Divorce in Washington state

Washington provides thorough online guide, liberal residency rules


Many experts and legal authorities recommend retaining an attorney to make sure your divorce (called dissolution of marriage in Washington) is legal and all terms of the settlement are enforceable. Additionally, counseling is strongly suggested because of the emotional trauma that can accompany even uncontested suits in which both parties agree the marriage should end.

Washington has one of the better online state resources guide, a .pdf booklet called “Understanding the legal implications of marriage and divorce in Washington State.”

Statewide domestic violence resource

According to the handbook, “Both the criminal legal system and the civil legal system can help you protect yourself and your children from domestic violence with court orders. If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can also seek help from your local domestic violence shelter. Shelters provide services such as safety planning, temporary shelter, legal advocacy, and counseling. To find the program nearest you, call the Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-562-6025.”

Attorneys versus ‘courtroom facilitators’

How can an attorney help with a divorce?

Only attorneys can give legal advice. Although an individual has the right to get a divorce without being represented by an attorney, sometimes the help of an attorney is essential. Not knowing the right procedures, which paperwork to file, how to present evidence, or what is best in your situation can have serious and sometimes lasting consequences. It is always a good idea to at least consult with an attorney before you start any legal action, including a divorce, legal separation, or annulment proceeding.

How can courthouse facilitators help with a divorce?

Washington’s superior courts handle family law matters, and most of them have “courthouse facilitators.” Courthouse facilitators cannot give you legal advice, but they can tell you which forms you need and explain court procedures. The facilitator is not your attorney. Courthouse facilitator services are available only to family law parties who do not have lawyers. Many facilitator programs sell do-it-yourself dissolution kits with instructions tailored for their respective court. Additional information about the facilitator in your county (office hours, appointments, fees, etc.) is available at the County Clerk’s office, superior court, or the Washington Courts Web site at www.courts.wa.gov under the heading “Boards, Commissions, Programs & Orgs.” Most facilitators charge a nominal fee for their services.

Liberal residency requirements

Unlike most states, according to the guide, “You need only to reside in Washington on the date that your petition for dissolution of marriage is filed. There is no requirement that you reside in Washington for any specific amount of time before filing the petition.”

Other topics addressed

The guide is a very thorough overview of legal requirements for marriage and divorce; topics include:

  • Marriage and prenuptial agreements
  • Ending a marriage
  • Property rights
  • Spousal maintenance (“alimony”)
  • Effects on children, including shared parenting, relocation of children, and child support
  • Domestic violence, including child abuse and neglect
  • Community resources, including–

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