Washington State

The Divorce Process

The truth about divorce is that it is really two completely different events. One is an emotional end to a relationship, the other is a technical termination of a legal status in a Washington court. Each of these two sides of divorce deserve the proper effort and time to resolve. You must make a lot of decisions that will affect you and your family for a long time. What you do now will affect you financially, and it will change your family dynamics.

DIVORCE PETITION

The Washington divorce process formally starts when one spouse files paperwork with the family court. In the state of Washington, the technically correct term for divorce, is Dissolution of Marriage. The legal document that starts a divorce is called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

This legal document must be correctly completed and filed at the superior court in the proper county, usually where you reside. It’s important to be sure that the documents are being filed in the correct location. A copy of the filed petition must also be served on (officially provided to) the other spouse, who must then formally respond in writing to the information in the petition.

Washington is a No-Fault Divorce state. The only grounds for dissolution of marriage, in Washington, are Irreconcilable Breakdown of the Marital Relationship. There is no need to claim or prove marital misconduct.

Once filed, the divorce cannot be finalized until a 90-day waiting period has passed. If the parties reach agreement on all the issues involved in the divorce, and the proper documents are filed with the court, a judge will order the marriage dissolved.

TEMPORARY ORDERS

During the 90-day waiting period, the court will enter Temporary Orders. These court orders control temporary child custody and child visitation, child support, spousal support, and property & debt division. Temporary orders can also be used to protect bank accounts and other financial investments.

Through the Washington divorce process, a divorce can be finalized after 90 days IF the parties reach an agreement on all the issues involved in the divorce. However, you should be aware that most cases take more than 90 days to reach an agreement.

The temporary orders stay in effect until the dissolution (divorce) is finalized. If you have to go to trial, the judge will decide on the issues that the parties have not been able to agree on. Most decisions made by the judge during the divorce process, and at the time of trial, will rely heavily on the temporary orders that have been in place since early in the divorce process.

Temporary orders are important and should not be taken lightly. They set the tone for the entire process, including some of the most important issues involving children and finances.  You should work to get the temporary orders as close as possible to what you hope the final terms of your divorce to be.

AGREEMENT, MEDIATION, OR TRIAL

If an agreement cannot be achieved, the court will schedule a settlement conference or mediation to assist in reaching a compromise agreement. If the parties are still not able to agree to all the terms of the divorce, the court will schedule a trial.

DIVORCE DECREE

At the end of the proceeding, the court will issue a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. This document contains the final rulings of the court. Changing the terms of this decree requires a formal divorce modification and happens very rarely.  Do not expect that you can easily change the terms of your divorce at a later date.

divorce process

DIVORCE PETITION

The Washington divorce process formally starts when one spouse files paperwork with the family court. In the state of Washington, the technically correct term for divorce, is Dissolution of Marriage. The legal document that starts a divorce is called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

This legal document must be correctly completed and filed at the superior court in the proper county, usually where you reside. It’s important to be sure that the documents are being filed in the correct location. A copy of the filed petition must also be served on (officially provided to) the other spouse, who must then formally respond in writing to the information in the petition.

Washington is a No-Fault Divorce state. The only grounds for dissolution of marriage, in Washington, are Irreconcilable Breakdown of the Marital Relationship. There is no need to claim or prove marital misconduct.

Once filed, the divorce cannot be finalized until a 90-day waiting period has passed. If the parties reach agreement on all the issues involved in the divorce, and the proper documents are filed with the court, a judge will order the marriage dissolved.

TEMPORARY ORDERS

During the 90-day waiting period, the court will enter Temporary Orders. These court orders control temporary child custody and child visitation, child support, spousal support, and property & debt division. Temporary orders can also be used to protect bank accounts and other financial investments.

Through the Washington divorce process, a divorce can be finalized after 90 days IF the parties reach an agreement on all the issues involved in the divorce. However, you should be aware that most cases take more than 90 days to reach an agreement.

The temporary orders stay in effect until the dissolution (divorce) is finalized. If you have to go to trial, the judge will decide on the issues that the parties have not been able to agree on. Most decisions made by the judge during the divorce process, and at the time of trial, will rely heavily on the temporary orders that have been in place since early in the divorce process.

Temporary orders are important and should not be taken lightly. They set the tone for the entire process, including some of the most important issues involving children and finances.  You should work to get the temporary orders as close as possible to what you hope the final terms of your divorce to be.

AGREEMENT, MEDIATION, OR TRIAL

If an agreement cannot be achieved, the court will schedule a settlement conference or mediation to assist in reaching a compromise agreement. If the parties are still not able to agree to all the terms of the divorce, the court will schedule a trial.

DIVORCE DECREE

At the end of the proceeding, the court will issue a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. This document contains the final rulings of the court. Changing the terms of this decree requires a formal divorce modification and happens very rarely.  Do not expect that you can easily change the terms of your divorce at a later date.