The Divorce Process

The divorce process in Washington often begins with a legal separation. After the petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed and served on the non-filing spouse, the minimum waiting period for a divorce in Washington is ninety (90) days. In other words, ninety (90) days is the minimum period required before the court will finalize your divorce.

The 90-day rule also provides a “cooling off” period that allows the parties time for reflection so that the parties have an opportunity to reconsider and reconcile.

The Divorce Process in Seattle, Washington

An experienced matrimonial attorney in Seattle, Washington, can represent you at every stage in the divorce process in the state of Washington. The steps for obtaining a divorce in Washington include:

  • filing the “Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage”
  • serving the petition on the non-filing spouse
  • obtaining the temporary order in the divorce case
  • attending the parenting education program in King County or Snohomish County WA
  • completing the discovery process to exchange information
  • scheduling the mediation
  • reaching a settlement
  • scheduling the trial if any issues remain unresolved

Contact the attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson to discuss your case and the process to obtain a divorce in Seattle, Washington. The attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson also represent clients in Kent in King County and Everett in Snohomish County.

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How to Get a Divorce in Washington State?

Divorce, also referred to as the dissolution of marriage, can be filed in the state of Washington at any time because it’s a no-fault state. The only permissible ground or reason for divorce in the state is that the marriage is broken beyond repair, meaning there is no chance the two parties will reconcile. Unlike other states, Washington does not permit couples to assign blame or break down all the issues within the marriage in court.

Ultimately, divorce can be condensed into four basic steps. These include:

  1. Completing All Required Forms – One spouse must complete all the forms and petition for the divorce. The other spouse will be served these papers later on.
  2. File Divorce Forms with the Court – The forms must then be filed in the county you and your spouse live in. Please note, this is not the county you got married in.
  3. Serve Your Spouse with Divorce Papers – Your spouse must then be served with divorce papers. If the dissolution is uncontested, the other spouse needs to sign the “Acceptance of Service” to acknowledge that he/she has received said documents. However, if the divorce is contested, lawyers will likely get involved shortly thereafter. You or your spouse can file a motion requesting information or a temporary order in regard to child custody, shared property, allocating debts, etc.
  4. Sign and File Final Divorce Documents or Go to Trial
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Filing the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage

The divorce begins when you file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, the Summons, the Confidential Information Form and the Vital Statistics form in the Superior Court of Washington in the county where you or your spouse resides.

Your attorney will prepare the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage so that it accurately describes your requests for the division of property and debt, child custody, a parenting plan, child support, the amount of alimony or spousal support, and other related issues.

The spouse that files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is known as the Petitioner. The person who is served with the petition is known as the Respondent because that person must respond to the petition.

In the State of Washington, the only legal grounds for a divorce is the “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. For this reason, the state of Washington is classified as a “no fault” state. Issues of fault might be relevant to show that the assets of the party were wasted, but the fact that one spouse committed adultery is not a grounds for divorce.

The requirements to file for a divorce in Washington require a showing that the parties were legally married, meet the residency requirements of the state and county where the case is filed, and file all the required paperwork. Many of the same requirement exist for a legal separation in the State of Washington.

You are permitted to file the divorce in the county in Washington where either you or your spouse resides. So if you live in King County, Washington, then you are permitted to file the case in King County. The only exception to this rule is that in Lincoln County, the court does not require either spouse to be a resident of that county.

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Serving the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

After you file the dissolution of marriage, you must serve all the paperwork on your spouse. Your matrimonial attorney can help you get the paperwork served on your spouse by using a process server or the sheriff in that county who will file a “return of service.”

If the divorce is uncontested, then the parties have already agreed on all the issues. One spouse will file a  “joinder” related to the petition for dissolution. After the ninety (90) day waiting period, the court is permitted to finalize the divorce according to the terms agreed upon in the petition for dissolution.

If the divorce is contested, then the non-divorcing spouse has thirty (30) days after the divorce is filed, to file a response to the Petition for Dissolution.

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The Temporary Order in the Divorce Case

In a contested divorce, one side can file a request for a temporary order to resolve many of the most important issues in the case on a temporary basis. The temporary issues can include:

The temporary order is extremely important because it often sets the parties expectations before the divorce is finalized.

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Attending the Parenting Education Program

In the state of Washington, the parents are required to attend a seminar focused on parenting issues that impact children during a divorce. After the course is completed, each parent must provide proof that they attended and successfully completed the course before the case can be finalized.

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The Discovery Process in the State of Washington

During the divorce process in Washington, each party will obtain information related to the case from the other spouse. Your matrimonial lawyer in Washington will often request a copy of a financial affidavit, tax records, pay documentation, bank records, and retirement accounts. The request for these documents is called the “request for production.” After a request for production is made, you must respond to the request truthfully under penalty of perjury.

The discovery process might also involve asking the other side to respond to written questions known as Interrogatories. Your divorce attorney in Washington can also request documents from third parties including a bank or financial institution.

After the documents and interrogatories are completed, the attorneys might schedule depositions to ask the other side questions under oath in front of a court reporter so that additional information can be obtained.

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Scheduling the Mediation in a Divorce Case in King County, WA

In many contested divorce cases pending in King County, WA, if the parties are unable to reach a settlement on one or more of the issues, then the parties might schedule a mediation. At the medication, a divorce mediator will meet with each side either together or separate to discuss the issues.

The mediator can either help you solve some of the issues or all of the issues; although the mediator has no power to make the parties agree or decide any issue in the case.

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Reaching a Settlement in the Divorce Case

After the contested divorce is filed, the parties might agree at some point before a trial to settle all of the issues in a written settlement agreement. The settlement agreement will address issues such as the division of property and debts, a parenting plan, the payment of child support and alimony, and other important issues. In Washington, this binding settlement agreement would be protected under Court Rule 2a (CR2a).

If the court approves the settlement agreement, then the case can be finalized prior to trial.

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Scheduling the Trial

Although most cases do not go to trial, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement to resolve all of the issues, then the case can proceed to trial. At trial, the parties each present argument, evidence, and testimony to the court and the court decides any contested issues. After the divorce, the judge will issue a final order called a Decree of Dissolution and the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

In cases that involve minor children, the court will also decide the terms of the Final Parenting Plan and a Final Order of Child Support with a Child Support Worksheet.

Retirement accounts are divided using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) so as to avoid any adverse tax consequences of withdrawing money from the retirement account.

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How Long Does It Take to File for Divorce in Washington?

The duration of divorce proceedings will depend on the circumstances surrounding your situation. The waiting period for divorce is 90 days from the date of filing with a joinder or 90 days from service on the other party. If either spouse contests the divorce, then both parties will need to schedule their cases to trial.

It can take a while for a case to go to trial, in some cases it can take up to eight months. The trial itself can last for weeks, months, or even years depending on how proceedings go. Legal Separation is 20 days from service on the other party or no waiting period if agreed. The exception to the standard is a 12-day’s notice is required to note a hearing on the pro se dissolution calendar.

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Divorce in Washington State Cost

The cost of your divorce will heavily depend on if it’s uncontested or contested. An uncontested divorce is much “cheaper” as both parties have reached an agreement on each and every term at the date the divorce petition was filed. These types of divorces are considered to be simple to resolve as all issues have been resolved already. If your divorce is uncontested, you’ll have to pay a $314 filing fee as well as a Washington State divorce services charge of around $700.

A contested divorce, on the other hand, can be incredibly expensive. Spouses tend to let their grievances with each other take control and fight for issues that may not matter in the long run. The more hours they bill their attorneys the more expensive the case becomes.

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Additional Resources

Washington Divorce Forms – Visit the official website for the Washington Courts to learn more about their required forms for dissolving a marriage. Access the site to find the forms and information needed on how to end your marriage, how to file for an immediate restraining order, how to file for a temporary restraining order, and other valuable information.

Divorce FAQ | Snohomish County Court – Visit the official website for Snohomish County, Washington to read answers to frequently asked questions about divorce. Access the site to learn more about the pro se dissolution calendar, the waiting period for divorce, how much does it cost to file for divorce, and other self-help resources you may need.

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Seattle Divorce Lawyers | Washington Family Law Firm

The attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson represent clients at all stages of the divorce process in Seattle, Washington. We can help you whether you have a simple uncontested divorce or a high conflict contested divorce.

From preparing for the divorce before the petition is filed through the final trial, we can help. For divorce cases in Seattle or Kent in King County, WA, or in Everett, Snohomish County, WA, let us put our experience to work for you.

Call (206) 712-2756 today to schedule a confidential consultation.

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