Uncontested Divorce in Washington
A look at the uncontested divorce process in Washington.
Divorce is inevitably difficult for the adults and children involved. However, your divorce can be easier, and more like a polite negotiation than a boxing match. When spouses are able to compromise and keep open communication throughout the divorce process, they can retain control over the decision-making process in their divorce rather than leaving it all up to a trial judge.
When divorcing spouses can agree on all the terms of their divorce, they can pursue an "uncontested" divorce. This article provides a general overview of the process to obtain an uncontested divorce in Washington. If after reading this article, you still have questions about obtaining an uncontested divorce, contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Overview of Uncontested Divorces in Washington
Uncontested or "simplified" divorces are available to couples with or without children and are generally much less expensive than contested divorces. Washington offers a simplified process for uncontested divorces if spouses are able to agree on all issues in their divorce. These types of divorces are commonly referred to as divorces by agreement in Washington.
With a divorce by agreement, the spouses must agree on every issue in the divorce including child custody and child support, if children are involved. For more information on calculating child support for divorce purposes in Washington, click here.
If you are unable to agree on any major issue in the divorce, your divorce is "contested," which means you’ll have to go to trial and allow a judge to sort out the details of your divorce.
The following is a list of major issues that must be resolved by the spouses before filing an uncontested divorce action in Washington:
- child custody and visitation arrangements (if minor children are involved)
- child support, health and dental insurance coverage
- alimony or spousal support, if any
- division of real estate and personal property
- division of assets and debts, and
- any other issues related to your marriage.
Beginning the Uncontested Divorce Process in Washington
To obtain an uncontested divorce in Washington you must meet the following criteria:
- you or your spouse currently reside in the state of Washington
- you know your spouse’s current address, and
- you and your spouse have agreed on all issues in your divorce.
If you meet the all above criteria, you may proceed with your uncontested divorce by filing the required forms as discussed below. The spouse who files the initial paperwork is called the "petitioner" and the other spouse will be the "respondent." The Washington State Courts publish a comprehensive Family Law Handbook with information needed to complete the divorce process on your own.
Washington’s residency requirement is simply that you live in Washington on the date you file your divorce petition. Unlike other states, Washington does not require you to reside in the state for any specified period of time.
If you plan to file for divorce without the help of an attorney, you will be responsible for filing the right documents in the right court. Washington has 39 superior courts, which are courts of general jurisdiction and oversee divorce cases and trials. Some counties have more than one superior court.
Typically, you will file your divorce paperwork in the county where you reside. In cases where you and your spouse live in different counties of Washington, you can file in the county in which you live or the county where your spouse lives.
Preparing the Divorce Forms
The Washington State Courts offer online forms for completing an uncontested divorce available here or in hard copy at the local courthouse. The following documents must be filed with your divorce paperwork:
- Petition for Divorce
- Confidential Information Form
- Acceptance of Service
- Stipulated Agreement
- Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, and
- Decree of Dissolution.
If you and your spouse have children together under the age of 18, then the following forms must be filed as well:
- Order of Child Support
- Washington State Child Support Schedule and Economic Table
- Washington State Child Support Worksheets
- Financial Declaration
- Sealed Financial Source Documents
- Parenting Plan, and
- Residential Time Summary Report.
Completing the Divorce
The required paperwork to complete a divorce in Washington varies from county to county and depending on where you live, forms may be required in addition to those listed above. Check with your local court clerk to determine if you need to file additional forms.
For spouses with children, Washington requires the spouses to complete a divorce education course.
Once 90 days from the filing date have passed, the judge will review your paperwork. If the judge approves your divorce settlement and custody arrangement, the judge will sign the Findings of Fact and Decree of Dissolution. The date the judge signs the Decree of Dissolution is when your divorce becomes final.
If you have additional questions about obtaining an uncontested divorce in Washington, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.
For more information on uncontested divorces in Washington, see Washington Statutes, Chapter 26, Section 9.