The state of Washington is a purely no-fault divorce state. Its system is intended to settle matters without resentment and bitterness. Washington’s no-fault system is based upon the dissolution of the relationship. Specifically, if a marriage falls apart and is “irretrievably broken” one or both spouses can seek dissolution. Dissolution terminates the marriage, and creates guidelines for parenting, family support and the division of property and debts.

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Residency Requirements

In order to file for divorce in Washington, you must reside in Washington on the date that your petition for dissolution is filed.

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In order to begin the dissolution procedures, one spouse (known as the petitioner) must file a summons and petition for the dissolution of their marriage. The petition contains basic facts about the marriage, and what the petitioner wants as far as parenting, property division and support. The petition is then served on the other spouse (the respondent). Usually service is done by having copies delivered to the respondent.

After service (the location of which is irrelevant), the respondent has 20 to 60 days to reply to the petition in writing. Within the response, the respondent can include a “counter petition” which states the respondent’s position (which might and probably will differ from the petitioner’s) on the parenting plan, property, debts and support.

As a precaution, once the petition is filed, there is at least a 90 day time period before the judge can sign the decree to finish the case.

If the parties have reached an agreement and they do not desire to proceed with a lengthy trial they can use Rocket Lawyer’s easy interview process to complete a Divorce Settlement Agreement outlining all of the details of their agreement. The Divorce Settlement Agreement details the division of property, assets, debts and liabilities and settles matters of child support, custody and visitation.

Temporary Orders and Restraints


After the service and response period of the divorce, the next step is to arrange for temporary orders to facilitate and guide the behavior of the two parties. Both the petitioner and the respondent can request temporary orders, and usually these orders cover the following subjects:

  • Residential arrangements for the children
  • Child support
  • Spousal maintenance
  • Occupancy of the family home
  • Payment of bills
  • Preserving property

If the spouses cannot agree, a court hearing will be called to allow a judge to establish the necessary orders. If there are immediate problems in a dissolution case, a “show cause” process may be requested by either the petitioner or the respondent. In order to initiate a “show cause” proceeding, one spouse must obtain a court order requiring the other to “show cause” as to why he or she cannot grant the relief that was originally requested of him or her. During this time, the court may restrain the accused spouse from harassment, entering the family home, taking the children out of state, disposing of property or incurring any unusual debts. Once the “show cause” order is issued a hearing is usually held after 2 weeks.

The Final Stage


If no part of the dissolution is contested, then the case does not need to go to trial. If spouses cannot negotiate an agreement, a trial will be held to settle any disputes. Whether or not you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce, it may be a good idea to Find a Lawyer to help you with the process.

When the court signs a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, the marriage ends. In a settlement case, the settlement document is presented in writing for court approval, and the judge’s signature. In a trial case, the judge’s decision is recorded in writing and then signed by the judge who conducted the trail. Until the judge signs the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage the marriage is not over.

A Note about Forms

Please note that the following are the forms available on the Washington state government website. It is very possible that your county could have another supplemental form so it might be necessary to check in with your local court. Please note that some of these forms are PDFs, while others are only available as documents. You can view a complete list of divorce documents on the Washington State Court website.


If you have children, these additional forms must be completed:

Get started Visit our Divorce Center Get divorce documents and ask a lawyer your questions.

Get started Visit our Divorce Center Get divorce documents and ask a lawyer your questions.