One of the first questions spouses face when they decide to end their marriage is whether they need to hire a lawyer or choose a DIY divorce in Washington state. The truth is that do-it-yourself uncontested divorce is a great way to lower the cost of legal proceedings, as the average rate of lawyers in Washington State is approximately $350 per hour. Among all types of divorce in Washington, do-it-yourself option is thus the cheapest one as no lawyer is needed.
DIY divorce presupposes that you go through all the stages of dissolution of marriage with little to no help, from filing divorce papers yourself to attending the final hearing in court. Due to this reason, DIY divorce is not recommended for spouses that have many contested issues and disputes to resolve. However, if both spouses have reached a mutual agreement in all divorce-related decisions, like finance and property division, child support, and custody, they can file an uncontested divorce pro se.
One of the advantages of such a DIY divorce is that spouses have more control over the important decisions regarding the divorce outcomes, instead of relying fully on the court and abilities of their lawyers, as they would do during a contested divorce.
When it comes to preparing the do-it-yourself divorce papers, spouses may choose a reliable WA online divorce service that will help with all the necessary forms. It is a good alternative to dealing with the paperwork by yourself as you can save time and be sure of the accuracy of the documents.
Basic Steps for Getting a DIY Divorce in Washington State
Doing your own divorce may seem overwhelming at first. However, a comprehensive step-by-step guide can make it much easier. Moreover, couples looking for do-it-yourself divorce kits can use our online service to help them with DIY divorce papers. Let’s look at the steps on how to divorce in Washington State without a lawyer:
1) Verify that You Are Eligible for Divorce
The couple should meet a few basic requirements to initiate the DIY divorce in Washington State. The petitioner must know the address of the respondent and be in contact with them.
In terms of the residency requirement, you just need to live in Washington when you file for divorce. The only exception is when a couple has minor children. In such a case, they should live in Washington for at least 6 months before filing the petition.
As for the reasons for marriage dissolution, Washington is a no-fault divorce state. The most common ground for a divorce is irreconcilable differences, which make living together unbearable. The petitioner doesn’t have to prove to the court the other spouse’s fault in the breakup. Moreover, the spouses don’t have to live separately before the initiation of a divorce process.
2) Reach a Mutual Agreement with Your Spouse
You qualify for a do-it-yourself dissolution of marriage if you file for an uncontested no-fault divorce. It requires a full agreement between the spouses regarding all divorce-related issues. You must discuss the property, assets, and debts division, come up with a parenting plan, and decide on child support and custody. All these decisions must be incorporated into a divorce settlement agreement. Disagreement in at least one of these questions can lead to a contested divorce where legal assistance may be required. Therefore, spouses must be cooperative to avoid pricey attorney services.
3) Prepare and Sign Divorce Paperwork
Once an agreement has been reached, it’s time to fill out all the necessary forms relevant to your specific case. Different forms are required for families with or without minor children. You may also need additional papers depending on the requests you make with the court. At this stage, you are welcome to use our trusted online service to get all the necessary paperwork chosen and completed for a reasonable fixed price. All you have to do is complete the questionnaire and wait till the forms are sent to you. Our services will save you time and ensure the accuracy of the forms.
4) File Divorce Documents with a Local Court
The next step of the DYI divorce in WA is filing the forms with the court. A filing fee should be paid unless you qualify for a waiver as a person with a low income. Once you file the forms, the process of divorce officially starts. After submitting the documents, couples with minor children must enroll in parenting classes and later provide the certificate of completion.
5) Serve Your Spouse with Divorce Papers
The spouse who files the divorce documents is responsible for serving the other party with copies of all the initial papers. In Washington State, a petitioner cannot hand the documents to the respondent themselves. You may provide copies of the papers to your spouse yourself only if you filed jointly initially. Otherwise, you can hire a process server or ask a third party older than 18 to deliver the documents to your spouse. The respondent has to file the answer with the court within a 20-day period.
6) Finalize the Divorce Decree.
The final stage of do-it-yourself divorce in Washington State is bringing the rest of the paperwork to court and attending the final hearing. You need to contact the clerk’s office 90 days after the initial filing and schedule the date of the hearing in accordance with the court timetable. You may ask the court if it is sufficient that only the petitioner attends the hearing. The judge will review your agreements during the hearing and sign the Final Decree of Divorce. From that moment, the couple is officially divorced.
How Long Does a Do-it-Yourself Divorce Take in Washington State?
The average length of a divorce in Washington State is 3-4 months due to the mandatory 90-day waiting or “cooling-off” period when the spouses can reconcile. However, the total length of an uncontested divorce is generally a little longer due to the busy court schedule.