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Divorce in Washington - Your Complete Guide

Last updated: June 04, 2019
Divorce in Washington

While the divorce can be overwhelming, knowing what to expect can ease your worries and help you streamline the process. Washington is a no-fault divorce state, with simpler laws and processes than are found in some other states. Let’s get started.

Basic Divorce Proceedings in Washington State

To file for divorce in Washington state, you and/or your spouse must live in the state and plan to stay there, or one of you must be in the military, and must be stationed in Washington for at least 90 days after the divorce petition is filed and served.

Either party may opt to file for divorce even if the other does not want a divorce. There is no need to prove grounds for divorce in Washington. Simply believing that the marriage is irreparably broken is enough.

In most cases, the divorce is final 90 days after the original petition is filed and served.

Any argument over important issues such as the division of property and debt, whether alimony should be provided, whether child support should be provided, and/or child custody and visitation issues can lengthen divorce proceedings.

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Do I Need a Lawyer for a Washington Divorce?

You can obtain a divorce decree without a lawyer since the judge is the one who makes the final decision concerning the division of property, child custody, visitation, and other important issues.

Because it is important to protect your rights, you may want to speak to a lawyer even if you and your spouse are agreeable right now. Things can get complicated when a disagreement occurs and this can lead to problems later in life, such as a loss of entitlement to a pension plan.

There are a few cases in which a lawyer is necessary for divorces in Washington. You should at least consult with a lawyer if any of the following circumstances exist:

  • Your children haven’t lived in the state for at least six months

  • Your spouse does not live in Washington

  • Another state’s court has entered custody and/or visitation orders for your children, either as part of a restraining order, domestic violence protection order, or for another reason

  • Any time your situation is complicated by extenuating circumstances, i.e. domestic violence

Because Washington is a community property state, everything that is obtained by one spouse is considered to belong to the other spouse as well. This is true even if only one spouse’s name is listed on the title. A lawyer can help ensure that you receive just and equitable division of both property and debt.

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Does Washington Offer Legal Help for Divorce?

Many lawyers offer reduced rates for consultations, so you can at least have your case reviewed before making decisions about the filing process. If you think you need a lawyer but you cannot afford one, you may be able to obtain help from a volunteer lawyer, or you may be able to ask the judge to appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL), Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). Some counties offer these services free of charge, while other counties charge a fee.

The state of Washington is unique in offering a service called CLEAR, which is a toll-free advice and referral program for people who have low incomes, and who are looking for free legal assistance. If you live in King County, you can call 211 and ask for referral to a legal services provider on weekdays between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. If you live outside King County, you should call 1-888-201-1014 for this service between the hours of 9:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Those who need assistance with communication because of hearing or speech impairment may use the relay service of their choice to make the necessary call. If you need an interpreter, 211 and CLEAR will conference one in at no charge.

If you are 60 or over, this service is available to you regardless of income or location. You may call CLEAR*SR at 1888-387-7111 for more information.

The state of Washington offers many printable forms and other helpful resources online as well.

Here are some helpful divorce resources for Washington: 

Focus Area Organization Website
Divorce Professionals National Association of Divorce Professionals (NADP) TheNADP.com
Divorce Coach Certified Divorced Coaches (CDC) CertifiedDivorceCoach.com
Financial Planners Association of Divorce Financial Planners (ADFP) DivorceAndFinance.org
Lawyer Avvo Avvo.com

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