Filing for Divorce in Washington
Whether you're debating over filing for divorce in Washington or ready to move forward with a break-up and a new life chapter, it’s helpful to understand the ins and outs of filing for divorce in the state.
No residency requirement for filing for divorce in Washington
The state of Washington stands out from many others when it comes to residency requirements for divorce. While many states require you to have lived there for a specific period before filing for divorce, Washington imposes no such residency requirement. This means you can file for divorce in Washington regardless of how long you've lived there.
Joint filing is also possible
Joint filing is also possible in Washington, whereas many other states don’t allow it. You can file jointly for divorce if you both agree on all issues related to your settlement agreement: property division, child custody, support, and such.
A primary benefit of joint filing is simplicity. When couples file jointly, they tend to already have an agreement in place, which reduces the need for prolonged legal discussions or court appearances. It can save both of you time and resources.
Will your partner collaborate on a settlement agreement?
In the midst of the emotional turmoil of divorce, you might have two valuable tools in your back pocket: collaboration and amiability can be powerful tools. If so, it’s prudent to take advantage of them.
If you and your spouse are able to work together, you may be able to create a settlement agreement that’s mutually beneficial. This involves open communication and compromise on the aforementioned issues such as property division, custody of minor children, and spousal support.
By choosing a path of cooperation, you may be able to proceed with what is known as an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce is one in which both parties agree on all aspects of the separation. This eliminates the need for a trial or lengthy legal proceedings. The approach is generally quicker and less expensive, and it can minimize the emotional strain of divorce.
What if you can’t agree on settlement issues?
When a couple cannot agree on the terms of their divorce, the state's laws come into play to decide the distribution of property, alimony, and child custody and support. In Washington, one critical factor to understand is that it is a community property state.
In a community property state like Washington, the property and debt a married couple acquires belongs to both of them; it’s community property. This includes any salaries or other pay, real estate, vehicles, furniture, and even debts. (However, inheritances, gifts, and assets owned before the marriage generally remain separate property, unless they've been commingled with community assets.)
Alimony: Washington courts consider several factors when determining alimony. These may include how long the marriage lasted, each person’s financial situation, the standard of living during the marriage, and the age and health of each spouse. The goal of alimony is not to punish one spouse. Rather, it’s to make sure neither person experiences a significant decrease in their standard of living post-divorce.
Child custody and support: Washington courts prioritize the best interests of the child when there is a dissolution of marriage. Factors considered include each parent’s living situation, their relationship with the child, and the child's wishes (if they're old enough).
Click here to learn about Washington state’s online child support estimator.
Could a professional help you collaborate?
Outside help with divorce collaboration can be invaluable. This can take the form of mediation, hiring a divorce lawyer, or resorting to litigation.
Mediation is a voluntary settlement process often used by divorcing couples. A neutral third-party mediator facilitates discussions between the spouses to help them resolve any sticking points in their divorce case such as property division, child custody, and support. The mediator's role is not to advise or ensure that either party gets the best deal. Instead, it’s to guide the conversation toward a fair agreement.
Mediation can be less adversarial and more cost-effective than a drawn-out court case. Click here to read about our flat-fee mediation services.
A divorce lawyer provides legal advice and representation. They guide clients through the complexities of the divorce process, ensuring that their rights and interests are protected. A skilled divorce lawyer can negotiate on behalf of their client, prepare the necessary paperwork, and provide strategic advice tailored to the client's unique circumstances.
Hiring a divorce lawyer can be expensive. If you need to hire one, check out our list of tips for saving money with your lawyer.
Finally, there's litigation. This is the traditional divorce process where each spouse hires an attorney to represent their interests. The case may go to trial if the parties cannot reach an agreement.
While litigation can be more contentious and costly, it is sometimes necessary when couples can't agree on major issues and a court decision is required.
Steps for filing for divorce in Washington
Washington State's divorce process begins with the completion of several key divorce forms:
- Petition for Divorce (FL Divorce 201): This form initiates the divorce proceedings.
- Summons (FL 200): A legal document that notifies the other party of the divorce proceedings.
- Confidential Information Form: Contains sensitive information not included in the public record.
The state of Washington offers links to the necessary court forms here.
File your divorce papers with the court
Once your paperwork is complete, you must file it with the appropriate county court in Washington. Some counties may allow e-filing, so check with your local court clerk's office for specific instructions.
Serve your partner
After filing, you are required to serve the divorce papers on your spouse. In Washington, acceptable methods of service include personal delivery by someone over 18 who is not involved in the case or by mail with a return receipt requested. One of the most reassuring ways is to hire a professional process server. They know the steps needed to satisfy the legal requirements for serving your spouse.
Understanding financial disclosures
During the divorce process, transparency about each party's financial situation is crucial. This is achieved through financial disclosures. These are required documents that provide a clear picture of all assets, debts, income, and expenses. The goal is to ensure a fair distribution of assets and determination of support.
Here's how it works:
- Both parties complete and exchange financial disclosure forms.
- These documents must be filled out honestly and completely. Any attempt to hide assets or misrepresent financial information could result in severe legal consequences.
- The information provided is used to divide marital assets and determine child and spousal support.
- Once the forms are completed, they should be served to the other party.
Here are some common forms you'll need. They can all be found on the Washington Courts website.
- Financial Declaration Form: This form provides a comprehensive overview of your financial situation, including income, expenses, assets, and debts.
- Sealed Financial Source Documents: This form is used to list the financial documents you have attached, such as pay stubs, tax returns, etc.
- Confirmation of Issues: This form confirms the issues that need to be settled in the divorce, including property division and maintenance.
At Hello Divorce, we understand that the divorce process can feel overwhelming. Let us simplify it for you with one of our customizable online divorce plans. To learn more, we invite you to ask questions of one of our account coordinators. You can do this by clicking here to set up a free 15-minute phone call.