A divorce can be stressful and complicated, and it is something no couple pictures themselves going through when they get married. However, if you have come to the point where divorce is unavoidable, you will likely want to ensure that the process is as quick and easy as possible, which may make you wonder how quickly you can get divorced in Washington state.
In Washington, a divorce can be finalized in as little as 90 days following the filing of a Petition for Divorce. However, divorce isn’t always a straightforward process, and there are many reasons why your divorce may take longer than 90 days. Keep reading for a look at the divorce process in Washington state and circumstances that could delay the finalization of your divorce.
90-Day Cooling Off Period
When trying to determine how long your divorce may take in Washington, it is important to note that even under the best circumstances, the quickest you will be able to obtain a dissolution decree to legally end your marriage will be 90 days after filing and serving your divorce petition. This is because Washington has a mandatory 90-day waiting period, also known as a cooling-off period. The cooling-off period is required for all divorces, and the 90 days start once the divorce petition has been served to the other party. Unfortunately, while it is understandable that you want your divorce to be finalized as quickly as possible so that you can move on, there is no way to bypass this minimum time limit.
One of the biggest factors that determines how long your divorce process will take is whether or not your divorce is contested. In an uncontested divorce, a couple is in general agreement on the terms of the divorce including issues related to spousal support, child support, parenting plan, and a division of community assets and debts. When a divorce is uncontested, things can be finalized fairly quickly, and you may even be able to receive your dissolution decree soon after the 90-day waiting period has ended.
This is because uncontested divorces do not require a trial since both parties have agreed on the terms of the divorce. While a few documents will still have to be exchanged, and you will have to file a divorce petition, an uncontested divorce petition signals to the court that the couple has settled all major issues, allowing the divorce to move forward quickly.
Contested Divorces Take Longer
Unfortunately, many couples are unable to come to an agreement on the terms of their divorce and must file a contested divorce. A contested divorce will take much longer, requiring more paperwork and proceedings.
The first step in a contested divorce will be establishing temporary orders to address parenting the child(ren), temporary financial support, and ensuring community assets/debts are protected and paid. This will allow both parties to continue living and providing for their child(ren) while the divorce process moves forward.
Temporary orders allow the parties to move through the second step of divorce, the discovery phase. The discovery phase allows each spouse’s attorney to gain information about the other party by exchanging documents to learn about the couple’s assets, finances, debts, and parenting behaviors. With a contested divorce, the divorce cannot happen until one of three things happens: reconciliation, agreement, or trial, and the divorce will take as long as is necessary for one of these three things to occur.
Depending on the county in which you live, a mediation may be required as a first step in contested divorces before you can proceed to a trial. Mediation can help you and your spouse peacefully come to an agreement about the terms of your divorce without the hassle and expense of going to trial. Many divorce cases participate in multiple mediations and reach agreements at mediation.
Mediation usually happens around 6 to 9 months after you file a petition for divorce, as there is a lot of preparation that must be done before mediation can take place. If not, all issues can be agreed upon in mediation, or if you choose not to attempt mediation, then a trial date may be scheduled by the Court to settle your divorce case.
Unfortunately, getting a court date can take some time, and your trial likely won’t happen for at least a year. Additionally, the more issues there are that you haven’t been able to come to an agreement on (either on your own or in mediation), the longer your trial will last and the longer it may take to get a court date.
Factors That Can Delay Your Divorce
The fact is that contested divorces can be messy, and the more factors there are that you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on without court intervention, the longer the divorce process will take. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your divorce, there are many potential areas of conflict that could cause your divorce proceedings to take longer. Common issues that delay the divorce process include:
- Child Custody and Visitation
- Child Support
- Spousal Support
- The Division of Marital Property and Debts
- Previous and/or Pending Tax Issues
- Domestic Violence
Divorces tend to take longer when children are involved, as spouses may have a hard time agreeing on custody issues and how their children should be raised. A divorce may also take longer if one spouse is uncooperative and does not actively participate in divorce procedures.
When Will My Divorce Be Finalized?
As you can see, there are many factors that can influence how long a divorce will take in Washington state. While some uncontested divorces may only take a few months to finalize, a contentious divorce may not be settled for a couple of years. Ultimately, a Court will not issue final court orders until one of the following has occurred:
- Both parties have come to an agreement and resolved all issues.
- A trial has been conducted to resolve any contested matters.
- The 90-day cooling-off period has passed and the spouse who was served failed to respond to the divorce petition.
Once the final court order has been filed, the divorce will be considered finalized. The final court order will outline details about the divorce including the settlement agreement.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney
If you are in the process of filing for divorce in Washington state, it is essential that you work with an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can help support you during this difficult time and ensure that your best interests at looked out for throughout the divorce process.
Feel free to contact us to learn more about the divorce process in Washington and what your next steps should be as you look to dissolve your marriage.