Things to Do before You File for Divorce in Washington

If you're considering filing for divorce in Washington State, it's crucial to approach this process prepared. This comprehensive guide aims to shed light on the essential steps to take before you file for divorce.

Preparing to file for divorce in Washington

Filing for divorce in Washington requires a few key steps. The first step is to get the forms you need, including the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This document can be downloaded for free from the Washington State Courts website. You can also buy hard copies at a local county courthouse.

You and your spouse will need to decide who will be the petitioner (the one filing for divorce) and who will be the respondent (the one responding to the divorce). If you're amicable, this decision can be made jointly. If you're not, the person filing will be the petitioner.

The next step is to file divorce forms with the local court. You can choose to file in your resident county or your spouse’s county, if it differs from yours. In Washington, unlike many other states, there is no residency requirement for filing for divorce.

Watch: Complete Guide to Filing a Divorce Petition in Washington | Form FL-Divorce 201 Explained


Once the petition for divorce is filed, it must be served to the respondent by a process server along with any supporting documents. This is true even if the respondent knows about the divorce. The county clerk typically charges a filing fee of around $250.

Will you file for contested or uncontested divorce? Read about the differences between these two types of divorce cases here.

Evaluate your personal situation

Before you file divorce papers in the state of Washington, a careful evaluation of your personal situation is paramount. This involves taking a close look at your finances, career prospects, and living arrangements.


When it comes to finances, you need to understand where you stand. What are your current expenses? How much income do you have? Will you be able to sustain yourself financially post-divorce?

Make a comprehensive list of your assets and liabilities. This includes everything from savings accounts, retirement funds, and investments to credit card debts, loans, and mortgages.

If you own a family home, you will need to decide what will happen to it. You might consider a buyout, where one spouse buys the other's share of the house. Or, you could sell the house and split the proceeds. A financial advisor or attorney can help guide you through these complex decisions, ensuring you make choices that are in your best interest.


If you're not currently working or if your current income isn't sufficient to support your lifestyle, you may need to consider getting a job or seeking better employment opportunities. This could also mean assessing your childcare needs if you have minor children. For example, you need to figure out who would take care of the kids while you're at work, which might involve considering options like daycare, hiring a nanny, or adjusting your work schedule.

Living arrangements

In Washington, unlike some other states, there is no requirement for couples to live separately or enter legal separation before filing for divorce. However, you'll still need to think about where you'll live during and after the divorce process. Will one of you move out, or will you continue to live together until the divorce is finalized? Remember, your decision could have implications on matters such as child custody and property division.

Gather your financial information

Washington is one of the few states in the U.S. that operates under community property laws. This means that all assets and debts acquired after marriage are considered jointly owned by both spouses.

In a divorce, marital property is typically divided equally. Understanding that Washington is a community property state (as opposed to an equitable distribution state, like most states) is crucial in this regard, as it directly impacts the negotiations for your settlement agreement.

Read: Equitable Distribution States vs. Community Property States

Income sources

Identify all sources of income. This includes not only regular wages or salaries but also bonuses, commissions, rental income, investment returns, and any other source of income. If you run a business or have a side hustle, these should be included as well.


Document all recurring expenses such as mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, car payments, insurance premiums, groceries, and childcare costs. Include less frequent expenses such as your annual property taxes or home repairs.

Joint funds

Pay close attention to joint funds. These might include joint bank accounts, investment accounts, or other shared assets. It's important to understand how much is in these accounts and how the funds have been used.


In Washington, financial disclosures are mandatory in divorce proceedings. Both parties are required to provide full disclosure of their financial situations. This includes information about all assets, liabilities, income, and expenses.

The aim is to ensure a fair division of property and debts and an accurate calculation of alimony and child support.

If spousal support is awarded, it is often temporary and meant to help one spouse maintain the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage while figuring out a new way to support themselves.

Assess your immediate needs

Before filing for divorce, assess your immediate needs. You may need to seek temporary orders from the court for child support, spousal support, or use of property. If there are safety concerns, consider obtaining a protective order. If you have children, Washington State requires parents to attend a parenting seminar before a divorce can be finalized. Addressing these immediate needs can provide stability and peace of mind during this challenging time.

Craft a divorce strategy

It's beneficial to strategize before diving into the divorce process. Set clear communication ground rules with your spouse to minimize conflict.

Consider mediation

Consider working with a service like Hello Divorce, which guides you through the divorce process with legal coaching and online divorce plans. Mediation, a method where a neutral third party helps you reach agreements, should also be considered. It can be less adversarial and costly than traditional litigation. With Hello Divorce, you get access to skilled mediators who can assist you in reaching a fair agreement.

Navigating a divorce can be challenging, but you don't have to do it alone. At Hello Divorce, we're committed to making the process more accessible and less stressful with our range of services. Whether you need legal coaching, mediation services, or an online divorce plan, we're here to help.

Suggested: How to Get a Copy of Your Divorce Decree

Divorce Specialists
After spending years in toxic and broken family law courts, and seeing that no one wins when “lawyer up,” we knew there was an opportunity to do and be better. We created Hello Divorce to the divorce process easier, affordable, and completely online. Our guiding principles are to make sure both spouses feel heard, supported, and set up for success as they move into their next chapter in life.