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What is the Divorce Process in Washington State?

If you are one of the many Americans considering getting divorced, understanding the process can be helpful. Understanding the requirements of the Washington State dissolution process will help you prepare for your divorce. Typically, one spouse will start the divorce process by petitioning the court to dissolve the marriage. 

Step 1: Determining Jurisdiction and Venue

The first step in the divorce process involves determining whether Washington courts have the jurisdiction to grant you a divorce. You will also need to ensure that your divorce petition is filed in the proper venue or county within Washington state. The state of Washington has jurisdiction over your divorce when you meet the following conditions:

  • You or your spouse live in Washington
  • You are a member of the armed forces, and you are stationed in Washington
  • Your spouse is a member of the armed a\forces who was stationed in Washington and will continue to be stationed in Washington for at least 90 days after the date you file for divorce and serve the divorce papers

You will need to file for divorce in the proper venue. You must file in the county where your spouse lives or in the county where you live. The divorce lawyers at Akiona Law, PLLC, can help you determine where to file your divorce petition.


Step 2: Filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Washington

Once you determine the proper venue, you can file the divorce petition. Washington is one of several no-fault divorce states. As a result, you will not need to prove which spouse was at fault and caused your divorce. Instead, there is only one legal ground for the dissolution of marriage in Washington — that your marriage is irretrievably broken. Your attorney will complete and file a petition for the dissolution of marriage in the proper venue.

 In the petition, you will need to state that your marriage is irretrievably broken. You also need to state that you are requesting that the court dissolve your marriage. If you have any other request for relief from the family court, you should state those in your petition. Even though it is possible to obtain the template for a divorce petition online, we recommend consulting with a divorce lawyer and not filing a petition on your own. 

The experienced divorce lawyers at Akiona Law, PLLC, can help you write a thorough divorce petition that includes all of your requests. A skilled divorce lawyer will help you ensure that all of your legal filings are correctly completed. We will gather the necessary paperwork and information to submit with your petition for dissolution and ensure it is as accurate as possible. Small mistakes can delay your divorce or may cause unfair orders or later errors in your case. 


Step 3: Serving Your Spouse

Once you complete your petition for dissolution, you will need to file it with the clerk’s office. In addition to the petition, you will need to include a certificate of dissolution, also known as a vital statistics form. The family court will charge you a filing fee when you file your petition. Your attorney must notify the court if you have an existing child support order or have a pending child support matter. 

After you file the petition, you will receive a case number. You will need to include your case number on the summons that you served to your spouse. After you file your petition for dissolution in most counties, the court will set a date for your trial. You may need to request a trial later in the process. You will need to serve your spouse with a copy of the petition for dissolution and your summons. By providing the summons, you will formally make your spouse aware of the dissolution petition. The person who serves your spouse will need to complete an Affidavit of service form.


Step 4: The Counter Petition

After you serve your spouse, he or she will have 20 days to file a counter-petition, also known as a response to the petition. If your spouse does submit a counter-petition within 20 days, the court will categorize your divorce as a contested divorce. In the counter-petition, your spouse can set forth his or her request for relief. Your spouse will state which parts of your petition he or she agrees with or denies. 

Your spouse can request an extension beyond 20 days. If you have received a counter-petition from your spouse, now is a great time to work with an attorney. You will know what your spouse plans to challenge in the divorce, and your attorney can help you develop a strategy.

 If your spouse does nothing to respond to your petition, your divorce will be considered an uncontested divorce. You will need to file a motion allowing the court to enter a judgment by default. This motion notifies the family court that your spouse has not responded to your petition. You will need to include an affidavit of non-military service proving your spouse is not in the military. You will need to wait a minimum of 90 days after serving your spouse to finalize your divorce. Once the 90 days have passed, you can apply for a general judgment of dissolution of marriage.


The Trial Process

If you and your spouse continue to dispute your divorce’s terms, you will go through a discovery process in which your attorneys can request information and ask questions of each spouse. You may go through mediation to come to terms with your spouse and all of the crucial issues.  Should you agree with your spouse, your lawyer can write your settlement agreement and ask the court to enter it. If not, you will need to go to trial, during which both attorneys will be able to present evidence. The judge will ultimately rule on the disputed matters.


Contact a Washington Divorce Lawyer Today

Before you file a divorce petition, we recommend speaking with an experienced Washington divorce lawyer. Contact Akiona Law, PLLC, today to schedule your initial consultation.