February 14th, 2023
A Guide to Navigating the Divorce Process in Washington
If you and your spouse have realized that your marriage is no longer working, you are likely in the initial stages of exploring your divorce options. Whether one spouse is initiating the divorce or you both agree that going your separate ways is the best option, the divorce process may seem overwhelming and intimidating. However, it’s essential to recognize that you do not have to navigate this process on your own. Enlisting the guidance and support of a trusted and caring Seattle divorce attorney can give you the clarity and confidence you need to move through each step toward a brighter future. This post will provide an overview of the Washington divorce process so you can better understand what to expect in the months ahead.
Are There Grounds For Divorce in Washington State?
Decades ago, many states required a spouse to provide a reason for seeking a divorce. For instance, they had to prove that their spouse was unfaithful or abandoned them and that this action caused the marriage to fail. Currently, states like Washington are considered “no-fault” divorce states, meaning that the spouse filing for divorce does not need to prove that their spouse did anything wrong. Instead, the petitioner just needs to cite an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage without providing further details or evidence. This allows either party (or both) to file for divorce at any time for any personal reason.
Filing a Divorce Petition in Washington
If you are seeking a divorce, you will need to locate the appropriate paperwork to complete and submit. These forms can be found online or at your local courthouse. You will need to complete the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and the Summons: Notice About a Marriage of Domestic Partnership. If your spouse does not agree with the terms of your separation (or otherwise does not join in your filing), you will need to have them served personally by a neutral party who is 18 or older. After your spouse has been served the summons, Washington’s mandatory waiting period of at least 91 days begins. Those who file jointly for divorce must still observe this mandatory waiting period before the court can finalize the dissolution of the marriage – even if they completely agree on the terms of their dissolution. Just be aware the specific processes and procedures will vary across the 39 counties in Washington State, each of which maintains their own court system. Consult your local court rules (or an attorney!) for more tailored information.
What to Expect During Divorce Mediation
While some divorcing couples may see eye-to-eye on every aspect of their separation, most spouses need help navigating disagreements along the way. Washington state mandates that those seeking a divorce work through any disputes by participating in mediation. Mediation, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), encourages the parties to work through their disagreements with the assistance of a neutral third party (known as the mediator). The mediator does not dictate the outcome—their role is to facilitate productive and honest communication between the parties and help them arrive at a workable solution of their own design. Most divorcing couples succeed in obtaining a divorce agreement through mediation, but it’s important to recognize that those who do not have other options.
Divorce is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Process
No two marriages are identical, so why should the divorce process be the same for everyone? It’s important to recognize that your path to divorce will look different from others. For instance, you may need the guidance of a mediator to help you establish a parenting plan that works well for both you and your spouse and allows you to support your child’s best interests. Or, you may encounter difficulties when determining how to divide up community property. For issues that can not be resolved through negotiation or mediation, the matter may need to move to a trial—but this option is almost always a last resort. Your attorney will work with you to identify the most strategic and productive path forward to help you achieve your divorce goals as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Caring and Compassionate Legal Guidance
Even if you and your spouse are separating on amicable terms, the divorce process can be challenging and emotionally draining. Enlisting the guidance of a knowledgeable and compassionate divorce attorney is a great way to ensure you can enjoy a bright and stable future after the divorce is finalized. Your attorney will work with you to identify your goals and develop strategies to help you achieve them. Whether you and your spouse work through your differences through mediation or you need to take the matter to court, you can trust that your lawyer will support you at every turn.
Reach out to the Hemmat Law Group by calling (206) 682-5200 to speak with a caring and compassionate Seattle divorce attorney.
John Socha is Hemmat Law's firm’s Legal Operations Director. He graduated from the University of Washington and has led HLG's administration since 2019.