divorcing in Washington State

Divorce in Washington: How Long Does It Take?

Goldberg JonesDivorce, Divorce Process, Featured Posts Leave a Comment

It’s a basic question, but an important one and one most people want answered right away: How long does divorce take in Washington?

The minimum amount of time required to finalize a divorce varies from state to state. In some, like New Hampshire, it only takes a couple of weeks. Others, however, have a mandatory waiting period that exceeds six months.

Does Washington Have A Waiting Period For Divorce?

The short answer is: In Washington, divorce takes a minimum of 90 days. That’s the absolute minimum, but many take much longer.

The 90-day clock starts when you or your spouse file the divorce action. If you both agree on every aspect of your case, the judge may sign your divorce decree after the three months is up. Presto, your divorce is finalized.

But you have to agree on everything. This includes the division of assets and debts, child custody, child support, spousal support, and any other issues.

Unfortunately, not all divorces are so simple. Shocking, right?

The more you have to fight about, the more complicated the process becomes. With every disagreement, point of contention, and new wrinkle, the finish line gets farther away.

Why Can Divorces Take Longer Than 90 Days?

Contentious splits not only often require more time, but also additional expenses and resources.

The more complex the case, the more likely you are to require the services of a divorce lawyer.  When you add kids to care for and assets to divide, it prolongs the process, often by months or more.

But additional services aren’t limited to your attorney. You may need to enlist a variety of other professionals along the way. These are just a few types of experts you may need depending on the complexity of your situation and how contentious your divorce becomes.

Related Reading: Can You File For Bankruptcy During a Divorce?

Common Experts Needed in A Divorce Proceeding:

    • Guardian Ad Litem.
    • Forensic Accountant.
    • Financial Planner.
    • Home Appraiser.
    • Data Recovery Specialist.
    • Meditator or Arbitrator.
    • Private Investigator.
    • Special Master.
    • Parental Evaluation.
    • Process Server.
    • Vocational Evaluator.

Related Reading: How Is Debt Divided During A Divorce? In-Depth

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

So, 90 days is the minimum time it takes to divorce in Washington. As you see, however, many factors pop up to extend that timeframe.

If you can’t reach a settlement on your own or through mediation or arbitration, your case ultimately goes to trial. There a judge rules the case and determines the outcome. This, of course, takes a great deal of time. The courts commonly schedule trials months in advance.

On average, divorces that go to trial take over one year to finalize.

Related Reading: A House Divided: Splitting Up a Home in Divorce

From the Radio

One of our founding partners, Rick Jones, regularly hits the airwaves on 102.5 KZOK, where he answers pressing family law questions from listeners.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the question “How long does a divorce take in Washington” has come up. This call is a prime example of how a divorce can seem simple but ultimately take a long, long time.

Listen to the Conversation Below:

Caller: “Hi, I have somewhat of a simple divorce. [Audible groans in the background.] Coming up I have my discovery cutoff and in two weeks it’s the exchange of evidence. We don’t have any homes or children. However, when we split, she had me thrown out of the rental we had and moved in with her boyfriend [and] made a bunch of false statements in court documents.

“When I eventually filed for divorce, she quickly replied with a bunch more false statements. I’d like to know how I can present that on the discovery cutoff if I have to have my statement of evidence completed, or is that something I show up to court that day with the documents finished?”

Rick: “The first thing I’m hearing is, ‘I’ve got a simple divorce,’ yet you’re already up against your discovery cutoff, which means you’re getting to the doorstep of a trial. A simple divorce would have been done by now.

“Let’s switch gears to the middle question, which is what can I do about her making false statements or claims? And the question I really have is, are they anything relevant to the divorce? If she’s saying what a bad dude you are, it doesn’t matter, true or untrue. If all you have is assets and liabilities, Washington is a no-fault state.

“The third one is more procedural. By the time you get this close to the discovery cutoff–what that’s meant is to basically tell both sides, ‘Hey, if you want to get information, and you want the power of the court to go subpoena bank information or require something of the other person, that means you would have had to wrap it up by then.’ That’s what the discovery cutoff is.

“Then you fast-forward to that joint statement of evidence. Without getting too deep in the woods here, what’s required is that both [parties] present to the court prior to going to trial, so at least the issue is framed and nobody is getting surprised by what comes on at trial.”

Related Reading: How Can I Protect Myself During Divorce?

Email Question:

Listener: “First, thanks for doing this segment. I’ve been listening for a long time and you’ve helped so many people. It was always interesting information to me, but I honestly never thought I would have to use it myself.

“Well here I am, facing a divorce, and the one thing I haven’t heard you cover is how long the whole process takes. Honestly, I just want to get it over with and move on.

“What is the average time I should expect to be dealing with the courts and paperwork?”

Danny:That’s a damn fine email there. I’m interested to know the answer myself, Rick.

Rick: First of all I want to give him a shout-back as well in terms of the thank you on this. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the forum, to be able to give info like this that people need to have, even before they make the call to the attorney. Now on to the question.

“How long a case takes is really going to be dependent on how long either: It takes to reach a settlement between the two people, or go to ultimately a decision, meaning trial.

“At the start of any case, we’ll use Washington as an example, there is a 90-day waiting period. You can have everything agreed upon on day one when the case is filed, you do have to wait 90 days.

So the quickest a divorce can take is 90 days. Now, beyond that, King County schedules a trial right up front. The day you file they schedule a trial for about eleven months down the road.

“So if your case doesn’t reach a settlement, through all the tools, mediation, etc, and it’s still open, then that trial date approaches and ultimately that’s the end of your case. Even though it’s a judge-made decision and not one on your own.

Sarah:Did you say eleven months?

Rick:Yeah, and that’s only if the original trial date is the one that stands. It’s not uncommon for one or both sides to seek an initial continuance, and it’s commonly granted by the court, which would push it off another four to six months. So it’s not uncommon for a contested divorce to last up to two years.

Related Reading: Mediation Questions Answered

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