time it takes to divorce

How Long Does a Divorce in Washington Take?

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UPDATED: 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.

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

The 90-day clock starts on the waiting period begins 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. The more contention and 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 and farther away. Many divorces often take six months or longer.

Related Reading: 5 Things to Know About Divorce in Washington

Additional Time = Additional Resources

Contentious splits not only often require more time, but additional expenses and resources. The more complex, the more likely you are to require the services of a divorce lawyer. 

But additional services aren’t limited to your attorney. You may likely need to enlist a variety of other professionals.

Two of the most common are a Guardian ad Litem and a forensic accountant.

Related Reading: Divorce After a Brief Marriage

What does a Guardian ad Litem do?

A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a court-appointed advocate for your child (or children). Their job is to protect the interests and well being of your kids throughout the divorce process. 

An officer of the court, a GAL conducts an independent investigation into the case as it impacts any children. They often interview family, neighbors, teachers, and anyone who can offer insight into the situation.

Once they complete their inquiry, the GAL delivers a report to the court. Though the court holds no obligation to follow the recommendations, they often take the findings into account. 

The court appoints a GAL either at their own discretion or at the request of either parent. They always appoint one in cases involving substance abuse, domestic violence, or other circumstances that pose a threat to the child’s welfare.

Being an officer of the court requires a GAL to remain independent, neutral, and avoid conflicts of interest. They must be informed about the case and conduct themselves in a professional manner.

As you might imagine, these investigations take time. While important, GAL involvement generally means your case will take more time.

Related Reading: What are My Custody Rights if I Was in Prison?

What does a Forensic Accountant do?

A forensic accountant is a highly trained professional, frequently a CPA. When it comes to divorce, they audit and investigate finances in the case. Once they complete their examination, they report their findings to the court.

In the course of their work, they do a deep dive into the finances of both parties, examining financial records and documents.

A variety of legal disputes often turn to forensic accountants. In family law and divorce, the court frequently uses them to value businesses and retirement accounts. In order to know how to best divide assets, the court must first know how much they are worth.

They also often come into play in cases where one spouse suspects the other of hiding assets. An experienced professional often uncovers things non-accountants miss.

As with a GAL, a forensic accountant needs time to perform an investigation. This also extends the length of a divorce. The more complex, the deeper they need to dive, the longer it takes.

Related Reading: 8 Signs She May be Hiding Assets in Divorce

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

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

If you can’t reach a settlement on your own or through mediation, your case ultimately goes to trial. There a judge will rule the case and determine the outcome. On average, divorces that go to trial take in excess of one year. Strap in, it may be a long ride.

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

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