filing for divorce in seattle

How To File For Divorce in Washington State

Goldberg Jones Divorce, Divorce Process, Spotlight Leave a Comment

When most of you think of divorce, you probably imagine dramatic courtroom scenes from movies. Bitter spouses fight over kids and cars and every last detail in a long, drawn-out process.

While reality certainly resembles this on occasion, at a base level, filing for divorce in Washington isn’t as complex or intricate as you may assume.

It’s a progression to be sure, but the basic steps are relatively straightforward.

Steps To Filing For Divorce

Like most things with divorce, real complications arise when people get involved. It will probably be in your best interest to consult an attorney regardless, but it never hurts to familiarize yourself ahead of time.

With that in mind, here is how you file for divorce in Washington state.

Complete The Divorce Forms

As with any process, there is a moment where it begins. In this situation, that moment is when one spouse completes the divorce form or the petition for divorce.

The reasons you or your soon-to-be-ex want to dissolve your marriage are, more than likely, very complex. But Washington is a no-fault divorce state, which means that there is no need to prove that one party was to blame for the failure of the marriage.

There are two forms that are required for every divorce,  a “Confidential Information Form” and a “Certificate of Dissolution – Vital Statistics” form.

You’ll need to provide your information and that of your spouse, including:

    • Where you live.
    • When you married.
    • How long you were married.
    • Your current living situation.

Additionally, you’ll be asked a number of questions about:

    • Any minor children.
    • Custody and guardianship.
    • Child support.
    • Spousal support.

You must also disclose any shared property to be divided at this time.

Related Reading: Divorce or Bankruptcy: Which to File First

File The Divorce Papers With The Court

What do you do after completing the proper forms? You file them with the court, of course.

When petitioning for a divorce in Washington, you must submit the appropriate paperwork in the county where you live. Not the one in which you were married, something many people believe.

Before you submit them once and for all, you may want to have an attorney give them a once over. It never hurts to make sure you filled everything out correctly.

When they are ready, make two copies—one for your records, one for your spouse—and go to the courthouse to submit them.

To file for divorce in Washington costs roughly $350. (This includes fees for filing, a judicial surcharge, and court facilitator costs.)

Related Reading: Is Arbitration the Right Choice for Your Divorce?

Serve Your Spouse

The next step is to serve your spouse. This is where you have someone present the papers and declare your intentions. You may hire an outside process server to accomplish this, or an attorney can handle this part of the divorce proceedings.

You can’t do it yourself, but you can enlist another adult to do it for you.

If this is an uncontested divorce, your spouse only needs to sign the Acceptance of Service to acknowledge that the documents have been delivered. The court cannot move forward until the papers have officially been received by your soon-to-be-ex.

Related Reading: 11 Divorce Strategies to Know Before Filing

Sign And File

Signing and filing the final documents is truly just that. There are a series of forms to fill out, including any notarized agreements you and your spouse come to regarding the division of assets and debts, child custody, spousal and child support, and any other specific details the two sides work out regarding your situation.

Again, you may want to have an attorney or have a member of the court check these to make sure they are filled out correctly.

After you reach a final agreement—on your own, with the help of counsel, or through trial or mediation—the court looks over your paperwork, confirms it is all in order, and signs off.

Once you complete this step, your divorce becomes official.

Where Things Get Messy

It’s in between the serving of the papers and the signing and filing of the final documents where things often get messy and complicated.

In the case of an uncontested divorce in Washington, the situation may involve little more than both parties signing a few forms.

If your spouse contests the divorce, however, things often become adversarial.

You may have to go to trial, arbitration, or at least mediation, in order to hash things out. Depending on the amount of conflict, the court may subpoena financial records, interview friends and family members, and more.

This is where you’ll see the biggest benefits of having a divorce attorney.

As you navigate these precarious waters, you and your spouse will both present your respective cases. If you can’t reach an agreement, the court must rule when it comes to child custody and visitation, division of property, debt and assets, child and spousal support, and more.

In this type of combative situation, you may very well want an experienced hand guiding you towards an optimal outcome.

Related Reading: 8 Ways to Rebuild Finances After Divorce

What Next?

At a minimum, divorce in Washington requires a 90-day waiting period before it can be finalized. This means it will be at least three months between when you file the paperwork and when a judge signs off on your case.

During this time, the court often issues temporary orders regarding custody, parenting plans, financial support, and conduct.

If your spouse has objections, you disagree on key points, or other impediments arise, this process lasts much, much longer than 90 days.

Should your case go to trial, it may take up to a year to schedule. The more back-and-forth about issues like custody, alimony, visitation, and splitting up assets, the more time and effort your divorce takes.

As this process can become incredibly complex in relatively short order, it will likely be in your best interest to retain the services of an attorney. Even if you take the do-it-yourself route, consulting a lawyer ensures you filled out the proper forms in the correct manner. That peace of mind can be a huge comfort as you end one chapter of your life and move forward into another.

Related Reading: Moving Out During Divorce: What to Know Before You Go
Related Reading: What is Mediation? Different Types of Mediation Styles

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