Divorce in Washington State

Divorce in Washington State | How to Get a Divorce & Process (Guide) 2024

Like all legal processes, getting a divorce in Washington State entails filling out documents and going through a series of steps. At first, it could seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be so difficult—and you can receive support. Here is an overview of how to get going.

How To File Divorce In Washington State

There are essentially three approaches to starting the divorce process, and it pays to be aware of these at the outset:


You can locate the relevant forms, complete them, submit them to the court, and find out what happens next.

Online divorce

By supplying you with the necessary forms and filling them out for you, an online divorce service can simplify the procedure. For an additional fee, a few of these businesses will also handle the divorce paperwork filing.

Hiring a lawyer

Along with handling all other legal aspects of your divorce, a divorce lawyer can take care of the paperwork and form filing for you.

Parents Name
Wages & Income
Non-Custodial Parent
Custodial Parent

Depending on the particulars of your case, as well as how much time and money you have to spend, you’ll have to choose between these possibilities. Although doing it yourself is the most affordable alternative, you must put in some effort and pay attention to detail to make sure you’ve followed all of Washington’s divorce laws (also known as “dissolution of marriage” in the state).

Residency and Jurisdiction Requirement for Divorce in Washington

It is not necessary for you or your spouse to have lived in Washington for a particular time period before you can apply for divorce, in contrast to many other states. Instead, the spouse who files for divorce (referred to as the “petitioner”) only needs to be a resident of the state on the filing date (or stationed in Washington as a member of the US military).

Despite this relatively easy residency requirement for initiating the divorce procedure, you should be aware that there are strict conditions for the court to have “personal jurisdiction” over your children or the other spouse (the “respondent”).

Even though the orders are based on the spouses’ agreement, the complex legal laws governing personal jurisdiction constrain the judge’s power to include them in the final divorce judgment. Examples include

  • If you file for divorce in Washington, but your spouse does not reside there and has never resided there during the marriage, the judge might not be able to divide your property or order your husband to pay support. However, in other situations, such as when one of your children was born in the state, the court might have jurisdiction over your spouse (hence the power to make these orders).
  • If Washington was the impacted children’s home state when you filed for divorce—that is the children lived with a parent figure for at least six months or lived there since birth if they were younger than six months old—your divorce decree generally cannot include a parenting plan or custody orders. In this case, you must prove that Washington was the children’s home state. If Washington was their former residence or if no other state fits the requirements for being their home state, the court may still have jurisdiction over your children even if they relocated out of state during the six months prior to your filing for divorce.

Getting and Preparing Washington’s Divorce Forms

When you file for divorce in Washington State, you must use the official court paperwork available there. The official Washington forms are available for free download, and you can frequently purchase hard copies of them at your county courthouse. A DIY instruction bundle is also available online at Washington Law Help.

The divorce petition is the principal document to begin the divorce procedure (FL Divorce 201). The petition includes details about your assets, minor children, and need for spousal support, as well as how you want the court to handle those issues, similar to divorce complaints in other jurisdictions.

Jointly filing for divorce with your spouse is legal in Washington. The respondent acknowledges that the judge may grant all of the requests in the petition by co-signing this form and the Agreement to Join Petition (FL All Family 119).

If the respondent’s spouse fails to file a formal answer before the judge issues the final orders, the judge may deny any of the petition’s requests (more on that below). You can omit the Summons form when filing a joint petition with any other forms required for petition service (as described below).

For giving confidential information, there is a separate form and attachment. If you have minor children, you might additionally need to prepare the following forms:

  • Your suggested parenting strategy (FL All Family 140).
  • an ordered child support proposal (FL All Family 130).
  • Worksheets for the Washington State Child Support Schedule (WSCSS – Worksheets).

The forms required to complete the process, such as the Findings and Conclusions About a Marriage (FL Divorce 231) and the Final Divorce Order (FL Divorce 241), both of which must be signed and notarized by both spouses, may be included when filing the paperwork for an uncontested divorce to save time.

Take note that certain counties have their own regulations and paperwork. For more information, contact the county court clerk’s office in the area where you intend to submit your divorce papers. You can also get more details and support by getting in touch with the “courthouse facilitator” if your county’s superior court has one (most do).

While the facilitators won’t give you legal advice, they might assist you in choosing the appropriate forms and filling them out, explain any legal terms you don’t understand, assist in calculating child support as per the financial information you provide, review your completed forms to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and provide information about the local court’s requirements and procedures. Additionally, if you require it, they can direct you to additional services.

Filing Divorce Papers in Washington

Bring the original documents and at least two copies (one for each spouse) to the clerk’s office of the superior court where you want your divorce case to be heard after you have assembled and completed the relevant paperwork. You can petition for divorce in the county where either spouse resides under Washington law.

However, if both parties agree to file in a county where neither of you resides, you can pick any county in the state. You can send a divorce petition (and the divorce decree) to the counties of Wahkiakum and Lincoln. If a disagreement doesn’t arise before the procedure is complete, this might be convenient. In such a circumstance, you might be required to travel to the courthouse or deal with a difficult case transfer.

Generally speaking, the court costs for submitting the initial dissolution petition range around $300 but vary slightly by county. When filing jointly, you and your spouse can split the filing fee. You may, however, ask for a waiver if you are financially unable to do so.

Washington’s Requirements for Serving and Responding to Divorce Papers

The divorce documents you filed (aside from the confidential information form and attachment) must be served to your husband, with a completed Summons form, unless you filed a joint divorce petition.

The “service of process” can be done in a variety of ways.

  • Your spouse could legally consent to receive the documents by signing a Service Accepted form (FL All Family 117).
  • If your spouse refuses, you’ll need to have someone (often a private, professional process server, sheriff, or any adult who is unrelated to your divorce case) personally deliver the documents to them.
  • If you are unable to personally serve or locate your spouse, you may ask the court to permit you to do so by mail or by putting a notice in a local newspaper. To serve someone, you must submit a motion to serve them by mail or publication (FL All Family 104, 108).

After serving the papers, submit the FL All Family 101 service Accepted form or proof of personal service to the court. You should additionally provide the following statement when serving your spouse outside of Washington: Personal Service Could Not Be Made in Washington (FL All Family 102). (Wash. Rev. Code Sections 4.28.100, 4.28.110, and Wash. Sup. Ct. Rule 4 (2021))

You must additionally serve copies of your divorce documents to the State of Washington if you had children who have ever received public assistance (TANF) or Medicaid, are in foster care, or are placed outside of their parent’s home.

Your spouse will get 20 days to file a response if divorce papers are served personally in Washington or 60 days if they are served physically outside of Washington or by publication. The petitioner may ask for a default divorce if the responder doesn’t react in a timely manner and hasn’t joined the petition.

Next Steps in Your Washington Divorce

You and your spouse must disclose your income, expenses, assets, and debts to one another before a judge will give a final divorce that includes monetary terms (like property division, child support, or spousal maintenance).

It will be simpler if the Financial Declaration forms (FL 131) are filed and served on each other at the same time as the first divorce papers are filed or as soon as is practical afterward if you are filing an uncontested divorce or plan to resolve your case quickly.

After filing for divorce, spouses with young children may be required to take a parenting class in several counties of Washington.

In Washington, you can finalize an uncontested divorce without a court hearing after a 90-day waiting period. If you and your partner are not able to come to an agreement, your case will move forward as a disputed divorce, which may be a drawn-out and expensive process.

Domestic Partnership

The Washington Legislature has concluded that the public is interested in establishing a legal framework for certain intimate, committed, and exclusive relationships between people who are not legally married, regardless of whether the partners are of the same sex or different sexes and regardless of their sexual orientation.

Additionally, the Legislature determines that giving rights and benefits to heterosexual couples with one or both partners who are at least 62 years old will serve the public interest. Despite the fact that these couples are allowed to wed under the state’s marriage laws, it would be problematic for them to do so due to social security and pension regulations. So long as one partner is at least 62 years old, couples are permitted to form a state-registered domestic partnership.

The following conditions must be satisfied by both parties in order to form a domestic partnership that is registered with the state:

  • Both parties live in the same place;
  • Both parties are above the age of 18
  • Neither party is married to a person who is not a partner in the domestic partnership, nor are they partners in another domestic relationship;
  • The domestic partnership can be approved by both parties;
  • The parties are not more distantly related than second cousins, either full or half;
  • No party is the other’s sister, kid, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew;
  • Either both parties must be of the same sex, or both parties must be 62 years or older.

Domestic partners registered with the state must be treated equally with married couples.

Legal Grounds for Dissolution of Marriage or Domestic Partnership

Only the no-fault premise that the marriage or domestic partnership is irretrievably shattered is accepted in Washington when filing for a divorce or dissolution of a domestic partnership.

The court will next take into account all pertinent elements, such as the events leading up to the petition filing and the likelihood of reconciliation if one of the parties contests that the relationship is broken beyond repair.

If the court determines that the marriage or domestic partnership can’t be saved, it shall issue an order of dissolution of the marriage or domestic partnership. If not, it might do the following:

  • Transfer the matter to a family court at the request of one of the parties or independently;
  • Direct the couple to a different counseling facility of their choosing, and ask that they submit a report to the couple’s chosen facility for review within 60 days;
  • The matter is continued for a hearing for no longer than 60 days.

The court must make one of the following conclusions if the Family Court refers the case back to the Superior court or during the hearing:

  • A determination that the parties had reconciled, in which case the petition would be dismissed;
  • A divorce judgment should be entered if it is determined that the parties have not reconciled and that one or both of them continue to assert that their domestic partnership or marriage is irretrievably shattered.

A court may not deny or postpone the entry of a decree of dissolution based only on a party being pregnant while taking into account a petition for the dissolution of marriage or a domestic partnership, nor does the pregnancy of either party have any bearing on subsequent procedures.

Declaring a Marriage or Domestic Partnership Invalid

The residency criteria for filing an application to have a marriage or domestic partnership dissolved or declared invalid are the same as those for filing an application to have the same. The superior court of the county where the petitioner resides is the appropriate place to file a petition for a declaration about the validity of a marriage or domestic partnership.

Void Marriages

  • Unless a higher court judge of the county in which one of the parties resided on a demonstration of necessity has granted permission, neither party is older than 17 years old.

Domestic partnerships and marriages that are illegal or voidable

  • Neither party has obtained the necessary parental or judicial consent because they are both minors;
  • both parties, or just one of them, are already married to or involved in a domestic partnership with another individual;
  • The parties are first or second cousins, respectively, rather than second cousins;
  • Either party is the other person’s sibling, kid, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.
  • Either party is unable to give their assent to a domestic relationship or marriage due to mental impairment, alcoholism, or another incapacitating substance;
  • Any party’s permission was against their will, under coercion, or via fraud concerning a domestic partnership or marriage.

If the court determines that one or both of these conditions has been met, it may declare the marriage or domestic partnership null and void as of the date it was formed if the parties have not ratified their union through voluntary cohabitation following the attainment of legal age of consent, the acquisition of mental capacity, the cessation of coercion, or the discovery of fraud.

If a marriage or domestic partnership between two people is recognized as legal in another state, it is also recognized as legal in Washington, but only if the state’s laws do not forbid it or make it illegal.

Either party to a marriage or domestic partnership may petition the court for a judicial decision of the marriage’s or domestic partnership’s validity at any moment the legitimacy of the marriage, or domestic partnership is disputed or questioned.

If both parties of the alleged marriage or domestic partnership are still alive and the court finds it to be valid after hearing the evidence about its legitimacy, the court shall enter a decree of validity.

Property Division

State community property laws apply in Washington. When choosing how to divide up the parties’ assets and liabilities, whether they are community or separate, the court must take the following elements into account in order to do what is just and equitable:

  • the character and scope of the common property;
  • the distinct property’s nature and scope;
  • the length of the domestic partnership or marriage;

The financial situation of each spouse or domestic partner at the time the property division is to take effect, as well as whether it is preferable to award the family home or the right of a spouse, or domestic partner to live there for a reasonable amount of time while the children live with them most of the time.

Property and financial interests that a spouse or domestic partner owned before marriage or before the domestic partnership was officially registered and that they later acquired by gift, bequest, devise, descent, or inheritance, along with the rents, issues, and profits, are regarded as separate property and are not subject to the debts or agreements of their spouse or domestic partner.

Property obtained by either a domestic partner, a spouse or both after marriage or after domestic partnership registration is regarded as communal property.

In a marriage or domestic partnership, neither partner is responsible for the debts or obligations the other person had before the union or domestic partnership, nor are they responsible for each other’s individual debts.

Additionally, neither party’s separate property’s rent or income is responsible for the other’s separate debts. It’s a given that the earnings and accumulations of the spouse or domestic partner shall be open to the legal procedure of creditors for the satisfaction of obligations incurred by the spouse or domestic partner before the marriage or the domestic partnership.

Legal Separation

A written Separation Contract may be entered into by spouses or domestic partnership partners after they separate or file for divorce, a decree of legal separation, or a declaration of the invalidity of their union.

It should include provisions for each party’s maintenance, the distribution of their assets, a parenting schedule and child support, and the release of each party from all liabilities, such as:

Instead of seeking a court order, the parties who choose to live apart may choose to register their Separation Contract and publish notice of their decision in a local newspaper in the county where they formerly shared housing.

This serves as notice of the separation and the document’s details to all parties. The separation agreement may be dissolved at any time if both parties agree by filing a document to that effect.

As an alternative, both the parties may decide to get a legal separation decree. The superior court of the county where the petitioner resides is the appropriate place to file a legal separation petition.

The court shall give a decree of legal separation unless the opposing party objects and files a petition for a decree of dissolution or a declaration of invalidity or if the petitioner in a dissolution case requests that it declare legal separation instead of dissolution.

The court may change a legal separation decree into a decree dissolving a marriage or domestic partnership at either party’s request but no earlier than six months after issuing the order.


A divorce decree is the court’s official ruling ending a marriage in Washington. It outlines each party’s rights and obligations, including their financial obligations and asset distribution, as well as addresses topics like child support, alimony, child custody, and visitation. After the divorce in Washington State is finalized, both parties are free to wed new partners.


How much would a divorce in Washington cost?

For a divorce, there is a $280 court filing cost (divorce). Fees for delivery services and photocopying could be additional charges. If you are unable to pay this cost, you may submit a specific form asking the court to waive it.

How long is the divorce process?

In Washington, there is a three-month waiting period before getting a divorce. The court must wait for at least this long before granting a divorce. In other words, the petition must be submitted to the court and served on the spouse 90 days prior to the court signing it.

What is the fastest way to get a divorce in Washington State?

In Washington State, an uncontested divorce occurs when neither spouse is named as the defendant. Compared to a disputed divorce, there is no need to appear in court, and the process is quicker, simpler, and less expensive.

Is it better to be the first to file for divorce in Washington State?

It probably doesn’t matter if you or your husband files for divorce first if you anticipate a straightforward, low-conflict divorce. On the other hand, it can be slight to your advantage to file for divorce if you think your divorce will result in a contentious legal proceeding or a custody dispute.

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