Divorce in Washington: Everything You Need to Know

1 min readLast updated April 30, 2024by Unbiased team

This article will explain the costs, processes, and grounds for filing for divorce in Washington State.

Summary

  • Washington is a "no-fault" divorce state, meaning you do not need to prove your spouse was at fault when filing for divorce. 

  • The average cost of a divorce in Washington State is approximately $13,400. 

  • You or your spouse can file for divorce in Washington State if you are a resident or a member of the military stationed in the state.

  • A financial advisor can help you protect your finances through a divorce and develop a long-term plan to rebuild afterward. 

What are the different types of divorce in Washington State?

Washington is a "no-fault" divorce state, meaning you do not need to prove your spouse was at fault when filing for divorce. 

When going through a divorce, you can choose between a contested or uncontested divorce. The type you choose will have an impact on the cost and length of proceedings: 

  • Uncontested divorce: This occurs when both parties agree on all issues, including assets and custody. It's the simplest and most cost-effective option.

  • Contested divorce: If there are disagreements on major issues, the divorce is contested. It requires court intervention to resolve and is usually more costly and time-consuming. 

Alternative ways you can end your marriage in Washington State include: 

  • Legal separation: Similar to divorce when it comes to addressing marital issues, this approach does not end the marriage.

  • Annulment: For marriages considered invalid due to reasons like fraud, an annulment declares the marriage never legally existed.

How much does a divorce cost in Washington State?

According to a 2020 survey by Lawyers.com, the average cost of a divorce in Washington State was $13,400. This cost will fluctuate based on various factors, including the type of divorce you opt for, whether you have children, and the length of time it takes to finalize proceedings. 

When filing for divorce in Washington State, here are some of the key costs you need to consider:

  • Filing fees: To initiate divorce proceedings, you need to file with the court; this comes at a price. In Washington State, this fee is typically around $300.

  • Attorney fees: Total attorney costs easily exceed $10,000. However, it's important to note that this will depend on your unique situation. A few high-cost cases can skew this figure upwards. Many people find their legal expenses significantly lower, especially in less complicated or uncontested divorces.

  • Mediation and miscellaneous fees: In addition to attorney and filing fees, costs may include mediation (for resolving disputes) and various court or service fees, like parenting class fees or asset appraisal costs.

How do you file for divorce in Washington State?

Filing for divorce in Washington is a structured process that involves several steps. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Meet residency requirements: You can file for divorce in Washington State if you or your spouse are a resident or a member of the military stationed in the state. 

  2. Prepare your forms: Once you meet the residency requirements, you can begin proceedings by obtaining and filling out the required divorce paperwork. Washington State offers forms online through its official court website.

  3. File the paperwork: You will then need to submit your completed forms to the county clerk's office where you or your spouse reside. 

  4. Serve your spouse: After filing, you must officially notify your spouse by "serving" them the divorce papers, following Washington’s legal procedures for service.

  5. Wait for a response: The served spouse has a chance to respond to the divorce filing. They can agree, disagree, or not respond at all, which influences the next steps in the divorce process.

  6. Finalize the divorce: If the divorce is uncontested or if an agreement is reached through mediation, the final divorce decree can be issued without a court hearing. In contested cases, a hearing or trial may be necessary. The divorce can only be granted after 90 days have passed since you filed for divorce and served your spouse with legal notice that you filed for divorce.

It’s important to remember that each divorce case is unique, meaning the process may vary, especially in situations involving complex asset divisions or custody issues.

How do you split assets in a divorce in Washington State?

In Washington State, the division of assets during a divorce follows the principle of "equitable distribution," which means the division is aimed at being fair, though not necessarily equal. 

Not all assets are divided. Washington State distinguishes between community property (assets acquired during the marriage) and separate property (assets owned before the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance). Generally, community property is subject to division, while separate property is not.

When dividing assets, the first step is to determine their current market value. This might involve appraisals for real estate, businesses, or personal property.

Next, the court considers several factors, including each spouse's financial situation, the duration of the marriage, and each party's contribution to the marriage's financial status.

As a no-fault state, Washington's courts do not consider marital misconduct in asset division. However, if a spouse has wasted or hidden marital assets, the court may adjust the division accordingly.

How does alimony work in Washington State?

In Washington State, alimony or spousal maintenance is aimed at balancing economic disparities post-divorce. 

When determining whether to award spousal maintenance and the amount, the court assesses several factors, including:

  • Marriage length

  • Each spouse's financial standing

  • Lifestyle during the marriage

  • Each individual's age, health, and financial obligations

Maintenance can be temporary (during divorce proceedings), short-term (for a set period post-divorce), or permanent, based on the couple's specific situation.

Maintenance can also be adjusted afterward. If significant changes in circumstances occur, the terms may be revised.

What happens to children during a divorce in Washington State?

Washington’s approach to children's welfare in divorce focuses on creating a supportive environment through detailed parenting plans. 

This plan includes the residential schedule for the children and outlines decision-making authority regarding their upbringing.

If the parents cannot agree on a plan, the court will make a final decision. They will decide on the type of custody awarded based on factors including each parent's living situation, health, the child's connection to their community, and safety concerns, such as any history of domestic violence.

They will also determine the amount of child support required. 

Under Washington State law, both parents are obligated to support their children financially. The state calculates child support based on income, the number of children, and other pertinent factors, ensuring children's financial needs are met post-divorce.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

Find your financial advisor with Unbiased today.

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Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.