Washington Uncontested Divorce

This information is an overview of the uncontested Washington divorce filing process and a summary of the divorce papers that are typically filed with the family law or domestic relations clerk. This overview is not intended to be an exact step-by-step guide for those "do it yourself divorce" filers, due to the fact that many cases are unique and the overview presented here is often not the only method of obtaining an uncontested divorce in Washington.

Washington is a No-Fault only state. Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the only grounds to end a marriage. Divorce is called dissolution. The spouse who files is the Petitioner; the spouse who responds is the Respondent. Actions are filed in the Superior Court.

In Washington, the spouse filing for dissolution must be a resident of Washington or a member of the armed forced stationed in Washington.

To file for a dissolution, one spouse must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

This petition contains the following information:

> the date and place of marriage;
> the date the parties separated;
> a statement about whether or not the wife is pregnant;
> a parenting plan;
> a statement about the disposal of community property;
> a statement about the relief sought.

The statement of relief includes a request for the dissolution of the marriage; residential arrangements for the children, if any; visitation requested; child support desired; maintenance requested; division of property; and a request that the property settlement attached to the Petition be approved and incorporated in the Decree of Dissolution.

When spouses file jointly, the Respondent signs a Joinder, which joins him or her to the Petition. If the Respondent agrees to the dissolution but not the terms and conditions of the Petition, he or she signs a Acceptance of Service.

If children are involved, the Petitioner attaches a copy of the Parenting Plan, which stipulates the terms and conditions of child custody and visitation.

A 90-day reconciliation period begins when the Petition is filed if the spouse has joined the action by signing the Joinder. Some counties require the parties to attend a parenting seminar during this period.

After the 90-days, the Petitioner prepares

> a Decree of Dissolution (divorce), which is the instrument that ends the marriage;
> a Findings of Fact, which is a profile of the case;
> a final Parenting Plan, which describes the terms and conditions of child custody and visitation;
> a Declaration of Non-Military Service or Waiver of Rights Under Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which establishes that the respondent enjoys no protection from civil litigation under SCRA;
> an Order of Child Support, which orders the payment of any child support as needed.

The Petitioner appears at a short hearing at which the judge asks a few questions and signs the dissolution papers.

If the couple are not cooperating or if the Respondent objects to the terms and conditions of the Petition, the Petitioner serves the Respondent with a Summons that informs him or her of the action and that he or she has 20 days to respond (60 days if the Respondent lives outside of Washington) or a default judgment will be entered against him or her. The Summons and Petition may be served by the sheriff of the county in which the Respondent resides; a commercial process server; or anyone 18 years or older except the Petitioner. The server then returns a Proof of Service, which proves that the Respondent has been properly served.

In this routine, the 90-day reconciliation begins when the spouse is served with a copy of the Petition and a Summons.

Absent a response, the Petitioner may file for a Motion and Declaration of Default and an Order of Default after the 90-day reconciliation period has passed. Default actions require that the Petitioner file a Declaration of Non-Military Service or Waiver of rights Under Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which establishes that the respondent enjoys no protection from civil litigation under SCRA.

For a number of reasons, some couples agree that one or the other of them will default. When a spouse does not respond, the action is uncontested and ends by default. During the 90-day period between the filing and the hearing date, the Petitioner must ask the county clerk to place the case on the default docket.

When the Respondent disagrees with the Petition, he or she files a response, and the dissolution is contested. Couples normally attempt to negotiate to reach and agreement, but if this is not productive, the spouses prepare for trial. The Petitioner must file a Notice of Trial, which is served on the Respondent or his or her attorney. The procedures for doing so varies widely from county to county, and the wait for a trial may be as little as two months in small counties to over a year in larger counties.

During the 90-day reconciliation period, the Petitioner may have to file a Motion and Order to Show Cause in order to obtain temporary restraining orders as well as other temporary measures dealing with a temporary parenting plan, child support, use of personal property and finances.

If the Respondent for one reason or another cannot or will not be located, the Petitioner must then file a Declaration of Service by Publication, which attests to his or her efforts to locate the missing spouse. The Petitioner must then prepare an Order for Service by Publication, which permits him or her to serve notice by publication of the Summons in a newspaper. Normally, the Summons for Publication is then printed once a week for six consecutive weeks. The Summons for Publication gives the Respondent 60 days from the date of first publication to respond. If the missing spouse fails to respond, the action moves as a default.