Minimum Time Limit
Washington State imposes a 90-day waiting period, sometimes called a “cooling off period,” on all divorces. A period of 90 days must elapse between the time the divorce petition is filed with the court and served on the other spouse, and the time the dissolution decree, legally ending the marriage, can be issued by the court. The 90-day clock begins to run as soon as the petition is served. This is the absolute minimum amount of time it will take to obtain a divorce in Washington State.
In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on the issues involved in the divorce, such as support payments and division of property. The spouses in an uncontested divorce can use the 90-day period to negotiate any outstanding issues and reach a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is an agreement between the spouses as to the terms and conditions of the divorce. If the spouses can complete the settlement agreement during or before the 90-day waiting period, they may request that the court finalize the divorce on the 91st day.
In a contested divorce, the spouses are unable to reach an agreement regarding the terms of the divorce. In this case, the couple will go to court and a judge will decide the terms of the divorce settlement. In Washington State, divorce trials are generally scheduled for between 10 and twelve months after the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed. The exact timing of the trial may depend on how busy the court is in the county where you file for divorce. In some counties of Washington State, such as King County, couples involved in a contested divorce must also participate in alternative dispute resolution before they can be given a trial date. If a settlement is reached during the wait for a trial, an earlier court date can be requested.
Divorces that involve minor children can be more complicated and can take longer, especially if they are also contested. In Washington State, both parents are required to agree to a “parenting plan.” The plan provides a framework for raising the child after the divorce and sets out how much time the child will spend with each parent, how parenting decisions are to be made and how conflicts will be addressed. The parenting plan may be agreed to as part of an uncontested divorce, but it will need to be reviewed and signed by a judge. This can take some time, depending on how busy the court is in the county where you have filed for divorce.