Divorce in Washington State – Here’s What You Need to Know

Nov 7, 2022

The percentage of marriages in the US that end in divorce is between 40% and 50%, which is quite high. While the divorce rate has been declining for the last 40 years, divorce is still a possibility for many couples.

The whole process could take a long time, especially if you’re in a high-conflict divorce. This means that things can get messy and costly, so you should know what lies ahead of you if you decide to divorce your spouse.

Talk to a Lawyer

Take your time to find good representation for yourself if you’ve decided to file for a divorce. Find a good lawyer for yourself and discuss all of your options.

On the other hand, if you’re the one receiving the divorce summons, it’s vital that you speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. You need to know how to respond, and how you can protect your rights in the future. 

A divorce lawyer is there to give you the options, but also to help you decipher any legal documents into plain, easily understandable language.

Get and File the Divorce Forms

If you’re the one filing for the divorce, you need to petition for a dissolution of marriage. In this case, you will be the petitioner, and the other spouse will be the respondent. 

The next step is filing for the divorce papers, and you don’t have to do this in the county where you got married, but in the county where you currently reside. Once the papers are filled with the court clerk, your divorce case will begin.

Serving the Divorce Papers

Your spouse needs to be served with the divorce papers after you file the divorce with the court. In Washington State, the papers can be hand-delivered, sent by certified mail, or by publication.

Anyone who is 18 years of age or older can serve the papers, besides you. You can hire a professional process server, or have someone close to you do it. If you’re hiring a process server, they need to file a Proof of Service form with the court after the papers have been delivered.

Hand delivery is the main option for serving divorce papers. However, if your spouse can’t be located, you can request permission from the court to send them via certified mail or to publish them in the local newspapers.

The respondent has 20 days to respond to the petition. This time frame gives them enough time to review the papers, hire a lawyer and gather all necessary paperwork.

The Difference Between Uncontested and Contested Divorce

An uncontested divorce means that the spouses can find common ground and make all the decisions outside of the court. These decisions include division of property, child custody, visitation rights, child support, spousal support, etc.

However, in the case of a contested divorce, the case gets more complicated. After the respondent contests, the lawyers can start with the discovery process. This means they’ll subpoena the financial records, and have interviews with your families, friends, children, coworkers, etc. 

When the discovery phase is done, you and your spouse can choose to work with a mediator or an arbitrator to handle all matters outside of the court. But, if you can’t reach a settlement this way, you’ll need to go before the judge.

Keep in mind that this is a lengthy process and that it often takes up to a year just to schedule the divorce hearing in court.

Finalizing the Divorce

The finalization of the divorce involves signing and filing final documents.

If the divorce was uncontested or resolved before going to trial, the settlement document needs to be presented to the Ex Parte Department commissioners. They’ll approve the documents before the divorce is considered final.

If the divorce was contested, you’ll present your case to the judge, and they’ll decide on the final orders and finalize your divorce.

In any case, it can take about three months for the divorce to be finalized.

Do You Need Help With Your Divorce?

Gallagher Law, a family lawyer from Spokane can help you with all steps of the divorce process. We’ll help you with all the filings, and work so that you can get the best settlement possible – outside or in court.

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