How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced in Washington State?

divorce in washington state

Getting a divorce in Washington state can take anywhere between 3 and 12 months, depending on whether it is contested or uncontested. The average uncontested case takes 3 months. The average contested divorce takes approximately 6-12 months.

How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take?

Uncontested marriage dissolution usually takes around 3 months, as it can be finalized as soon as the mandatory 90-day waiting period in the WA state is over. It may take a little bit more time, depending on the court workload.

During this time, a couple can discuss and settle any issues related to their marriage dissolution. In WA, it is also called ‘a cooling-off period,’ as spouses may potentially change the decisions they made during the most emotional times.

Uncontested online divorce in Washington state is quite fast, and the court process for it is relatively simple. To file for divorce of this kind, spouses have to be in complete agreement concerning asset and debt division, custody and visitation, and child support and alimony. Besides, they would not need to hire lawyers and can go to court pro se – representing themselves.

How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take?

A contested divorce in Washington state takes at least 6 months to be finalized. However, in some severe cases, it may last for more than a year. Things that may prolong getting a divorce of this are:

  • Stalling from either of the parties.
  • Custody battles.
  • Unwillingness of spouses to cooperate to settle.
  • Different types of allegations.

Contested cases require spouses to be present at numerous hearings and hiring different types of experts who can make testimonies regarding custody, assets, and other aspects exes cannot reach an agreement on.

Due to the volume of cases in the court, the requirement for each party to obtain the required evidence, or specific interim court orders, there are frequently quite significant waiting periods between sessions. As a result, the procedure will take longer and require more hearings as there are more arguments.

How Long Does a Divorce Take to Finalize?

Uncontested cases take around 3-4 months, and contested ones – about 6-18 months to finalize. The more complex the case, the longer it is going to take. The sooner you and your spouse resolve any disputes, the faster your marriage can come to an end. The amount of time to issue a Decree of Divorce also depends on the court caseload, but it is rather a secondary factor.

Time Frame for a Divorce in Washington State

Numerous stages in the divorce process determine how long it will take in total. Depending on the case type and other circumstances, their list can differ, increasing or reducing the divorce timeframe by several weeks or months. Here is an approximate step-by-step timeline for marriage dissolution in the state that can affect its overall duration:

  1. Preparing for divorce. It can last from several days to several weeks. During this step, you need to discuss the decision to terminate the marriage with the other spouse, understand whether it will be contested and whether you can manage it without hiring a lawyer, collect all the documents that may be required, etc.
  2. Completing the paperwork. After you determine your case type, you will need to prepare the divorce papers. It can take from several days to 1-3 weeks, depending on whether you order paperwork from online services, work with a lawyer, or find and fill out the necessary forms yourself.
  3. Filing for divorce in court. Submitting papers to the court clerk can be done in one day, given the paperwork is in order and the resubmission is not required.
  4. Serving papers on the defendant. Once you start the process, you must inform the respondent about the lawsuit by serving them with the divorce papers. You should ask someone over 18 to deliver the documents; the process can take from a few days to several weeks, depending on whether the respondent’s location is known.
  5. Waiting for an answer. After receiving the documents, the defendant should respond to the petition within 20 days. This period may be extended to 60 and 90 days, respectively, if the respondent was served out of state or by mail.
  6. Requesting the issuance of temporary orders. If the case is contested and spouses cannot agree on the use of assets or child custody issues during the divorce process, they can request the judge to decide on contested matters for the period of divorce proceedings. It can take from a few days to several weeks.
  7. Completing the waiting period. Washington has a mandatory 90-day waiting period for couples filing for divorce. You won’t be able to finalize the process until it expires.
  8. Scheduling the court hearings. Depending on the case type, you may need from one to several hearings before the court can issue a divorce decree. A trial in contested case can last from several months to a year or more.
  9. Finalizing the divorce. At the final hearing, the judge will sign the final divorce order. It should then be filed with the clerk’s office and delivered to the defendant. This step can take a few days.

If you and your spouse agree on all the divorce terms, the marriage dissolution can last for at least ninety-one days. Still, due to the court workload, the hearing may not be scheduled right after the waiting period is over. In contested cases, the timeframe is more extended and can reach 6-12 months or even longer.

Factors Affecting the Length of Your Divorce

Many circumstances affect how long the divorce takes in Washington. Their list includes but is not limited to the following factors:

  1. Inability to agree on the divorce terms. If you have disputes over child custody and support, alimony, assets division, etc., your marriage dissolution will take longer than an uncontested case. You may need to hire an attorney, adjust to their busy schedule, and engage in numerous legal battles, which can extend your divorce for months.
  2. Presence of minor kids. If children under 18 are involved in the case, you will need to develop a parenting plan to determine who will make decisions about their lives, where kids will live most of the time, who will pay child support, etc. It can increase the timeframe of the divorce by a few weeks. If either of you disagrees with the plan’s terms, it means your case becomes contested, and you may require the judge’s intervention in resolving child-related issues. In addition, you will most likely need to complete a parenting class before the dissolution of marriage can be finalized.
  1. Involvement of additional specialists. In case you have a large list of assets, you may need to hire a professional evaluator to determine their cost. Additionally, you may have to involve a mediator if you want to negotiate with the other spouse out of court or an attorney if you need help in protecting your interests in court. Depending on their schedule and to-do list, their engagement can affect the divorce timeline by several weeks or more.

To sum up, the duration of divorce largely depends on whether your case is contested or not. If the dissolution is agreed upon, you can prepare for it independently or with the help of an online document preparation service. You can get your paperwork in a few days, file it without delays, and try to finalize your divorce shortly after the waiting period is over.

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