How to Divorce in Washington without Lawyers
- No lawyer required for an uncontested divorce
- Basic steps of uncontested divorce in Washington
- FAQ about divorce in Washington
Divorce can be a messy and emotionally draining process, but it doesn't have to be. With the right approach, getting divorced in the state of Washington without lawyers can be simple and straightforward. Not only will you save money by opting out of hiring a lawyer, but you'll also have more control over the outcome of your divorce.
Uncontested divorce requires no lawyers in Washington
In a contested divorce, the two parties cannot agree on the terms and issues surrounding their divorce and settlement agreement. This may include disputes over property division, child custody, and spousal support (alimony), called spousal maintenance in Washington.
For example, if one partner wants to keep the family home and the other wants to sell it – and a compromise cannot be found between the two of them – the divorce may be considered contested.
In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on the terms of their divorce. Again, this may include the division of assets and debts, child custody arrangements, and support payments.
For example, if a couple agrees to share custody of their children and evenly divide their bank accounts and debts, their divorce may be uncontested.
Uncontested divorces generally do not require lawyers because, with both parties in agreement, the legal process is straightforward. With the right tools and resources, couples can complete the paperwork and file it with their county court without the need for legal representation. This can save time and money, allowing for a more peaceful and amicable resolution to the marriage.
Basic steps of uncontested divorce in Washington
Step 1: Filing and serving
The first step in an uncontested divorce is to complete the necessary forms and file them with the court clerk. The spouse who initiates the divorce, the petitioner, must serve the other spouse, the respondent, with a copy of the petition for divorce. The respondent must file their response with the court within 20 days if they live in the state (and 60 days if they live outside of the state).
Step 2: Negotiation with spouse
Once the respondent has filed their response and the court has confirmed the parties’ eligibility for an uncontested divorce, the parties can start negotiating the terms of the divorce settlement. They can discuss and agree on issues such as the division of assets and debts, spousal and child support payments, and child custody and visitation arrangements.
Step 3: Finalizing the uncontested divorce
After the parties have reached an agreement, they submit their proposed settlement to the court for review. Washington state courts may require a final court hearing to confirm the terms of the divorce. If the court approves the proposed agreement, they will issue a final divorce decree that legally ends the marriage. This final divorce order includes all the terms of the settlement agreement.
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FAQ about divorce in Washington
Do I have to live in Washington state before filing for divorce?
To file for divorce in Washington, at least one spouse must be a resident of the state. This means that one spouse must currently live in Washington and be a resident on the day the divorce petition is filed. Most states require at least one spouse to have lived in the state for a few months, but Washington does not have that requirement.
However, Washington does have a waiting period. A judge cannot issue a final order of dissolution until at least 90 days have passed since the date of filing for divorce.
How much does it cost to get divorced in Washington?
The cost of getting divorced in Washington varies based on several factors, including whether the divorce case is contested or uncontested, whether you hire a lawyer, the complexity of property division and custody arrangements, and court filing and administrative fees.
If you file an uncontested divorce, the cost can be relatively low, typically ranging from $300 to $500 in court filing fees and related administrative fees. However, if you hire a lawyer to handle your divorce, the cost can increase significantly, with legal fees ranging from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity of the case.
On the other hand, if you are filing a contested divorce, the cost can be much higher, as it may involve lengthy court battles, expert fees, and a trial. In these cases, the cost of a divorce can range from thousands of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
It is important to note that the costs mentioned are only estimates, and the exact cost of your divorce will depend on your individual circumstances.
Do I have to take a parenting class?
If you have children who are minors, the divorce laws in Washington require parents to complete a parenting education course before the court will finalize the divorce. This course aims to inform parents about the effects of divorce on children and teaches the parents effective co-parenting strategies to help them navigate the post-divorce family dynamic.
The course is mandatory, and the certificate of completion must be submitted to the court to finalize the divorce. There are various approved providers for this course, and you can choose to take it online or in person.
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