the Divorce Process
- How to Start a Divorce in Washington
- How to Contact a Skilled Divorce Attorney Near You
After you’ve reviewed our material, you can schedule a 30-minute Consultation with a local Divorce Lawyers for Men™ family law attorney to discuss the details of your specific situation. Call (360) 866-7393, or fill out our short contact form, and we’ll set you up with an expert in your area.
NOT USING A LAWYER? Check out our HOW-TO VIDEOS on filling out divorce paperwork in Washington State by clicking here.
Common Divorce Terminology
What are “Parties” and “Proceedings”?
The “Parties” are the people who are ending their relationship. In your case, you and your spouse. The Proceedings are the court rules, steps, and processes that must be followed in order to officially end a relationship in the eyes of the law. Each party may have a divorce lawyer represent them during the proceedings.
What Does “Dissolution of Marriage” Mean?
The technically correct term for divorce, or the ending of a marriage in Washington, is “Dissolution of Marriage.”
The process is started when either spouse files a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.” This legal document must be correctly completed and filed at the Superior Court in the proper county, usually where you reside. It is important to be sure that the documents are being filed in the correct location. A copy of the filed Petition must also be “Served” (officially provided to) the other spouse, who must then formally “Respond” (answer) in writing to the information in the Petition.
More Helpful Information: Want to learn more of the unique legal terminology used during divorce? You can find that in our Legal Lingo section by clicking here.
Grounds for Divorce in Washington
What Do You Have to Prove in Order to Get Divorced?
Washington is a “No-Fault Divorce State.”
The only “Grounds” for Dissolution of Marriage in Washington is “Irreconcilable Breakdown of the Marital Relationship.” There is no need to claim or prove marital misconduct. It’s pretty simple, actually. The only thing that you need to establish is that the marriage is broken, and no longer working. Infidelity, poor budgeting, or being a bad cook will not get your divorce processed any faster or slower. The reason why the marriage is broken is of little consequence in the eyes of the court.
Has Your Spouse Already Filed?
The process has already started and there are steps you need to quickly take. Find out more by reading: What if My Spouse Filed First for Divorce?
Washington Divorce Timeline
How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced?
A divorce cannot be finalized until After a 90-Day Waiting Period has passed.
How Does Divorce Work in Washington?
Divorce Process Step 1: If You Agree on Every Issue
If the Parties reach agreement on all the issues involved in the divorce, and the proper documents are filed with the court, a judge will order the marriage dissolved.
Divorce Process Step 2: If You Do Not Initially Agree on Every Issue
If agreement cannot be achieved, the court will schedule a “Settlement Conference or Mediation” to assist in reaching a compromise agreement.
Divorce Process Step 3: If Negotiating a Compromise Doesn’t Work
If the Parties are still unable to agree to all the terms of the divorce after participating in a Settlement Conference or Mediation, the court will schedule a “Trial“. At the end of the Trial, the court will issue a “Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.” This document contains the final rulings of the court.
Divorce Process Step 4: If You Have a Significant Change to Your Situation
If your situation significantly changes from when your divorce was finalized you can attempt to get your Divorce Decree modified. Changing the terms of a Divorce Decree requires additional steps, forms, and procedures in order for you to attain a formal “Divorce Modification.”
Getting a Modification can be challenging, and it is going to cost you more time and money just to attempt it. That is why it is important that you take your initial opportunities at negotiating an agreeable Decree very seriously.
If you feel like it would be a good idea to have an experienced divorce lawyer represent you during the divorce process, Divorce Lawyers For Men™ attorneys are available to help. We can determine the proper court for your case, efficiently prepare and file all the necessary court documents for your divorce, and represent you if/when your case goes to Mediation or Trial.
Want to Know What to Expect in Your Specific Situation?
Schedule a 30-minute initial consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys. You’ll be able to explain the full details of your case and receive actionable feedback from a divorce expert that deals with Washington family law on a daily basis. The consultation with the family law attorney will leave you with a much clearer understanding of your situation and allow you to move forward with confidence. Call (360) 866-7393, or fill out our simple contact form, and schedule yours now.
Understanding Temporary Orders
Why are Temporary Orders so Important?
Washington divorce law requires a minimum 90-day waiting period, starting on the date the Petition is filed, before a divorce can be finalized.
During that 90-day waiting period, the court will enter a set of initial rulings known as “Temporary Orders.”
These court orders temporarily control:
In addition, Temporary Orders can also be used to protect bank accounts and other financial investments.
The divorce can be finalized after the 90-day waiting period IF the Parties reach agreement on all the issues involved in the divorce. FYI: Most cases take more than 90-days to reach an agreement. The Temporary Orders stay in effect until the Dissolution of Marriage (divorce) is finalized. If the Parties can’t come to an agreement, and the divorce goes to Trial, the judge will make a ruling on all the issues that the Parties have not been able to agree to. Any decisions made by the judge during the divorce process (including at the time of Trial) will rely heavily on the Temporary Orders that have been in place since the early stages of the divorce.
Temporary Orders set the tone for important issues involving children, property division, and finances. Temporary Orders have a habit of becoming permanent and should not be taken lightly.
Important Divorce Steps to Understand
The Process of Dissolution of Marriage in Washington
The steps, in order, of a Washington divorce.
(Click on the links in each step to learn more)
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
- Service (of documents)
- Temporary Orders
- Settlement Conference/Mediation
- Decree of Dissolution of Marriage
- Divorce Modification
Learn More: Take a look at our Washington State Divorce Process Infographic
Start a Divorce in Washington
How Do You Initiate the Washington Divorce Process?
Start a Divorce Step 1: Determine Which County has Jurisdiction
The first step to getting a divorce in Washington is determining which county will have jurisdiction over your case.
Local county court requirements affect how you’ll handle your case. Many counties in Washington have special forms and unique local rules that you must follow in order to dissolve your marriage. Many local courts require case schedules, classes, and/or settlement conferences. You must learn about, and follow, the local court requirements in the county that your case will be heard in. A family law attorney can help you determine which county you will need to file in if you are unsure. In most cases, you will submit the required paperwork to the county that either you, or your spouse, reside in.
More Helpful Information: 5 Common Questions about Where You Can Get Divorced
Start a Divorce Step 2: Submit All Required Paperwork to the County Clerk’s Office
The main form that you will need to submit to begin your divorce is called “The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.”
Additional documents, such as a Summons, a proposed Parenting Plan, or proposed Child Support Worksheets may also need to be filed along with paying a subsequent filing fee to the County Clerk’s office. The filing fee will vary depending on which county you are in and which forms that you are required to submit.
Start a Divorce Step 3: Have Your Spouse Served with the Divorce Papers
These documents now must be “Served” (the legal term for this is “Service of Process“) onto your spouse, referred to in this situation as the “Respondent.”
The laws and court rules regarding having someone Served with a Petition and Summons must be followed very carefully. In fact, the “Family Law Handbook,” published and distributed by the Washington Courts office, says;
“It is a good idea to get legal advice from an attorney to make sure you fully understand those rules.”
– Washington Courts “Family Law Handbook”
The Petition lays the groundwork for the divorce. It explains what the Petitioning Spouse is requesting in terms of Child Custody, Visitation, Spousal Support, Child Support, Property Division, etc. The Summons requires that the Respondent reply in writing to the Petition within 20 to 60 days, depending on which county has jurisdiction. The Washington Courts’ “Family Law Handbook” goes on to say;
“Getting legal advice about what should be included in these documents is very important.”
– Washington Courts “Family Law Handbook”
Do You Plan on Serving Divorce Papers to Your Spouse?
Take the advice of the Washington Courts’ own “Family Law Handbook” and talk it over with a family law attorney first. Our expert lawyers will make sure that you aren’t making any mistakes, filing in the wrong county, or leaving anything out of your paperwork that could potentially hurt you in the long run. We offer a 30-minute initial consultation. If the Washington Courts are telling you to get some professional help – you may want to listen. You can reach Divorce Lawyers for Men now by calling (360) 866-7393 or fill out our short Contact Form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.