How to File for Divorce in Washington State?

If you are seeking a divorce in Washington State, there are some important questions you will need answered. Divorce can be expensive, and you’ll want to know about forms, papers, contested versus uncontested, and how long the process might take. 

The 4 Steps to Getting Divorced in Washington

There are four basic steps for completing divorce forms in Washington State. 

First, you’ll need to file a Petition for Divorce, which must be filed by one spouse and served to the second. You can have your divorce papers filled out by your attorney or an online divorce company, but you can also simply download and fill them out on your own.

Second, you will need to file all required paperwork with the court. There are no specific residency requirements to meet in the state of Washington, though you’ll need to ensure the court you file with has jurisdiction over your property or children.

Third, you must serve your spouse the papers. When filing for an uncontested divorce, your ex-spouse will need to sign an Acceptance of Service form. This acknowledged that they have received the paperwork and are going to sign it. When dealing with a contested divorce, there might be many more steps involved and your attorney will be responsible for much of this process.

Finally, all paperwork must be filed, signed, and delivered to the court. There is a 90-day waiting period, upon which you must arrange a hearing and visit the court to finalize your divorce. In uncontested divorced, this process will be fairly seamless. In contested divorces, bear in mind that this process may take a few months and up to several years.

Where Can I Find Washington’s Divorce Forms?

In Washington State, there are official court forms you must use when filing for divorce. You can download the Washington State Court Official Divorce Form for free from their website, or attain hard copies of each form from your local courthouse. There is also an online DIY packet with instructions via Washington Law Help.

How to File WA State Divorce Papers?

While filing divorce papers may seem like a straightforward process, things can become messy in situations where people and emotions are involved. Even uncontested divorces can take some time, but it all begins with filing the papers. In Washington State, you must first complete a petition for divorce. Washington is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that neither party has to provide blame for the failure of the marriage to file.

Every divorce requires two forms—Confidential Information Form and a Certificate of Dissolution form. Your or your spouse will need to provide vital statistics information, including where you live, when you were married and for how long, your living situation, any minor children, custody over children, child support, spousal support, and property that might be shared and divided. 

Then you must file your divorce papers with the court, after completing all proper forms. Always make sure you are submitting the appropriate paperwork to the county where you live—not the one in which you were married. You may want your attorney to give your paperwork a once-over before filing, as it never hurts to ensure everything was filled out correctly. Before filing, make two copies—one for your records and one for your spouse.

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How to Deliver Divorce Papers to Your Spouse?

In some cases, you may have an uncontested joint divorce where both former spouses decide to go their separate ways. In all other cases, once you’ve filed you will need to serve your spouse with the divorce papers while retaining any confidential information forms and copies. This will also include a Summons form for court. 

There are a few ways of serving divorce papers. Your spouse may sign a Service Accepted form, agreeing to receive the paperwork informally. If they do not accept, you’ll have to have a professional hand-deliver the paperwork for them to sign and file. 

If you cannot or haven’t been able to serve your spouse, you can ask the court to send the documents via mail. This requires a Motion to Serve by Mail petition. In some cases, you may want to publish a notice in the local newspaper, which requires a Serve by Publication. 

When all papers have been served, you will file the Serve Accepted form or Proof of Personal Service form. The court will then establish if you’ve filed all requisite forms for divorce. After filing, your spouse will then have a response time—this can be 20 days if served personally in the state of Washington, or up to 60 days when out of state. 

How to File the Divorce Papers With the Court?

Filing with the court is fairly straightforward, though there is a court fee in Washington State of a few hundred dollars. Each step in this process has associated expenses, and you’ll want to ensure that there are no hiccups when filing with the court by having your attorney look over all requisite forms and papers. Once you have submitted the correct paperwork in the county you live in, the court will then determine if you’ve filed all the paperwork properly. After you sign and file with the court, your divorce becomes official.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Washington State?

The filing fee for divorce in Washington is $314 as of 2022. Any other costs might include photocopying, delivery services fees, and more. There are special forms to fill out if you cannot afford the divorce fee, which request that the court waive the fee in your favor.

What’s the Cost of an Uncontested Divorce?

The average cost of an uncontested divorce in Washington State is much less than a contested one but still has some associated expenses. Uncontested cases typically do not require lawyers, and the paperwork may be filled out without assistance. Hiring an attorney will cost about $4,000 on average in an uncontested divorce, even if you and your spouse are in agreement. A divorce lawyer in WA will be able to help you through the process.

If you do not hire a lawyer, file the paperwork on your own, and only use online services, expenses will be around $500 in total. It’s possible that you might make a mistake at some point during your DIY divorce process, however—if you make a mistake that means filing documents again, or spending money on other small expenses.  In some cases where real property is accidentally left off the divorce documents, you may even have to go through a completely different legal process in order to dispose of that property.

What’s the Cost of a Contested Divorce?

Contested divorces that go to a trial can be very expensive. You will need a trusted lawyer on your side, and contested divorces require the division of property, assets, and debts. Most attorneys charge an hourly rate, and the complexity of the divorce may drive prices further. Depending on your case and the amount of time required, some contested divorces in Washington cost more than $20,000 depending on the amount hearings required and how lengthy the trial is.

There are other fees and services required as well. Mediators, accountants, property appraisers, private investigators, and financial advisors can all be expensive. When a contested divorce is drawn out for months or years, it can be both expensive and draining. Divorce lawyer costs can be substantial, but necessary.

How Long Does the Divorce Process Take?

While the process can be different for everyone, there are aspects of the divorce process in Washington State that are universal. The waiting period is three months—this 90-day period is the minimum requirement before the court finalizes your divorce. The divorce petition must be filed and served for 90 days before it is signed by your local Washington court.

Drawing divorce papers and filing for a divorce can take days or weeks depending on several factors. Preparing paperwork, scheduling appointments, and meeting with your lawyer takes time, but once your divorce is filed the process begins and everything moves forward.

This process might take longer depending on circumstances, especially if your spouse objects to the petition. There are other disputes that can arise over property, children, etc, and the process might take longer if there are issues with your case including domestic violence or drug abuse. Any complications with minor children will drag out the process. If you or your spouse need to split assets with a QDRO, you’ll need a lawyer to hash out the particulars.

There can be temporary orders in place during the three-month waiting period, and parenting plans will be established for children. Other temporary orders may include protection, financial support, and spousal conduct.

How Long Do I Have to Respond to a Divorce Petition?

You have up to 20 days to respond to a petition for divorce in Washington State if you were served in person. Remember, you have up to 60 days to respond if you are served outside the state.  As always, review the summons that should have came with the documents you were served with.

Do I Need an Attorney to File for a Divorce in Washington?

It is always a good idea to retain the services of a trusted attorney when dealing with any legal process, especially divorce. Even in uncontested divorces, the process can be messy and complicated, and you don’t want to be unprotected in any situation that involves finances, property, or children. A lawyer can help you file the appropriate paperwork, look over any legal documents, and offer you representation and assistance. Finding a good divorce lawyer will make the entire process substantially easier.

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Jarrod Hays is the founder of Skyview Law. He is licensed to practice law in Washington State and the Western District of Washington State Federal Court.

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