How to file for divorce in Washington state? Here is a 7-step guide.
Divorce can be a long, troublesome, and super expensive process. In WA State, however, it shouldn’t necessarily be so. Spouses who want to end their relationship fast and easily can go through an uncontested divorce and shorten their process period to as little as only 3-4 months.
A simple procedure is among the benefits of such divorce. In most cases, couples are quite capable of completing each step themselves. They also don’t have to pay stratospheric lawyer fees to get legal help. The cost of such do-it-yourself divorce in Washington State normally doesn’t exceed $500 and takes tangibly less paperwork and effort.
However, failures happen, and they may entail long delays and extra costs. Therefore, learning how to file for divorce in Washington is highly recommended before you start the process. If you’re planning to break your marital bond anytime soon, make sure you look through our detailed 7-step guide on how to file for divorce in Washington State.
Checking if you qualify for an uncontested divorce in WA state
Getting a divorce in Washington State can be almost as easy as a picnic in the park – if you go the uncontested way. However, you need to be sure that you qualify before you can start the process.
The requirements are the following:
- You should settle all conflicts regarding property, kids, financial matters, pets, and other issues arising from your decision before you start the case.
- At least one of the spouses must be a resident of the state at the moment of starting a divorce process. Compared to many other states, Washington doesn’t require you to live on its territory for a specific period. But the court will run a detailed check to make sure that either spouse has permanent accommodation in the state. This requirement concerns the county as well. Spouses must start a divorce in the county one of them lives, not where they tied the knot.
Obtaining blank divorce forms
If you meet the criteria, you can start preparing for an uncontested process in WA. First of all, you need to obtain blank divorce forms.
The paperwork you’ll need to complete will differ for every single case. Largely, it will depend on whether you have any minor children in the marriage. Therefore, it wouldn’t hurt to make research and find out what documents you need to complete for your exact divorce situation.
But where do you get the forms? Besides papers copies available in the clerk’s office, WA State also offers to download the papers online. Alternatively, there are private services on the internet that offer free forms on their website along with blog information on how to pick the right documents and complete them in a proper way.
Doing the paperwork
The next step of your divorce in the Washington state process is completing the blank forms you obtained. The task is usually so simple that spouses can do it themselves without any professional help.
However, if you have troubles with interpreting some legal terms or you simply don’t want to waste your time, there are professional services that can complete the blanks for you at a minor cost. Alternatively, you can hire a lawyer to get all-inclusive help and consultation as to your divorce. But you should be ready that attorney’s fees start with $200-300 and go up.
Submitting the papers
How to file for divorce in Washington? Any divorce process in WA starts with a divorce petition. A completed petition along with Summons, Confidential Information Form, Vital Statistics Form, and others required for your case papers must be filed with the court.
In Washington State, both online and offline filing is available. However, unlike in-person filing that comes with a significant fee, WA divorce online is completely free of charge and you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home to start the process.
Serving the other spouse with the papers
Once the divorce case is started, the next step is to serve the other party with the copies. Even though you both want a divorce and don’t have any unsettled conflicts, the service is an official step of any divorce process in WA and can’t be avoided.
To ensure the delivery, you can pay a sheriff, a private process server, or any person who is older than 18 and isn’t the party to the case. The server will have to complete and submit an official report to the court proving the time and place of the receipt.
Filing an answer
Once the responder gets the divorce copies, they should file an answer proving that they agree to all terms of the petition. Normally, it has a formal meaning.
In some cases, however, a responder may have second thoughts and deny the terms. In such circumstances, it becomes a contested case and will take more time, effort, and money. A judge will oblige parties to share their financial affidavits and may order mandatory mediation before the trial.
Regardless of the outcome, an average contested divorce takes months of litigations, thousands of lawyer fees, and a lot of stress. That’s why most couples try to work out a Settlement Agreement that would satisfy both parties and end their relationship through an uncontested divorce.
Waiting until the divorce is finalized
If you managed to put your differences aside and come to terms as to your marital assets, kids, and other issues, your will be officially divorced 90 days after the petition was filed. This is a mandatory waiting period that can’t be overridden.
A divorce, however, may take longer if you make an error when filing the papers, the respondent delays the answer, or the court is overloaded with work and can’t consider your case sooner.
But normally, a judge would consider the case and sign the petition no later than 4-5 months after the process started. You will be able to get the final decree by mail or in the clerk’s office.