Divorce 101 - Basics of Divorce


Divorce 101

Every divorce is different.  At Elise Buie Family Law Group, we recognize that all marriages are comprised of two individuals with different perspectives, values, attitudes, beliefs and backgrounds.  The process will unfold differently for each and every couple, especially when children are involved.  We're here to guide you every step of the way, working as a team to confront any possible issues.

How Divorce Works in Washington State

Divorce in Washington is legally called “dissolution of marriage.”  This process terminates a marriage and determines the parenting of minor children, family support, division of property and liabilities.  Washington is a no-fault state, meaning that a spouse does not have to prove wrongdoing to obtain a divorce.  The general rule is that a spouse can obtain a divorce if the marriage is “irretrievably broken”.  The other spouse does not have to agree in order for the other partner to file for a divorce. 

Washington is a community property state: all property acquired during marriage is presumed community property. All property acquired before marriage and after separation is presumed individual property, with a few exceptions.  The party claiming that an item of property is separate or community is responsible for providing proof.

Where to file

In Washington, dissolution of marriage is handled by the Superior Court, or sometimes Family Court.  For convenience purposes, most cases are filed in the county where the filing party, or petitioner, resides.  However, they can be filed in the home county of the other parent.  There are no length of residency requirements in WA.

What to file

Every document that is filed with the court is called a pleading.  WA has mandatory court forms that must be used as pleadings in dissolution proceedings.  The dissolution process begins by filing a Summons, Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and accompanying documents.   Once the Petition is filed, the court will issue a case number.  This number should be included on all future pleadings.  In some counties, the court will also issue a case schedule.  This schedule contains all of the court deadlines associated with your dissolution.  Some counties also issue automatic restraining orders upon filing.


The dissolution process does not officially begin until the other party is properly served.  There is a 90 day waiting period in WA, meaning that at least 90 days must pass from the date the Petition was filed and served and the date the dissolution can be entered with the Court.  Once the court is made aware that service has been made, the 90 day waiting period begins.

The non-filing party, (respondent) must file a Response to the Petition within a certain time period from the date they were served or accepted service.

Temporary Orders

After a case is filed, and before it is resolved, sometimes it is necessary to ask the court for an award of temporary relief. This usually happens when the parties have a dispute about payment of bills, support, or issues involving children. The court has the power to make a temporary award of custody, parenting time, child support, and spousal support, which will remain in place until further order of the court or the case is resolved.

Under certain circumstances, the court can award one party the temporary exclusive use and possession of real or personal property. Other temporary relief may include an order to keep the parties form doing anything drastic to impact marital assets.  An order may be imposed to keep the status quo regarding each parent's contact with the children until temporary custody and parenting time can be resolved. If a child is in immediate danger, the court may award one parent temporary “emergency” custody of that child. Sometimes the parties can agree on Temporary Orders, while other times they must present oral arguments in front of a Court commissioner.


This is the process of gathering information related to all aspects of the dissolution.  This process allows each party to gain insight on the other's financial information, parenting arrangement, property characterization and a multitude of other things.

Settlement and trial

Most cases settle before going to trial.  Often, the parties attend mediation and are able to resolve the issues.  In the event the parties do not reach an agreement, they proceed with trial.

If you are considering a divorce or have been served with divorce papers, it is important to retain the services of an experienced family law attorney to protect you and provide you with the necessary legal counsel during the divorce proceedings.  A dedicated attorney can inform you of your legal options, provide helpful guidance, and defend your rights.

Our law firm works exclusively on family law issues. We take a personalized approach to every client. We will meet with you to help you fully understand the law and what to expect. Our goal is to guide you through every step of the process and help you reach the best possible solution.

Your Family's Future is our First Priority

Areas We Serve

At Elise Buie Family Law Group, PLLC, we represent clients from Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, and the surrounding region, including all of King County and the cities of Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, Edmonds, Issaquah, Kenmore, Kent, Federal Way, Shoreline, Des Moines, Bainbridge Island, Vashon, Auburn, Renton and Puyallup. We love working with clients from Seattle's unique, eclectic neighborhoods: West Seattle, Fremont, Ballard, Madrona, Queen Anne, Greenwood, Ravenna, Maple Leaf, Wedgewood, View Ridge, Laurelhurst, Windermere, Madison Park, Magnolia, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, Broadmoor, Phinney Ridge, Crown Hill, Yarrow Point and Mercer Island.

Contact Us

Call us at (206) 926-9848

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Elise Buie Family Law Group


Elise Buie Family Law Group PLLC
1001 Fourth Avenue, 44th Floor   Seattle, WA 98154