Divorce Timelines in Washington State

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Divorce Timelines in Washington State
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 4/15/2024


Divorce proceedings can be complex and emotionally challenging, but understanding the general flow of the process in Washington State can help alleviate some of the uncertainty. From filing to trial, here's a very general (and not county specific) breakdown of the typical timeline for divorces in the state.

  1. Filing for Divorce: The divorce process begins with one spouse filing a petition for dissolution of marriage in the superior court – typically in the county where they or the other party currently reside. This petition outlines the grounds for divorce and any requests for relief, such as property division, child custody, and support.

  2. Service of Process: Once the petition is filed, the other spouse must be served with a copy of the petition and summons (and perhaps other documents). Service can be accomplished through personal service by a third party or, often, by email with an agreement signed by the party accepting service or their lawyer.

  3. Response to Petition: The served spouse has a limited time (typically 20 days but more in certain circumstances) to file a response to the petition. This response addresses the allegations in the petition and may include counterclaims or requests for relief.

  4. Exchange of Discovery: Both parties engage in discovery, which is the process of exchanging information and evidence relevant to the case. Discovery may include requests for documents, interrogatories, and depositions. In cooperative cases, this step might be informally completed saving both time and money.

  5. Filing Motions: During the discovery process, either party may file motions with the court to address specific issues or disputes that arise. Common motions include requests for temporary orders regarding child custody, support, parenting schedule, or the use of marital assets.

  6. Analysis of Evidence: As discovery progresses, both parties analyze the evidence gathered to support their respective positions on issues such as property division, spousal support, and child custody. This analysis helps shape negotiation strategies and trial preparation and can be completed with or without the help of appraisals and other experts.

  7. Negotiation and Mediation: Many divorces in Washington State are resolved through negotiation or mediation rather than going to trial. Parties may engage in informal negotiations or participate in formal mediation sessions with a neutral third party to reach agreements on issues such as property division and parenting plans.

  8. Trial Preparation: If negotiations fail to resolve all issues, the case will proceed to trial. Both parties engage in extensive trial preparation, including finalizing evidence, preparing witnesses, and drafting legal arguments to present to the court.

  9. Trial: During the trial, each party presents their case before a judge, who will make decisions on unresolved issues based on the evidence presented and applicable law. Witnesses may testify, and evidence may be introduced to support each party's position.

  10. Final Orders: After the trial concludes, the court issues final orders that detail the terms of the divorce, including division of property, spousal support, child custody, and child support. These orders are legally binding and enforceable.

Navigating the divorce process in Washington State can be challenging, but with the guidance of experienced legal counsel, individuals can successfully navigate each stage of the process and work towards a resolution that protects their interests and those of their family. In Washington, the minimum divorce timeline is 90-days even if by agreement, and many trials won’t take place for at least 6 to 12 months after filing and service. If you have questions about the divorce process or need assistance with your case, don't hesitate to contact our firm for a free telephone case evaluation: 425-800-0576

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