If you’re contemplating ending your marriage, you may be wondering: How long does a divorce take in Washington State?
Due to the mandatory 90-day waiting period, the absolute quickest that a divorce can be finalized is 91 days. Realistically, however, it will take a bit longer for most couples to be granted a divorce in Washington State; typically anywhere from 6 months to a year. And the more contentious your divorce is, the longer it will take.
Petrelli Previtera, LLC is dedicated to not only moving the divorce process along but also fighting to get you the best resolution possible. Bringing clarity out of chaos is our forte.
Learn more about what an “average” divorce timeline in Washington State looks like, what factors may complicate and lengthen the process, and how our Seattle divorce attorneys can help.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Divorce in Washington State If Both Parties Agree?
Before we get into the details of answering, “How long does a divorce take in Washington State?” we want to clarify something about how long a divorce takes if absolutely everything runs as smoothly as possible.
If both spouses agree to the divorce, custody arrangements, and distribution of assets, then the marriage could potentially be dissolved after 90 days (RCW 26.09.030). However, most courts have full dockets, so even an uncontested divorce hearing will usually be scheduled well beyond the 91st day.
So when making your post-divorce plans, keep in mind that even if you and your partner have an extremely amiable divorce, you may still be legally attached longer than the minimum 90 days due to court delays.
An Average Washington Divorce Process Timeline
Just like every marriage is different, so is every divorce. However, the average divorce process in Washington State goes as follows:
- Pre-filing (a few weeks) – this involves two main steps: deciding whether you actually want a divorce and working with a lawyer to prepare to file.
- Filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (a few days)
- Waiting period (90 days)
- Responding to the petition (20 days if served within Washington State; 60 days if served outside the state or by publication; 90 days if served by mail)
- Contesting a divorce (at least six months; can sometimes take years)
- Temporary orders (a few weeks) – these orders provide you and your spouse with the ground rules to follow while you’re sorting out the permanent parts of your divorce i.e. custody.
- Final divorce hearing (a few days)
When Does the 90-Day Clock Start Ticking?
The 90-day waiting period for a Washington divorce to be finalized does not begin when you file your dissolution of marriage petition with the court. Rather, it starts after your spouse has been served with the copy of the papers. Your spouse being served with the divorce documents means that either a process server or sheriff has hand-delivered the papers to them.
Note that if you are unable to locate your spouse to have them served with the papers, you must make a good faith attempt to find them. If your efforts are unsuccessful, then you can request permission from the court to publish a notice of divorce in the local newspaper or post a notice in the courthouse. This is called a Motion to Serve by Publication or Posting (RCW 4.28.100).
What Makes a Divorce Last Longer Than the Minimum Time?
Most couples in Washington State understandably want to finalize divorce as quickly as possible. However, some factors can inevitably delay the process and cause it to take far longer than just 90 days. These include (but not limited to):
- Uncooperative or antagonistic attitude of either spouse: Divorces move along quickly when spouses amicably agree on the terms. When either spouse contests the divorce or is antagonistic, uncooperative, or overly emotional, it can delay the process. Mediation often helps spouses come to an agreement so that divorce can proceed forward.
- Minor children: Matters of child custody are often contentious and take time to settle by a Seattle custody lawyer.
- Changing legal separation to divorce: The divorce process can be affected when a couple is legally separated. In Washington State, divorce and legal separation are very similar, although in the case of the latter, the couple is technically married. When either or both spouses wish to dissolve their marriage, they must wait six months from the legal separation date for the decree to be converted to a final divorce order.
- Alimony disputes: Also referred to as spousal support, alimony disputes do prolong finalization of a divorce. Spousal support ensures that during or following a divorce, the lower-earning spouse will not be destitute.
- Division of assets and debts: Dividing assets can be more difficult and time consuming in high-net-worth marriages, particularly when no pre- or post-nuptial agreement exists. Spouses may argue on the division of debts as well, which prolongs the divorce proceedings even further.
What Happens After the Divorce Is Final?
After the 90-day waiting period has elapsed and all matters have been settled, a judge will sign a Final Divorce Decree. This document details the obligations of both you and your spouse. It may contain arrangements of child custody, division of property, child support, and other matters.
Because the court issues the divorce decree, failing to abide by the terms can result in legal action. If you or your spouse is alleged to have gone against the court order, you or your spouse may be subject to various sanctions, including fines and/or jail time.
What If Your Spouse Files an Appeal?
Just because the judge signed your divorce decree doesn’t necessarily mean you’re done with the process yet. While most divorces remain closed once they’ve been finalized, you should be aware that your spouse does have the option to appeal if he or she disagrees with the judge’s ruling. However, there is a firm deadline to do so: he or she needs to file their appeal within 30 days of the final entry of the decree.
Furthermore, if you or your spouse’s circumstances change dramatically after your divorce is granted, both of you have the right to request a modification to your original child support or child custody plan.
For a Smoother, Less Stressful Divorce Process, Hire a Divorce Attorney You Can Trust
So, how long does a divorce take in Washington State? Based on the info above, a fair estimate is 6 to 12 months. Unfortunately, because emotions tend to run high during divorces, even the simplest divorces can be drawn out unnecessarily for months or even years longer than necessary.
A skilled Washington divorce lawyer can help you avoid unnecessary delays during your divorce and safeguard you and your children’s best interested. At Petrelli Previtera, our award-winning firm will work tirelessly to ensure the best possible outcome for even the most highly contested divorces.
If you need a highly trusted divorce attorney to help walk you through the process and fight to get you the best possible outcome, contact our team online or call us at 866-465-5395 for a consultation. Your journey towards complete peace of mind begins today.