A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Washington
Even under the best of circumstances, divorce can be an unsettling and emotional process from start to finish. Many people go through divorces in Washington and most everyone has questions they need to have addressed. Understanding what to expect can help ease concerns about what they are about to go through.
Being armed with good information won’t remove all the emotions you’ll experience, but it will help make the road a little less bumpy and allow you to reach better decisions about how best to proceed for your unique situation.
Although divorces follow many paths in Washington, there are several things that are common to the filing process no matter what your situation is. You should have a basic understanding of what these things are so that you can better navigate through the process from start to finish.
Here are some of the most important things to do:
- Gather Important Information
- Decide How to Proceed With Your Divorce
- Determine Which Forms You Need to Complete
- File Your Documents
- Serve Your Spouse With Divorce Papers
- FAQs About Filing For Divorce in Washington
Important Information you Need to Gather
There are many complicated issues in divorce that you will need to be prepared for. Getting organized early on and having the documents you need at your fingertips will make the entire process a little bit less daunting.
It will also save you time and money, while helping to expedite the divorce process.
For a better understanding of what documents you’ll need, we’ve put together this Divorce Information Checklist. It’s a great resource as you begin the task of pulling together your financial documentation.
Decide how to Proceed with your Divorce
Deciding on what divorce process to use (litigation, mediation, collaborative divorce, etc.) provides you with the framework to begin moving forward. That’s an important decision and not one that should be taken lightly.
It will drive how amicable or contentious your divorce will be and set the tone for your future co-parenting relationship if you have kids. With so much at stake, it’s imperative that you understand all of your options and how they will play upon your individual situation.
To learn more about your options and the pros and cons, be sure to check out our article on The Types of Divorce.
Determine What Forms You Will Need to Complete
After you decide what kind of divorce you will pursue, you will need to fill out several forms and submit them to officially start the divorce process.
If you are working with an attorney, he or she will guide you through this process. Although it will cost you more when you use an attorney, you will save time and stress in working with a professional who understands the system and who will ensure your paperwork is filled out correctly.
If you decide to go forward on your own without the services of an attorney, then you will need to complete the necessary forms to the best of your ability and submit them to the courts. If you are the one initiating the divorce process, you will be known as the petitioner. If your spouse is the one who files the initial papers, then you will be known as the respondent.
Divorce forms in Washington can either be found online or in a hard copy format at your local courthouse. At a minimum, you will need to file the following forms:
- Petition for Divorce (Dissolution) – FL Divorce 201
- Summons: Notice About a Marriage or Domestic Partnership – FL Divorce 200
- Confidential Information – FL All Family 001
- Attachment to Confidential Information (Additional Parties or Children) – FL All Family 002
- Certificate of Dissolution, Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage or Legal Separation – DOH 422-027
- Proof of Personal Service (after your spouse is served with divorce papers) – FL All Family 101
- Agreement to Join Petition (Joinder) – FL All Family 119
- Service Accepted – FL All Family 117
If you and your spouse have any children who are under 18 years old, then you must complete the following forms as well:
- Child Support Order – FL All Family 130
- WSCSS – Schedule – Washington State Child Support Schedule Definitions and Standards, Instructions and Economic Table
- WSCSS Worksheets – Washington State Child Support Schedule Worksheets
- WASCSS – Attachment for RSA – Attachment for Residential Split Adjustment
- Financial Declaration of (name) – FL All Family 131
- Sealed Financial Source Documents – FL All Family 011
- Parenting Plan – FL All Family 140
- Residential Time Summary Report – FL Divorce 243
In addition to completing these forms, local county courthouses may also have additional forms that they may require to be completed as well.
Filing Your Documents in a Washington Divorce
If you are working with an attorney, they will make sure all the forms are correct and will file them for you at the appropriate court.
If you are not working with an attorney, it is your responsibility to file the right documents with the right court. There are 39 superior courts in Washington, but not all of them administer divorces. Some are general jurisdiction courts only.
In most cases, you will file your divorce papers with county court where you live. If you and your spouse live in different counties, then you can file at the county courthouse where you live or where your spouse lives.
You also have the option of filing in Lincoln county, where there are no residency requirements. However, both sides must agree to a Lincoln County filing before a divorce case can be filed there.
Serving Your Spouse in a Washington Divorce
After you file your forms with the court, you must also provide your spouse with those forms so that they can have a chance to respond. A judge will not move forward with your case until you can provide proof that the other party has received copies of your court papers.
In Washington, you can serve your spouse in three possible ways:
Personal service. Someone who is 18 or older must hand-deliver papers to the other person or to someone who is an adult living at the other party’s residence. You can have a friend do this or you can pay a server to complete the task. This is the preferred way to make sure your spouse gets their paperwork.
If you are not successful with having your spouse personally served, then you can request permission from the court to serve your spouse by mail or by publication.
Service by mail. You will need someone to mail court papers for you. They will need to mail a copy by regular mail and another copy by certified mail with return receipt requested.
Service by publication. This form usually costs the most and is the least likely to reach your spouse. It is considered a last resort by the courts. With this method, you publish a notice in a local paper to publicly announce that you have filed a petition for divorce with the courts.
Once your spouse has been served, your server must complete a Proof of Service form and submit it to the courts. You should also keep a copy for your records.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Washington
How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Washington?
The court filing fee for a dissolution of marriage in Washington is $280. You may also incur other costs such as for photocopying and delivery service fees.
Can divorce fees be waived in Washington?
If you can’t afford to pay fees associated with filing for a divorce in Washington, you can request a waiver. You can get an information packet that includes filing instructions and the forms you will need by going here.
Can I file for a divorce online in Washington?
Heterosexual and same-sex couples can file for divorce online in Washington as long as the divorce is uncontested. The process is the same no matter the sex of the couples. Couples who are also seeking legal separation may also file online as well.
The state’s online system is called Washington Divorce Online and can be used when spouses are able to reach agreement on all details of their divorce, including how to divide assets and debts, child visitation, custody and support and any other issues that may be pertinent to a particular divorce.
In most cases, the divorce can be completed online, and no court appearance will be necessary. To find out if you qualify to use Washington Divorce Online, you must begin by answering a series of questions you can find here.
You can also use private online services to speed up your divorce process. Some will help you prepare documents or review documents that you have completed yourself.
What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Washington?
To file for divorce you or your spouse must be a resident of Washington. There are no specific requirements regarding the length of time.
All you must do is provide proof that you are a resident and that you maintain a permanent home in the state. This can be done by providing your Washington state driver’s license, voter registration records, a lease or home ownership papers or similar documents that establish you are a permanent resident.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Washington?
Washington has a mandatory 90-day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. However, how long your divorce takes will probably depend on what kind of divorce you choose. Uncontested divorces are the best-case scenario and will take as little as 90 days, but contested divorces, especially those where there are several assets or debts to unwind, or child custody and support issues to negotiate could mean that a divorce might take one or even two years or more.
When you have a large amount of assets, determining fair value and who should get what is sometimes best determined by hiring a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) to assist you.
Can I file for divorce in Washington without using a lawyer?
Yes. When you and your spouse are able to agree on all issues related to your divorce, meaning that the divorce will be uncontested, then you can complete all the paperwork on your own and have it reviewed by the court before the final decree is approved and signed.
Are there any special rules regarding divorce in Washington if one of the parties is pregnant?
You will be able to get a divorce in the normal time frame in Washington even if you are pregnant at the time you file your petition. A judge cannot delay a divorce because one of the spouses is pregnant. You will need to identify if you are pregnant when you file the Petition for Divorce at the beginning of the divorce process.
The law will assume that the pregnant person’s spouse is the other legal parent of the child but if this is not the case the only way to not be considered the other parent is to “disestablish parentage” either as part of the petition or response or by filing what is known as a Petition to Disprove Parentage of a Presumed Parent.
How is my divorce affected if I am a member of the military in Washington?
You or your spouse must be a resident of Washington or a member of the military who is stationed in Washington. Much like regular divorces in the state, there is no minimum residency requirement and either spouse can file in the county where they live or are stationed.
The only exception is that any Washington resident or military member can file in Lincoln County whether they live there or not.
Once forms have been filed to begin the divorce, copies must be served on the spouse to give him or her a chance to respond. When one spouse is in the military, they have certain protections afforded to them by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act that allow them to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act eases many legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their families who face the added challenges of active duty.
The grounds for divorce are the same for military and non-military divorces in Washington. One spouse only needs to cite that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” for the divorce to proceed.
Community property laws are also the same, which states that all property acquired during the marriage is owned equally among the spouses. Military pensions can be divided in a divorce, but military disability pay cannot be divided.
Child support is determined by the Washington State Support Schedule, but a court can deviate from that schedule if circumstances warrant.
Federal law dictates that child and spousal support awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemember’s pay and allowances if they are single. That amount drops to 50% if the servicemember remarries and has a new family they must support.
Looking for more great tips about filing for divorce? Check out a few of our favorite resources:
- How to File for Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce
- What Are The Types of Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce