How to File for Divorce in Washington State

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File, divorce, Washington State

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It's relatively simple to file for divorce in Washington State, though there are some local differences from one county to the next. If you're in the unfortunate position of needing to file for divorce in Washington State, here's how to do it:

Complete the required forms. To file for divorce in Washington State, you'll need to complete a Summons, Petition for Dissolution, Confidential Information Form, and a vital statistics form. All but one of these forms are available on the Washington State Courts Website. See resources below for a link to these free forms. The vital statistics form is for purposes of state records when your divorce is finalized and you can fill this out at the clerk's office when you go to file your divorce. To complete these forms, you'll need basic biographic information for you and your spouse, including full names, dates and places of birth, social security numbers, date and place of marriage, and names and birth dates of any children born of the marriage. Washington is a no-fault divorce state, which means you won't have to say why you are filing for divorce. The petition only needs to include bare-bones information, and all you need to say is that "the marriage is irretrievably broken."

Find out what supplemental forms are required, if any. In some counties, to file for divorce you'll also need to fill out a cover sheet to clarify jurisdiction (e.g., which county or courthouse should handle the case) and identify the case type.

Take the completed divorce forms to the county courthouse of the jurisdiction you live in. You'll need to present the original, signed forms to the clerk for filing. It's very important to keep photocopies of these documents, since they will need to be served on your spouse in order to get the divorce started. The divorce can't be finalized without serving your spouse. You'll need to pay the filing fee, which can also vary by county but is usually between $200 and $250. If you can show proof of financial hardship, the filing fee can often be waived. You'll need to inquire about this with the clerk of the court in your county.

Once you've filed the Washington State divorce papers, you'll need to have them personally served on your spouse. If your spouse is in agreement with the divorce, or if he or she isn't likely to become unruly or belligerent, anyone can personally hand the forms to your spouse - as long as it's not you, or a minor. A friend or family member can serve the papers. Or, your spouse can sign a form called an Acceptance of Service (also available on the Washington State divorce forms site). This Acceptance of Service, or a Declaration of Service by the person who hands the documents to your spouse, will need to be presented to the court clerk for filing.

It will take at least 90 days from the time you file until you can finalize your divorce in Washington State. You should be aware that there are many steps to filing a divorce in Washington State; filing is just the beginning. If your case is very simple, for example if there are no children involved, there is little property to divide, or if both parties are in agreement about the terms of the divorce, you can probably do fine representing yourself pro se. Otherwise, you'd be wise to consult with a qualified divorce attorney in Washington State. You don't want to miss important case deadlines or sign documents that you don't understand, which could put custody of your children or a fair division of assets at risk.

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