Washington State Divorce faq

Washington State Divorce faqDivorce faq answers your basic questions about divorce.

We want you, as a client, to be well-informed about the divorce process in Washington State. It will help you to make the best decisions about your case. This divorce faq provides a basic outline so that you know what to expect. You will surely have more detailed questions about the process. Your attorney is happy to answer those questions.

What are the requirements for a divorce in Washington State?

All of the following must be true.

  • Be married legally or meet the requirements for common law marriage in another state or marriage laws in a country in which you lived. (Washington does not have common law marriage.)
  • One of you must have permanent residence in Washington State. The exception for service members is that the military spouse must be stationed here for at least 90 days after you file and serve your divorce paper.
  • The marriage can’t be fixed (“irretrievably broken” in legal speak).
  • File and serve the Summons and Divorce Petition, according to the rules.

How long does a divorce take?

At the earliest, an uncontested divorce may be final 90 days after filing. A contested divorce may take longer. Yet, in the interim, the court can issue temporary orders for such urgent issues as child support and spousal maintenance, if you request them.

Can my spouse prevent the divorce?


If you meet all the requirements, the judge will grant the divorce. There are plenty of issues your spouse can argue that may anger you and cause delays. They cannot, however, prevent the divorce. A spouse who does not want a divorce will probably argue over how to divide your property and debts, alimony (known as spousal maintenance), child custody and visitation rights for any children and child support.

If your spouse fails to respond to your divorce petition within 20 days, the court may enter a default judgment in your favor. You will still need to wait the full 90 days for the divorce to be final. There is an exception if your spouse lives outside the state. In those cases, the spouse has 60 days to respond.

What can a court do as a part of the divorce?

  • Separate property and debts between you and your spouse, for all property located in this state.
  • Decide if maintenance (alimony) is needed and order payments.
  • Issue restraining orders or protection orders, if needed.
  • Order custody and visitation (parenting plan and residential plan) for any minor children, in most cases. The issue is more complex if you are new to the state or a parent lives in another state.
  • Set and order child support in most cases. Once again, the issue is more complex if you are new to this state and a parent lives in another state.
  • Grant legal name changes if requested.

Do I need a lawyer to get a divorce?

Not necessarily. It is always best, however, to hire an attorney if you can afford it. We have found that even spouses that initially think they agree find areas of disagreement during the process. Too often normally rational, even-tempered people become unreasonable as the many emotions that divorce evokes come up.

You may also have rights that you can only discover when you use an attorney.

It may be possible to handle your own divorce if you and your spouse are in absolute agreement about every issue of the divorce. Be sure to explore together every issue that might arise before deciding.

It is not advisable to handle your own divorce if you have:

  • Children.
  • Substantial property.
  • Any disagreements.
  • Property in other states.
  • A spouse who lives in another state or country.
  • Lived here a short time.

Consider consulting an attorney to review your divorce papers. The cost of an hour or two of consultation can save you much more both financially and emotionally.

Use the forms and instructions at the Washington Courts website. These forms are also helpful in deciding whether or not you need an attorney and in preparing to meet with your attorney. They give you a good idea of the questions she or he will ask you.

What are other options for ending a marriage in Washington State?

Legal Separation

Legal separations include property and debt divisions, as well as the same decisions about child support and parenting plans as a divorce. It does, however, not end your marriage. You cannot remarry. In addition, a separation does not affect Social Security benefits, and it may fail to affect other financial areas. It’s best to consult an attorney.


Once a court issues an annulment, it’s as if the marriage never happened. At least one spouse must live in Washington or, if in the military, must be stationed here.

If the residency requirement is met an annulment is possible if one of these is true.

  • At least one spouse was too young to marry.
  • The spouses are related by blood.
  • At least one spouse was already married to someone else.
  • One spouse committed fraud or was fraudulent during the marriage.
  • One spouse was unable to consent at the time of marriage because of mental incapacity or the use of alcohol/drugs.

In the case of an underage or mentally incapacitated spouse, a guardian may file. In the case of bigamy, a child or other spouse may file. You may not get an annulment if you are a minor and continue to live with your spouse after the age of 18.

The more you have; the more paperwork you will do.

You must be prepared to fairly divide your property and to plan well for your new life. This requires gathering documents and knowing your financial information in detail. For instance, you need to gather deeds and titles, bank and credit account details, investment information, and information on furniture, art and other personal property. In addition you need to compile lists of current and future expenses.

Fidelity Investment has compiled a helpful checklist for gathering the documents needed for divorce.

If you decide you need a divorce attorney

Could one of our five divorce lawyers with a combined 90 years of legal experience be the right one for you?  Check out the page about our divorce practice.

Or go directly to the profile pages for David Jones, John Groseclose, Sara Humphries, Bob Garrison and Sylvia Seybold.

Or contact us directly to set up an appointment.

Experienced Divorce Lawyers

Our 5 divorce lawyers’ primary goal is to help you obtain the best outcome and get on with your life.

divorce lawyers

Divorce is one of the most stressful and emotionally wrenching experiences of your life. As a result, you want to make sure that your attorney has the experience and approach that you need to guide you through unfamiliar, rough waters. In their 90 years of experience, our divorce lawyers have seen it all. Most of all, they put that experience to work for you. Our primary goal is to help you reach the best outcome with the least amount of stress and emotional disturbance possible. We want you to get on with your life as easily and quickly as possible. On the other hand, we are well-prepared to handle high conflict divorces and complex property divisions.

We bring 9 decades of guiding people through divorce.

  • Divorce and separation
  • Specialized parenting plans
  • Multistate divorce
  • Military divorce
  • Spousal maintenance/alimony
  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Modifications of support or custody
  • Protection orders
  • Restraining orders
  • Property division
  • QDROs determining division of retirement accounts
  • Non-traditional dissolution of domestic partnership

Frequently asked questions

You probably have many questions about how divorce works so that you know what to expect. For a basic understanding of the process of divorce in Washington State check out our divorce faq. Knowledge is your best insurance for making good decisions.

Choose the divorce attorney that best suits you.

Our attorneys offer a variety of backgrounds, personal and legal experience. Because of this diversity, you can find the attorney that suits you. In addition, our divorce lawyers work as a team, consulting one another’s expertise when necessary.

  • David Jones, Managing Partner, has 24 years of family law experience in Kitsap County.
  • John Groseclose, Partner, also serves as a guardian ad litem, representing the interests of children.
  • Robert Garrison, Of Counsel, has 26 years as a family law attorney.
  • Sara Humphries, Of Counsel, also is a military spouse and foster parent, adding practical experience.
  • Sylvia Seybold, Of Counsel, also volunteers with parents.

Based in Port Orchard, WA, GSJones Law Group, P.S., represents Kitsap County residents as well as clients from throughout surrounding counties and communities, including Gig Harbor, Bremerton, Silverdale, Seabeck, Belfair, Banner, Olalla, Poulsbo, Bethel, Navy Yard City, Fernwood, Purdy, Bainbridge Island, Vashon Island and surrounding areas in Mason County, and Jefferson County.

Contact us today!

You may find our blog post on books for divorce helpful.

Sara, Humphries, family law, civil defense, appellate law

Sara Humphries

Sara Humphries’ practice focuses on family law, civil defense litigation and appellate law. She is especially well prepared, earning an advanced degree (LL.M.) in the areas of constitutional law, federal courts and appellate advocacy.

Practical experience and advanced coursework

Sara earned her BA from the Queens University of Charlotte in 2000, and her Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2003. In 2011 Pennsylvania State University awarded her the LL.M. (Legum Magister) advanced law degree. She clerked with two law firms during her coursework, starting in 1998.

Since moving to Kitsap County, Sara has rapidly become a part of the community. She joined the board of Kitsap Legal Services in 2012. Recently, the Kitsap County Bar Associate awarded her their Humanitarian Award.

As a military spouse and foster parent, she adds practical experience to her family law practice.  Sara enjoys spending time with her family, singing and volunteering in her church and community. One of her community involvements is a choir that performs for the Washington Corrections Center for Women.


Testimonial from Andrea

Got landlord-tenant problems? Go to GSJones!!

My roommate and I, two senior ladies, quietly shared an apartment in Port Orchard for four years. When we moved, we left the apartment structurally sound and professionally-clean. We were shocked the landlords sent us a move-out $1,500 bill for replacing the carpet plus other sundry charges…. due in two weeks! So, we asked GSJones landlord tenant attorney, Sara Humphries, to represent us right away. She was awesome. She got the apartment complex to replace the carpet themselves; they dropped all other charges and, refunded a small amount too. We were sooo relieved and happy. I know other tenants have landlord trouble.They need  legal representation. I highly recommend GSJonesThey do fight for you! That I know forsure!!

Bar Admissions

Washington, 2005


Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
LL.M. – 2011

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
J.D. – 2003

Queens University of Charlotte, Charlotte, NC

B.A. – 2000

GSJones Law Group, P.S.

Family Law Attorneys

Family law

Five family law attorneys easily handle emergency motions and complex cases

Whether you are consulting on divorce issues, child custody issues, or other family law issues our attorneys stand ready to listen to you carefully. As a result, they base their legal guidance on your individual needs and desires. They provide legal guidance and support when you need it throughout the process.

They have the experience and depth to handle emergency motions and complex cases with ease. Although there are several excellent family law attorneys on Kitsap Peninsula, our team provides the depth they lack. Our team is available when the attorney handling your case has a personal emergency. As a result, the team can seamlessly take care of your case. You don’t have to worry if you have an emergency during your own lawyer’s vacation. We’re there for you. One of our partners is also available by cell after hours for custody emergencies: 253-381-6395.

GSJones Law family attorneys are flexible with eight decades of experience.

Your family is unique. Do you and your spouse agree on how to divide your property? How about co-parenting your children? If so, we can help you expedite a divorce. We can create a cost-sensitive plan that is tailored to your circumstances.

Do you and your spouse have different ideas about child custody and visitation? How about expectations and beliefs about child custody and visitation? Are there disagreements about how to divide your property? Our experienced attorneys can guide you in reaching the best result within the limitation. On the other hand, we bring strong advocacy throughout a contested divorce with all its many challenges. In addition, two of our family law attorneys have extensive experience in helping you settle contentious matters with the least upset and move on with your life.

Our lawyers have the background and extensive experience to understand and deal with difficult child custody situations. Their experience includes serving as guardian ad litem and as a foster care parent. In addition, one attorney served for many years as commissioner for settlement conferences. Due to these experiences, our attorneys have the sensitivity and practical and legal knowledge to best support your family and get the very best outcome.

Our family law attorneys offer a full range of family law services.

  • Child custody
  • Specialized parenting plans
  • Multistate issues and relocation
  • Grandparents’ visitation and custody
  • Child support
  • Divorce and separation
  • Spousal maintenance/alimony
  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Modifications of support or custody
  • Military divorce
  • Protection orders
  • Restraining orders
  • Paternity
  • Non-parental custody
  • Property division in divorce
  • QDROs determining division of retirement accounts
  • Non-traditional dissolution of domestic partnerships
  • Prenuptial agreements
  • Adoption
  • Cohabitation agreements
  • Family law appeals
  • Visitation

Frequently asked questions

You probably have many questions about how family law works so that you know what to expect. For a basic understanding of the process of divorce in Washington State check out our divorce faq. Knowledge is your best insurance for making good decisions.

Five experienced Port Orchard family law attorneys

Contact us today!

Based in Port Orchard, WA GSJones Law Group, P.S., represents Kitsap County residents, as well as clients from throughout surrounding counties and communities. Among the communities are Gig Harbor, Bremerton, Silverdale, Seabeck, Belfair, Banner, Olalla, Poulsbo,  Bethel, Navy Yard City, Fernwood, Purdy. Clients also come from Bainbridge Island and Vashon Island, as well as surrounding areas in Mason County, and Jefferson County.