January 7th, 2023
Which Conditions Must Be Met to Get a Divorce in Washington?
As the new year begins, some married couples may start exploring their divorce options. Perhaps the stress of the holidays revealed that their partnership was no longer working, prompting them to take steps to dissolve their marriage and start anew. Even if you and your spouse are separating on relatively amicable terms, the prospect of divorce can be overwhelming and intimidating. Fortunately, you have the option to enlist the trusted and compassionate legal guidance of an experienced Seattle divorce attorney to help you understand what to expect from the process. Whether you are just starting to consider pursuing a divorce or you are actively looking for a dedicated divorce lawyer to represent your best interests, it’s helpful to have an idea of how the process works in Washington. Let’s take a look at how to initiate a divorce and what steps you can expect to take in the weeks and months ahead as you lay the foundation for your life’s next chapter.
No-Fault Divorce in Washington
First, it’s important to recognize that Washington is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means that either spouse may take action to end the marriage, and they are not required to cite a specific reason for requesting a dissolution of marriage, nor must they prove that the other spouse is to blame for the marriage’s failure. Instead, the spouse seeking the divorce need only indicate that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” to file for divorce. However, this means that the filing may proceed even if the other spouse does not want a divorce. Whether you are ready to file for divorce or you have just learned that your spouse is moving forward with this process, it’s highly recommended that you enlist the assistance and support of a knowledgeable divorce attorney as soon as possible.
Navigating Residency and Jurisdiction Considerations
Although some states require that married couples reside in the state for a specific amount of time before filing for divorce, Washington does not. As long as you are legally married and currently reside in Washington, you may pursue a divorce. However, if one spouse has moved out of state or has never resided in Washington, this may limit the court’s ability to divide and allocate debts, property, and other aspects of the divorce. Additionally, divorces involving children may grow more complicated when a parent wants to move out of state and determine child support and custody matters. It’s important to understand that Washington will have jurisdiction over the parenting plan as long as the children have lived in the state for the last six months. The state will also have jurisdiction when one parent moves out of state while the other continues to reside in Washington. Negotiating parenting plans and child support agreements can be among the most challenging aspects of the divorce process, so make sure you work with an experienced divorce attorney who can protect you and your child’s best interests.
How the Filing Process Works
To initiate the divorce process, one spouse must file a summons and petition for dissolution of marriage with the court. If both spouses want to end the marriage, they may file the petition jointly. Once you have filed these documents, you must observe a mandatory waiting period of at least 91 days before the court can finalize your divorce. However, if you and your spouse agree to the terms of your separation, you may find that filing a legal separation better suits your needs (and you can avoid the mandatory waiting period). Just like no two marriages are identical, you have options when it comes to dissolving the marriage. Discuss your unique needs and considerations with a compassionate divorce lawyer to find the most appropriate and effective path forward.
Finalizing Your Divorce in Washington
Once you have filed for a divorce, Washington requires you and your spouse to participate in mediation before moving the matter to trial. Most divorcing couples are able to negotiate and determine the terms of the divorce through the mediation process, as this format encourages collaboration and concentration on a common goal. Unlike a judge, the mediator does not determine the outcome; instead, the mediator helps the parties discuss and negotiate the terms of the divorce, empowering the couple to play an active role in shaping the outcome. If you are able to reach an agreement, the court will review it and issue a final decree, finalizing your divorce. However, you may take the matter to court if mediation does not work for your situation. At this stage, it’s essential to work with a seasoned divorce lawyer who will advocate vocally and aggressively on your behalf. Regardless of how your divorce journey unfolds, give yourself the tools, support, and grace you need to move forward with confidence.
If you have questions about the divorce process in the Seattle area, call the Hemmat Law Group today at (206) 682-5200 to speak 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.