November 21st, 2022
How Long Does the Divorce Process Take in Washington?
The prospect of divorce can feel overwhelming and intimidating, whether you have been married for under a year or for several decades. Even if you and your spouse have decided to separate amicably, emotions can complicate certain aspects of the divorce process. Navigating the divorce process in Washington state requires you to make several monumental decisions that shape the course of your newly independent lives. However, as anxious as you may feel, you do not have to move through this challenging time alone. Enlisting the guidance of an experienced and compassionate divorce attorney is the best way to ensure that you secure the solid foundation you need to begin your life’s next chapter. This post will provide a brief overview of the divorce process in Washington, including how long you can expect the process to take to finalize.
Understanding Washington’s 90-Day Waiting Period
States differ in how long it takes to finalize a divorce. Washington state divorces take a minimum of 90 days, but several factors can prolong this timeline. Some separating couples may agree on every aspect of their divorce, and the judge may sign the divorce decree as soon as the 90-day period ends. It’s important to note that the 90-day waiting period starts as soon as a joint petition for dissolution is filed, or upon service of a adversarial petition – whichever is later. However, most divorces take much longer, as disagreements and disputes naturally arise that require negotiation and compromise. Divorces that are particularly contentious or involve a significant amount of marital assets (i.e., vacation homes, multiple vehicles, investments, small business ownership, etc.) often require more attention and time to navigate.
Factors Influencing the Divorce Timeline
Several factors can complicate the divorce process and prolong the timeline well beyond the mandatory three-month waiting period. Below are just some of the situations or issues that may make it harder to move through the divorce process quickly.
Marital Property and Asset Division
Married couples that have been together for decades have likely acquired a significant number of marital assets. In general, negotiating property division in marriages that lasted only a few years requires significantly less time than in longer marriages. Divorcing couples who have acquired multiple homes or properties, luxury vehicles, business interests, and other assets often require a more comprehensive and nuanced approach to ensure that both parties walk away from the marriage on relatively equal footing. In contrast, if you and your spouse have only been married for a year or two, you may find that negotiations concerning marital property division move forward smoothly and efficiently (as there are simply fewer assets you will need to address).
Spousal Support Considerations
Spousal support, informally known as alimony, does not apply to every divorcing couple in Washington. Spousal support aims to ensure that both parties have the financial means they need to move forward once the divorce is finalized. For instance, if one spouse forfeited a career to take care of the marital home or care for children, the court may require the higher-earning spouse to make spousal support payments while the other party finishes their education or attends training programs to increase their earning potential and employability. Discussions surrounding spousal support can become contentious and complicated, prolonging the divorce timeline.
Child Support and Child Custody Matters
Divorces involving children typically take longer to finalize than those that do not. There are additional considerations to address, such as creating a parenting plan, determining how much one parent may need to pay the other parent each month to assist with the costs of raising the child, and, in some cases, evaluating the home environment or suitability of a parent. Moreover, conversations about children tend to be highly emotional, so you can expect to devote more time to these topics as you move through the divorce process.
Highly Contentious Divorces
Washington state requires divorcing couples to use mediation to navigate the process before turning to litigation. While this form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) may work well for many couples, couples who struggle to communicate civilly, respectfully, or productively may need to take the matter to court. In this event, you will need to work with the court’s schedule, so the matter may take many months, or even over a year, to resolve. Talk to your attorney about your situation to receive a more accurate estimate of how much time it will take to finalize your divorce.
Helping You Move Toward a Brighter Future
Wading through the divorce process is rarely easy. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the process, but working with a knowledgeable and compassionate Seattle attorney can give you the clarity and confidence you need to move through each step. Your lawyer will answer your questions, address your concerns, and support you throughout your divorce journey as you lay a solid foundation for your life’s next chapter.
If you’re exploring your divorce options in the Seattle area, contact the Hemmat Law Group today at (206) 682-5200 to discuss your goals with a trusted and compassionate attorney.
Andrew Linden is an Associate Attorney at Hemmat Law Group. Mr. Linden graduated from Knox College in 2016 and received his J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School in 2019. He is a member of the Oregon and Washington State Bar.