The Process of Divorcing an Unwilling Spouse in Washington

Many of my divorce cases involve two spouses who want to get divorced. They both recognize the marriage is over. But in other cases, one of the spouses is unwilling to accept the end of the marriage. It doesn't mean that a divorce isn't possible, but it does complicate things and can draw out the process longer. Divorcing an unwilling spouse requires patience and an understanding that it may take longer than you think it should.

Willing or Not, You Must Abide by Washington's Divorce Waiting Period

Washington is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that no one has to prove fault in order to get a divorce. All a petitioner must state is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. However, regardless of the no-fault law, you still must wait a minimum of 90 days before a judge will sign your divorce decree.

Even if your spouse were willing to get divorced, you would have to wait 90 days to finalize it. Because the spouse is unwilling to get divorced, the whole process takes longer. Negotiations may be more difficult and time consuming. The unwilling spouse may need to take longer to accept the divorce is happening, and thus may need longer to make good decisions. A good divorce lawyer will not push an unwilling spouse too fast or too hard.                  

Can I seek a divorce by default in Washington?

Washington requires the responding spouse to respond between 20 and 60 days of receiving the divorce papers. If the spouse simply does not respond, then you can seek a divorce by default.

You would have to file a Motion for Default and schedule a hearing during which a judge will decide whether to sign an Order of Default. After the judge signs your order, you must wait a total of 90 days from the date you filed the petition or from the date you served the petition before a judge is able to sign your divorce papers. And even then, your divorce may drag beyond the 90 days. There are many other factors that may slow the process, so make sure you work with a family law lawyer to address any challenges that arise.

Further, if your spouse appears at the default hearing, the judge may give him/her time to file the responsive pleadings and may decline to rule on the divorce at the time. This would further draw out the process.

Call Me for Help with a Bellevue Divorce

Divorce is an emotional time. Sometimes people just need time to process it. If you are getting divorced – whether your spouse is willing or not – get legal representation. It's important to have a lawyer who can help you negotiate with your spouse and manage the legal process for you.

Contact me at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today by calling 425-460-0550. 

Molly B. Kenny's Bellevue family law office is conveniently located on Lake Bellevue Drive, making it easily accessible to those in the greater Seattle area. Our divorce and child custody lawyers help men and women get the information, guidance, and compassionate representation they need.
Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny