When it’s time for a divorce, the question of jurisdiction can be a big one, especially if you and your spouse have already split up and no longer share a home. It’s important to know where to file, what’s involved, and how to get started.
Where to File Your Divorce Paperwork
At the start of any divorce, you need to file paperwork with an appropriate county court. You may choose to file in the county that either you or your spouse reside in, such as through the office of the King County or Snohomish County Court Clerk. You also have the option of filing for divorce in Lincoln County no matter where you live in Washington. Lincoln County is a unique divorce venue in Washington, as everything must be filed via postal mail there—no court appearances are required in Lincoln County.
If you have a choice of counties to file in, it’s worth consulting with your attorney before you make a final decision. Since divorces are handled on a county-by-county basis, each jurisdiction can make its own rules and laws about how marriages are dissolved, and there could be advantages or disadvantages for you depending on which county you pick.
How to Get Started
There are a few steps to take before you and your attorney file paperwork with the county. Once you’re ready to begin, there is a legal process to follow that is generally the same no matter what county you’re in. You’ll need to:
- Complete your divorce paperwork. In King County, the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage form will be your starting point. You’ll also need to fill out a Confidential Information form and complete the Notice About a Marriage or Domestic Partnership, also known as a summons, and a few other additional documents that your attorney can help you with.
- Legally serve the summons to your spouse. This document is the official notice to your spouse that you are filing for divorce. Broadly speaking, it cites the conditions of the divorce, including assets, child support, spousal support, and child custody. Your spouse has 20 days to reply, either by accepting or contesting the terms you’ve offered.
If your divorce is uncontested, the court will grant your dissolution of marriage after a 90-day waiting period. If your spouse contests your terms, you may enter into court-ordered mediation, so you and your spouse can work out an agreement that works for the both of you. Arbitration is another possibility, where you appear before an arbitrator who will make a binding ruling. If you still can’t come to terms, then you may need to appear before the court for a trial, where a judge will make a final ruling.
Trials can be time-consuming, as well as emotionally and financially draining, so in many cases it may be in your best interest to avoid trial, if possible. However, because you have certain legal rights in a divorce, it may be necessary to take things to court.
Get Legal Help With Your Divorce
An experienced divorce attorney is one of your greatest allies during your divorce. She will advise you of your rights and explain your legal options, help you with your paperwork, and represent you during mediation, arbitration, or a divorce trial.
The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny has been serving Washington families for decades. Every divorce is unique, and whether you are dealing with a high-conflict situation, extensive assets, or a later-life divorce, we are here to represent you when you need experienced legal help. To arrange a private consultation in our Bellevue office about your divorce situation, call us, or use our contact form to send us an email.