Divorce Papers for Washington State

by Wayne Thomas
A divorce in Washington starts with the filing of a petition.

A divorce in Washington starts with the filing of a petition.

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Even in cases where a couple agrees to get divorced, the process can seem like it takes forever. This is due in part to the amount of paperwork that must first be filled out, filed and then served on the other spouse. In Washington state, the required documents can differ depending on whether the couple has minor children and whether the parties can reach an agreement or need a trial. Knowing which documents are necessary and when they should be filed will help avoid time-consuming delays in the Washington divorce process.

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Overview of Divorce Initiation Paperwork

In Washington, certain documents are required by the court in order to initiate the divorce process. This includes the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Summons, as well as a Confidential Information Form and forms that attest that the other spouse is not on active military duty. In addition, some counties require a case schedule, and victims of domestic violence may file for a protection from abuse order. Once the initial divorce paperwork has been filed, the documents must be served on the other spouse. This can be accomplished personally by an adult other than yourself, or by mail if your spouse is willing to sign an Acceptance of Service form. After personal service, a Return of Service form indicating the time and place of service as well as who served the papers must be filed with the court. The responding spouse then has 20 days to answer the petition in the form of a written response.

Forms for a Couple With Minor Children

Additional forms must accompany the divorce petition in Washington if a couple has minor children, including proposed parenting plans and child support worksheets. Your proposed parenting plan will indicate what type of custody arrangement you desire, and if and why your spouse's contact with your child should be limited. The child support worksheet asks for the incomes of both parties as well as child care and health care expenses. This information will form the basis for the judge to determine the amount of child support.

Required Forms if a Couple Can Agree

If a couple can reach agreement on the major issues of their divorce, they can file a proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law form. This form would follow the filing of the divorce complaint and tells the judge the specifics of how the marital property will be divided, agreed-upon amounts for child support and alimony, as well as indicating that the parties meet the Washington residency requirements. The court also requests that the parties submit a divorce decree that contains the specific order for divorce and includes additional obligations of the parties for the judge to sign.

When a Couple Cannot Agree

If a couple cannot come to agreement on the major issues related to their divorce, the matter will go to trial to be decided by a judge. Because this process can take time and creates uncertainty, one or both spouses may file temporary orders requesting certain alimony or child support amounts as well as custody arrangements that will remain in effect until the divorce decree is entered. In addition, often witnesses are necessary to provide testimony at trial and can be ordered to appear by the filing of a subpoena.