How to File for Divorce in Washington State


To get a divorce in Washington State, you need to follow certain legal steps. Understanding the procedure on your own can be difficult, so we decided to create a short guide on dissolving marriage in the state. From it, you can learn about the general Washington divorce process and determine the possible duration of your divorce case.

1. Meet the Residency Requirement.

The residency requirement to file for divorce in Washington State is to be:

  • a resident of the state
  • a spouse of the state resident
  • a member of the military serving here
  • a husband or wife of a military personnel stationed in Washington.

Unlike in many other states, there is no predetermined period for which you need to comply with the mentioned criteria. The main thing is that you fall into any of the listed categories at the moment when either of you officially applies for divorce. Also, check if the local courts have jurisdiction over your kids, if involved in the case.

2. Fill out and File Divorce Papers.

Next, you need to prepare case-specific documents. Depending on the type of divorce and your personal wishes, you can use different methods to complete paperwork. For instance, in uncontested divorces, some spouses decide to fill out Washington State divorce papers without third-party assistance. A DIY approach is believed to be cheap, yet it may not be very fast and convenient.

Another option for an uncontested divorce is to order the forms from an online service. It is easy, fast, and budget-friendly. If you are involved in a contested divorce, you may want to delegate paperwork to a lawyer.

Once your documents are ready, head to the courthouse and file them. You will need to pay a filing fee of around $250-$300 unless you qualify for a fee waiver.

3. Serve Your Spouse.

After your request for marriage termination is legally registered, you need to notify your spouse about it. This procedure is typically called serving of divorce documents and can be done in several ways:

  • Asking a third party over 18 to personally deliver the documents to the spouse.
  • Hiring a certified process server. The charges for such assistance can be $50-$80 or more.
  • Asking someone to send copies of forms via certified mail with a return receipt requested.
  • Publishing a notice of the divorce in a local newspaper if you don’t know the current address of a partner or they avoid official serving.

If a defendant signs an Agreement to Join Petition (Joinder), this step can be omitted, as no legal serving is required. It is possible in amicable, uncontested divorce cases.

4. File Financial Documents.

Both spouses are obliged to provide an in-depth overview of their financial situation. The court requires such data to ensure the distribution of assets and debts and decisions on alimony and child support payments are fair. Typically, the parties need to submit such documents:

  • Income statements
  • Tax returns
  • Bank and investment account statements
  • Property deeds
  • Mortgage papers
  • Rent receipts
  • Loan documents
  • Vehicle titles
  • Other financial records relevant to their situation.

Remember to be honest and accurate with your financial disclosure when you file for divorce in Washington State. Any attempts to hide assets or misrepresent the data will entail legal complications and divorce delays.

5. Propose Final Orders.

In uncontested cases, spouses can make written agreements concerning important matters like property splitting, child custody and support arrangements, spousal support, etc. These mutually satisfying contracts are submitted to the court for review and approval. By preparing such documents, spouses can greatly expedite their divorce. Besides, they can determine how different aspects of their breakup will be handled instead of passing responsibility to the judge.

If the court finds spouses’ decisions fair and equitable, they will be included in the Final Divorce Order.

6. Wait 90 Days.

In Washington State, there is a mandatory 90-day waiting period for divorcing spouses. It is frequently referred to as a cool-off period, implying that spouses have time to reconsider their decision to divorce and either reconcile or proceed with terminating their marriage.

Sometimes, a waiting period also serves for settling disputes if spouses didn’t manage to do it earlier. For instance, they can attend mediation sessions, agree on disputable topics, and turn their contested case into an uncontested one. Moreover, during 90 days, they can attend parenting classes and decide on a plan for handling co-parenting after divorce.

7. Finalize the Divorce.

It is the final step of the divorce process. The dissolution of marriage is complete when spouses get a signed Final Divorce Order. It is a binding legal document that outlines the terms of their divorce, and both parties must adhere to it.

Usually, it takes 3-5 months to finalize an uncontested divorce. The timeframe may be much longer if partners choose a contested litigation. Some contested cases take more than a year.

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