What documents do I need to start the divorce process?
To begin the divorce process, you need to complete and file the following three (4) documents.
- Petition for Dissolution
- Confidential Information Form
- Case Cover Sheet
You can find all of these forms, along with lots of other important divorce forms, on the Washington courts' website.
What is the summons?
The summons formally notifies your spouse that you are filing for divorce and states the county in which you have filed your dissolution petition.
The summons also notifies the other spouse that he or she must respond to the petition within 20 days (or 60 days if living out of state),or be at risk of the court entering a default.
On the summons, you list your service address (that is, the address at which you agree to receive legal documents). If you agree to receive documents via email, then provide your email address.
You also provide the address of the court in which you are filing.
Of the three documents, this is the easiest document to complete.
How do I complete the petition for divorce?
In the divorce petition, you provide the court with basic information about your marriage, and you make requests about how want at the end of the divorce.
Here's some of the information you'll need to provide the court:
- The date the parties married
- The date the parties separated (if applicable)
- The names and ages of your children
- Any other court cases involving your children
You'll then tell the court what you want:
- Do you want child support?
- How do you want the property to be divided?
- Do you want a restraining order?
You may also provide the court with a copy of your proposed parenting plan, if applicable.
What is the confidential information form?
Under Washington, the party filing for divorce must provide the court with a signed confidential information form that provides the following information about each spouse and your children:
- Residential address
- Mailing address
- Date of birth
- Social security number
- Telephone number
- Employer information
- Driver's license numbers
- Gender and racial categories
This document is not available to the public. This includes your spouse, although likely your spouse knows most of this information. Only court staff and certain state agencies can see this information.
What is the case cover sheet
Of all the documents, this is the easiest document to fill out. In essence, this form requires you two basic things: (1) you state which county you are filing divorce; and (2) you check the box that most accurately reflects your type of case. Typical categories are "dissolution with children" or "dissolution without children."
How do I file these documents with the Court?
Depending on the court, you can file your initial divorce documents via fax, mail, or via email.
If you are filing in King County Superior Court, for example, you can file online using the court's e-filing portal. You can also file electronically if you live in Kitsap County, Pierce County, or Snohomish County.
Other counties require you to file your documents via mail, such as Okanogan or Whatcom counties.
Should I file a parenting plan with the Court at the beginning of the case?
If you and your spouse have dependent children (i.e. children under 18 years old), the court will ultimately enter a final parenting plan, which sets forth the rights and responsibilities of each parent.
In Washington, you may (but are not required to) file a proposed parenting plan with the court when you file your initial divorce documents. You are not legally bound by this proposal. If you and your spouse settle the divorce without a trial, your final parenting plan will undoubtedly be different than your initial proposal.
At a minimum, your proposed parenting plan gives the court and your spouse an idea of what you want when the divorce ends. Filling out a proposed parenting plan at the beginning of the case will also help you start thinking about issues that will come up later, such as child support and spousal support.
How much does it cost to file for divorce?
Depending on the county, it costs between $250 and $350 to file for divorce in Washington. This includes the mandatory filing fee.
What happens when I file my initial court documents?
Once you file the required three (3) documents and pay the filing fee, the court clerk will assign a case number and enter a case schedule. In some courts, King County included, you will be assigned a specific judge who will hear your case. The case schedule sets forth all the deadlines for your divorce, including most importantly the trial date.