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Breaking Down The Process Of Divorce

A woman and a lawyer sitting at a table with papers, discussing divorce proceedings - DC Nguyen LawAs is the case with everything else in the legal world, there is a set process for divorce cases. We’ll explore this process of a standard divorce in Washington here – but before we get into the details of it all, let’s tackle some misconceptions.

Common Misconceptions About Divorce

Over my decade-plus of time in family law handling divorce cases, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across people who wrongly believe that since they didn’t work over the course of their marriage, they aren’t entitled to any of the community property, be it a house or other high-value piece of property.

This assumption is entirely baseless. In reality, Washington State operates under community property laws. This typically entitles both spouses to a fair share of marital assets acquired during the marriage, regardless of individual financial contributions or ownership titles.

Although there are other misconceptions many people have, this is by far the most common one I’ve encountered and, by extension, the most important one to mention.


In Washington, a contested divorce typically takes a year. Why they generally take a year is because the period from filing to trial scheduling is set on a one-year timeline. If you want to expedite your divorce, the only way to really do this is by having an uncontested divorce.

This requires your to-be ex-spouse to be completely on board – but know that even if you can get to this point, you’ll have to wait a minimum of 90 days. It’s required to fully satisfy this waiting period before moving forward with finalizing a divorce in Washington. When does the 90-day waiting period begin? It starts the day you serve the respondent in contested divorces, but in uncontested divorces, it can begin on the date the paperwork is signed.


Divorces include two primary parties: the petitioner, or the person who initiates the petition, and the respondent, or the other (responding) party. To begin the divorce proceedings, the petitioner must prepare and file several essential documents:

  • Summons

Notifies the respondent of the divorce action and the need to appear in court.

  • Petition

Outlines the proposed division of assets and liabilities.

  • Confidential Information Sheet

Provides personal details such as name, address, and contact information.

  • Certificate Of Dissolution

Signifies the termination of the marriage; analogous to a marriage certificate but for dissolving one, not forming one.

Upon filing these documents, the court issues an automatic financial restraint, notifying both parties not to destroy, sell, or get rid of any assets without the court’s permission.

After filing and paying the requisite fees (currently $334 in King County), the respondent must be served with the documents. They then have 20 days to respond. If they fail to respond, the petitioner may file a motion for default, and the court may proceed with the divorce orders without further input from the respondent.

If the respondent does respond, negotiation typically follows. If an agreement is not reached, the process proceeds to discovery, mediation, and, potentially, to trial.

While this quick rundown provides a general overview, each step involves nuances and unique circumstances. For instance, during discovery, parties may exchange interrogatories, requests for documents, and requests for admissions, among other procedures.


Litigation isn’t always the starting point in divorce proceedings, and I hardly ever recommend it to my clients. Emotions run high, especially when one party is caught off guard or feels blindsided by the decision. It’s not uncommon for one spouse to initially resist cooperation and insist on litigation, particularly if they’re feeling hurt or betrayed. The key to making it to the other side of your divorce is to get your emotions under control. This may be extremely difficult to do, especially if you were completely blindsided by something such as infidelity, but that doesn’t negate how important it is.

As negotiations progress and both parties gain clarity on the practical implications of what they’re moving toward, I’ve found that attitudes tend to shift to ones that want to avoid litigation at all costs. As time passes and what has been discussed and counseled sets in, most people begin to understand what arrangements are reasonable and feasible. People eventually find common ground and are able to reach an agreement without resorting to full-blown litigation.

For more information on The Process Of A Standard Divorce In Washington, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (425) 276-7390 today.

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