How to complete a "do it yourself" divorce in Washington?
Completing a do it yourself divorce in Washington may involve a fair amount of paperwork, but it is not necessarily a difficult thing to do. Washington allows you to do the majority of the work yourself. This means you can save a lot of money if you are willing to learn a little about the divorce process and fill out all of the necessary paperwork.
Completing a Do-It-Yourself Divorce in Washington
There are several steps involved in filing for a divorce in Washington. The state refers to divorce as a dissolution of marriage, a label that you will see repeatedly as you work your way through the paperwork.
You will need to take the following steps to complete a do-it-yourself divorce:
- Verify if you are eligible – The law surrounding divorce is very specific, meaning you will have to pay careful attention to detail throughout your divorce. A dissolution of marriage is only an option if you are actually married. For domestic partnerships you will need to fill out a different set of paperwork.
- Determine if your situation is ideal for do-it-yourself – The law allows you to dissolve your marriage without the assistance of a divorce lawyer. This is true whether you have children or not. However, marriages that involve substantial assets or property, marriages where child custody issues will be problematic or marriages where divorce will involve serious disagreements – all of these may warrant the assistance of a divorce attorney. If both you and your spouse are in relative agreement about your separation, your property division and what is best for your children, a do-it-yourself divorce may be ideal.
- Fill out the necessary forms to begin the divorce – You must fill out a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” to begin your divorce. There may be a number of different forms that you need to complete along with the Petition, including forms specific to your county. At CompleteCase we will direct you to the necessary forms for your circumstances.
- Make copies – Even with simple do-it-yourself divorces there is still a lot of paperwork, all of which is important to the process. You want to make copies of every form you fill out and sign so you can reference them later or produce them if the court or an attorney needs to see them. Make copies and keep them in a safe place.
- File the forms with your county clerk – It is highly advisable for you to file for your do-it-yourself divorce in either the county where you live or where your spouse lives. Failing to do so can cause problems later on. Take your forms and file them with the county clerk and pay the necessary filing fee – typically between $200-$260. If you do not have the money to pay this fee it may be possible to get it waived. You will need to fill out and present a motion to waive your fee.
- Take note of the case schedule – Some counties will provide you with a case schedule, which tells you of the time line your case will follow. Pay attention to these dates and do what is required of you to avoid complications.
- Serve your spouse – If your spouse does not sign a joinder – found at the end of the Petition – you will need to have them served. The court needs your spouse to be aware of the divorce process to proceed with the case. Your spouse does not need to agree with the things you wrote in your petition, he or she just needs to acknowledge receipt of the paperwork. You are not allowed to serve your spouse. Someone else must do this for you. Many people ask a friend or family member to take the necessary paperwork to the spouse. Make copies of all the paperwork you gave to the court – minus your Confidential Information form – and give these copies in an envelope (addressed to your spouse) to the person doing the serving. Have the person serving your spouse get a signed Acceptance of Service from your spouse. If your spouse refuses to accept the paperwork, have the person serving your spouse fill out a Return of Service – which says he or she served the paperwork to your spouse.
- File your proof of service – File either the Acceptance of Service or Return of Service with the county clerk.
- Wait for the process to finalize – It takes 90 days for the court to complete the divorce. If during this 90 day period objections are raised to the divorce, you may need to take further steps and it could extend the finalization of the divorce. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on the dissolution the case will go to trial. If this happens it can make a do-it-yourself divorce much more difficult. When it comes to trial it is best to seek out the help of a qualified divorce attorney.