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Washington Marital Settlement (Divorce) Agreement

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Washington Marital Settlement (Divorce) Agreement

Updated August 29, 2023

A Washington marital settlement agreement is a document used in an uncontested divorce that relays the agreed-upon terms of a dissolution of marriage. Spouses will want to negotiate terms such as alimony payments, child custody, child support payments, and the division of property and assets, before establishing these decisions in the agreement. There will often be other court documents that establish terms found in a settlement agreement, such as a Parenting Plan or a Child Support Order. While most agreements are approved by the court, the form will need to be reviewed to ensure that the terms and conditions are just and fair.

Table of Contents

Divorce Laws

Statutes – Chapter 26.09 (Dissolution Proceedings – Legal Separation)

Alimony (§ 26.09.090) – The court may award a maintenance order to either party in the amount and for the duration that the court deems fair. They will take the following into account when arriving at the appropriate schedule:

  • The recipient’s financial resources and capacity to live independently
  • The degree to which child support includes a sum for the recipient
  • The amount of time needed to gain sufficient earning capacity
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age of the recipient
  • The physical and emotional condition of the recipient
  • The recipient’s financial obligations
  • The paying party’s ability to meet their own needs and financial obligations

Child Support (§ 26.19) – When determining the amount of child support that a parent must pay, the court will use the Washington State Child Support Schedule Economic Table (§ 26.19.020). The complete schedule which includes all considerations can be found here. Factors that would cause the court to deviate from the above-linked economic table (as relayed in § 26.19.075) include the following:

  • Income from a new partner/member of a new household if the spouse living with said partner is asking for a deviation based on another reason
  • Child support received from previous marriages
  • Gifts and prizes
  • Assets such as real estate holdings or business ventures
  • Child’s own income
  • Tax planning considerations
  • If income used to calculate the child support amount is non-recurring income
  • Extraordinary debt or a significant difference in the cost of living of one parent due to conditions beyond their control
  • Special needs or attention required for the child
  • The amount of time the child spends with the supporting parent
  • Children from previous relationships to whom the parent owes support

Division of Property (§ 26.09.080) – Washington follows what is called community property law (§ 26.16.030), which means that all assets acquired during the marriage are considered property of the marriage and equally owned by both spouses. The court will ascertain what is community and separate property, and in turn, distribute justly and equitably. The existence of a settlement agreement will usually enable the divorcing couple to dictate the allocation of their shared assets.

Grounds for Divorce (§ 26.09.030) – Washington is a no-fault state, which means that the filing party need not prove to the court that the other party was at fault in order to get a divorce. Instead, they need only allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Interim Support (§ 26.09.060(2)) – Either party may request that the court order spousal maintenance or child support to be paid temporarily from the other party for the duration of the divorce proceedings.

Residency (§ 26.09.030) – In order to file for divorce, one (1) of the parties must be a resident of the state, or a member of the armed forces stationed in the state.

Divorce Forms

There may be local court forms required not included in the below list. It is recommended that individuals filing for divorce contact their local county court for information on the exact filing process and court forms needed in their region. 

Uncontested Divorce with No Children:

Uncontested Divorce With Children:

The below steps are an outline of the uncontested divorce process in Washington. The exact forms, filing process, and requirements may vary from county-to-county. For this reason, it is recommended that spouses seek legal counsel to guide them through the action for dissolution.

How to File for Divorce in Washington (9 steps)

  1. File Divorce Forms with Court
  2. Joint Petition (if applicable)
  3. Service
  4. Respondent’s Response/Motion for Default
  5. Parental Requirements
  6. Marital Settlement Agreement
  7. Complete and Gather Final Divorce Documents
  8. Hearing
  9. Name Change

1. File Divorce Forms with Court

divorce contract

The first step in the divorce process is the filing of a Petition for Divorce (Dissolution) at the Superior Court. The person filing, the petitioner, will be able to initiate the action either in the county that they currently reside, the county their spouse (the respondent) resides, or a county that allows dissolution filings from Washington residents who don’t live within county lines, such as Lincoln County. Along with the petition, the petitioner will need to file the Certificate of Dissolution, Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage, or Legal Separation, enabling the Washington State Department of Health to record the divorce. In an effort to preserve their private information, the petitioner or their attorney may also file a Confidential Information Form (CIF) and an Attachment to Confidential Information (if applicable).

The petitioner will be required to pay a filing fee upon submission of the petition (amount varies by county). Should they not be able to afford the cost, they can attempt to waive the fee by filing the Motion and Declaration for Waiver of Civil Fees and Surcharge, a Financial Statement, and the Order Re Waiver of Civil Fees and Surcharges. (More information on waiving the filing fees can be found here.)

Those with minor children may be required to provide a temporary parenting plan that will apply between the time of filing and the divorce hearing. The following documents will be necessary in this case:

2. Joint Petition (if applicable)

person holding a joint petition for divorce

The spouses will have the option to file a joined petition by having the respondent complete the appropriate section of the petition for divorce document. This process of joining the petition can also be accomplished through the separate Agreement to Join Petition (Joinder) form. Divorcing as joint petitioners means that both parties agree to all matters of the divorce from the very beginning. It usually translates to a quicker and simpler divorce process but can generally only be accomplished in very basic divorce cases without children or much shared marital property.

3. Service

With the court forms filed, the petitioner will be responsible for serving the petition and a summons form (written notice that the case has started) on the respondent. If the respondent signed a joinder, the service of summons/petition can be avoided altogether. The first approach the petitioner will take is to ask their spouse to complete a Service Accepted form, which indicates to the court that the respondent received the petition and summons. If they refuse or fail to accept service, the petitioner must arrange to have the documents delivered to them. Generally speaking, this will be accomplished via a private process server over the age of eighteen (18) or a sheriff who will personally deliver them to the respondent’s residence (petitioner can’t serve the respondent themselves). If the respondent can not be located or served in person, the petitioner will be required to arrange for service via publication or mail. Upon successfully serving the papers, the server will complete the Proof of Personal Service and return it to the petitioner to be filed with the court.

The couple must wait ninety (90) days following service before they can finalize their divorce. This period is imposed as a means for the couple to “cool off” and reconsider the divorce.

4. Respondent’s Response/Motion for Default

In an uncontested case, the respondent will not file a response to the petition, and will often have signed a joint petition. However, if the joint petition hasn’t been filed, the petitioner will need to wait twenty (20) days from the date of service/accepting service for the response window to close. After this period has expired without response, the case will be considered uncontested and the petitioner can file a Motion for Default and an Order on Motion for Default asking the court to finalize the divorce by default (as mentioned above, the petitioner must wait 90 days). Copies of these two documents and any other document filed with the court must be served on the respondent, and a Proof of Mailing or Hand Delivery form must be filed with the court once service is completed.

5. Parental Requirements

If the couple has children together, they will be required to attend a parenting seminar within sixty (60) days of the petition being served. There is no requirement that the parents attend this seminar together. The parents will also be required to negotiate and complete a final Parenting Plan that will detail custody and the co-parenting approach. The Washington State Child Support Schedule Worksheets can be filled in as well to calculate the financial obligation of both parties, and the final results can be entered into the Child Support Order. Finally, the spouses will want to fill out the Residential Time Summary Report to be later filed with the parenting plan.

6. Marital Settlement Agreement

A Marital Settlement Agreement can be completed at any point during the divorce proceedings, even before the initial petition is filed. Spouses may choose to seek out a mediator and provide each other with detailed accounts of their respective assets and debts. The document ultimately serves as a blueprint of the spouse’s relationship after the divorce is finalized. It will often include child support obligations, aspects from the parenting plan, and the division of marital property. The completed, signed, and notarized document will need to be reviewed by the judge at the final hearing before its contents can be applied to the divorce case.

7. Complete and Gather Final Divorce Documents

With the above completed, the spouses will need to execute the final divorce documents and schedule a hearing. These are the final divorce forms required by the court:

The petitioner will be required to schedule a hearing; this can often be accomplished using the Notice of Hearing form, although the process varies from county-to-county. Copies of the above court forms will need to be made and the originals filed with the court clerk. The filer will then need to have them mailed or delivered to the respondent and file a Proof of Mailing or Hand Delivery once served.

8. Hearing

At the final hearing, the judge will review all of the motions and orders. They’ll make sure that the division of property, allocation of alimony and child support, and the proposals for child custody are equitable and in the best interests of all parties involved. If everything is in order, they’ll sign the divorce order and finalize the dissolution. Copies of the final divorce documents signed by the judge will need to be given to the other spouse if they are not present at the hearing.

9. Name Change

name change paperwork featured electronically on an iPad

The parties may change their names during the divorce proceedings by either requesting it in the petition (petitioner) or in their response to the petition (respondent). The court will need to approve the name change, and the dissolution decree can in turn be used as evidence of the name change when updating identification or accounts.