Uncontested Divorce in Washington
- What is an uncontested divorce in Washington?
- Who should file for uncontested divorce in Washington?
- Benefits and drawbacks of filing for uncontested divorce
- Requirements for an uncontested divorce
- How to file and what to expect at the hearing
In an uncontested divorce, both sides collaborate and answer questions about their estate, debts, and more. Instead of asking a judge to rule on tricky issues, they fine-tune all important details of their divorce settlement outside of the courtroom.
An uncontested divorce doesn’t require an affinity for your ex. In some cases, it doesn’t even involve close conversation. But this process can help you speed up your split, reduce your potential costs, and lessen potential trauma for both parties.
Here’s what you need to know about what an uncontested divorce looks like in Washington State.
What is an uncontested divorce in Washington?
All divorces stem from conflict, but Washington law reduces the amount of information people must share with the court to end their marriages. Those same laws ensure that one party can’t stop the process, even if they don’t agree with it.
Washington is a no-fault state. People aren’t required to list the mistakes (or faults) that led to the end of their marriage. One person merely must say that the partnership is irretrievably broken. The other person can’t prove this isn’t true, and no one needs to spell out what the other party did wrong to get to this place.
Who should file for an uncontested divorce?
Anyone who works well with their former partner could attempt an uncontested divorce. However, some people have more success with this process than others.
Experts say people with the following attributes tend to have legally complex divorces:
- Long marriages
- Significant assets (like multiple properties)
- Business ownership
If your wedding was relatively recent, you own few things together, and you don’t have many debts, an uncontested divorce could be right for you. But even if you have a lot of items or debt and have difficulty splitting your estate, you could work through them and complete an uncontested divorce.
Uncontested divorce is almost always an easier path to ending your marriage than contested divorce.
What are the benefits of filing for an uncontested divorce?
Working through all of your issues in an uncontested divorce isn’t easy. But doing so can come with plenty of benefits, including significant financial savings, less stress, and a faster divorce timeline.
If you work with your partner to create a divorce settlement you both appreciate, you can keep your private issues out of a public courtroom. Among other things, the two of you must discuss how much you owe, how much you own, and what caused your break-up. It can be uncomfortable, but for many couples, the effort is worth it.
An uncontested divorce is less expensive than a court battle. You won’t need to hire a lawyer and pay experts to testify on your behalf. In the best-case scenario, you only pay filing fees (a few hundred dollars) with an uncontested divorce. That’s much better than spending thousands on a divorce lawyer and a legal battle.
You may also save time with an uncontested divorce. Court cases can be lengthy, especially if you have plenty of items for a judge to review. Tackling these issues independently can help you cut down on the timeframe.
What are the drawbacks of filing for an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce means working with your ex. You can trade paperwork, and if you both agree, your negotiations are complete. But if you don’t agree, you have to keep talking. Those conversations may be difficult or even traumatic.
A mediator can be a huge help during difficult negotiations. These professionals can help you to find middle ground, even regarding issues like child custody and debt distribution. Neither party gets everything they want in a divorce, but a mediator can help you both to find a mutually beneficial solution.
In order to get some things you want that are most important to you in mediation, you’ll give up some things that are less important.
If your relationship has involved trauma or abuse, it may be too difficult to work through an uncontested divorce even with a mediator. Your conversations may cause more distress than just sitting in a courtroom with your spouse and not speaking to that person.
How long does an uncontested divorce take in Washington?
Washington has a mandatory 90-day waiting period for divorce. The clock starts ticking when you file the Petition for Divorce (Dissolution) paperwork. It ends when you attend a hearing and get a judge’s signoff on your arrangements.
You can use this 90-day waiting period to collaborate with your spouse on all the forms you’ll submit to the court. Hold private conversations, trade paperwork, meet with a mediator if needed, and wrangle all the details. When 90 days are up, you’re ready to schedule a hearing. If there are no court-based delays in scheduling that hearing, you’ll be done.
What are the requirements for an uncontested divorce in Washington?
Washington residents can file for a divorce. Your only real requirements are that one of you lives in the state currently and you are in a valid marriage.
To make sure your marriage remains uncontested with no court case required, you must agree on the following items:
- Child custody: If you share children, where will they live? When will the other person visit? How will the drop-offs and transfers happen? Details of the custody arrangement should be specific and clear.
- Child support: If you share children, how much will the non-custodial parent pay the one with custody each month? Who will pay for health insurance? All financial details should be sorted ahead of time.
- Spousal support: Will one party pay the other alimony when the marriage is over? How much will those payments be? What circumstances could cause them to change?
- Debts: How will you split shared credit card debt, mortgages, or other loans?
- Assets: Who will keep the home, car, and other valuable items you share? What about retirement accounts?
Note: You’re not required to settle these issues immediately, as you have a 90-day waiting period you can use to agree on these items.
How to file for an uncontested divorce in Washington
An uncontested divorce begins and ends with forms. These are the steps you’ll take to complete a typical divorce process within the state of Washington:
1. Find your court
You will file forms with a courthouse in your county. Washington laws allow courts to create unique processes and filing fees. Find the court in your county. Then, contact officials there to ask about the specific steps to follow to end your marriage.
2. File beginning paperwork
Two main forms begin the divorce process: Petition for Divorce (Dissolution) and Summons: Notice about a Marriage or Domestic Partnership. Fill out these forms, and take them to your courthouse. Pay a filing fee, and your clerk will give you stamped, official versions for your next steps.
Watch: Complete Guide to Filing a Divorce Petition in Washington | Form FL-Divorce 201 Explained
3. Notify your spouse (optional)
If you don’t file paperwork together, you must notify your spouse of your divorce process through an official process called serving. Choose someone unaffiliated with your case, give that person your stamped documents, and provide a Proof of Personal Service form. Your server will deliver the documents, fill out the form, and bring it back to the courthouse to file it.
4. Start the collaboration
You must wait 90 days before you can head to the courtroom to finalize your divorce. Use this time to work carefully with your spouse.
Every couple must use these forms:
If you share children, you must use more forms, including the following:
Complete the required forms, and take them to the courthouse to file them.
5. Attend a hearing
With your paperwork filed, the court is ready to schedule your hearing. You’ll attend with your spouse and ask a judge to review the plans you’ve created together. At the end of this appointment, the court will sign a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
Sometimes, people take their final documents to the clerk’s office to file them. In other cases, the court will handle this step for you. Make sure you understand what you must do when the hearing is complete. Ask the clerk if you’re not sure to avoid missteps that could cost you time and money down the road.
What to expect in an uncontested divorce hearing
An uncontested divorce doesn’t mean you stay out of a courtroom altogether. You must go to a hearing to present your final paperwork for the judge’s review. This conversation is typically much shorter than one you’d have during a traditional divorce trial.
In a typical divorce hearing, the judge will call you forward, ask for your paperwork, and confirm pertinent details. You may be asked questions about the decisions you’ve made. Answer every query as clearly as you can, and resist the urge to interrupt or argue about details.
At the end of your hearing, the judge will sign your Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. Make sure you understand your next steps. As we mentioned, in some courts, you must take the paperwork to the clerk and file it. In others, you don’t have to take this step.
If your spouse is a bully, you can run the risk of giving up too much in your divorce settlement.
If your spouse is a bully and you worry that they will pressure you to unfair agreements, know that the judge will review your proposed agreement for fairness first. If the agreement is truly unfair, new arrangements could be drawn up on the spot. However, if the issue is unclear to the judge, it could pass right by and become a plan you can’t easily contest.
ReferencesDivorce and Other Options for Ending Your Marriage with Children in Washington State. (June 2022). Northwest Justice Project.
Family Law Handbook: Understanding the Legal Implications of Marriage and Divorce in Washington State. (July 2019). Washington Courts.
Finalize a Divorce (With Children) by Agreement: Instructions and Forms. (July 2023). Northwest Justice Project.
Court Forms: Divorce (Dissolution). Washington State Administration Office of the Courts.