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Superior Court Forms Directory

A Directory of Forms Commonly Used in King County Superior Court

Dissolution (Ending the Marriage)

This page summarizes the options available in Washington for ending a marital relationship.  It also provides links to basic information that can help you understand the court process involved in exercising these options.

Dissolution versus Separation

In Washington State, there are two ways to end a marital relationship: "Dissolution of Marriage," which is a divorce, and a process called "Legal Separation," which is similar to a dissolution, although it does not legally end the marriage.

Dissolution of Marriage.  The main purpose of a marital dissolution is to legally end the marriage.  As part of a marital dissolution, the court may divide property and debts, award maintenance to one spouse (also known as alimony), enter orders restricting one spouse’s contact with the other spouse or the children, change the name(s) of the parties, and, if there are children, enter a parenting plan and order child support for them.

Legal Separation.  Legal separation is similar to a dissolution in that the court may divide property and debts, award maintenance, and enter a parenting plan or order child support.  There are some differences, however.  With a decree of legal separation, the marriage is not dissolved, so neither party can legally remarry unless the decree is first converted to a decree of dissolution.  Also, some federal programs do not recognize a decree of legal separation in calculating benefits.

Most people choose a legal separation as opposed to a dissolution for religious reasons.  If either spouse wants to convert a decree of legal separation to a decree of dissolution, he or she can do so six months or more after the decree of legal separation is signed by the judge.

Uncontested versus Contested 

There are two different kinds of marital dissolution (and legal separation): uncontested and contested.

Uncontested Dissolution (or Separation).  Uncontested dissolutions and separations occur when the parties agree on property distribution, parenting plans, and child support.

Contested Dissolution (or Separation).  Contested dissolutions and separations occur where the parties do not agree on property/debt distribution, parenting plans, and child support.

Uncontested and contested dissolutions (and separations) have different requirements if there are children involved.

Helpful Resources

The following publications, available from the Northwest Justice Project, provide additional information on the marital dissolution process.

In Spanish


Step by Step Guide to Dissolution

The following information will help you learn how to get a divorce in Washington State.  If after reading this information you still need assistance, please contact the Family Law Facilitators office.

Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)

"Dissolution of marriage" is the term used in Washington for "divorce."  It is a court action that you may file to end your marriage.  Washington has “no fault” dissolution, which means you do not need to prove that either spouse was “at fault” in order to get a divorce.  Only one party needs to prove that there are "irreconcilable differences;" that is, that you can no longer get along with each other.

How do I get a divorce?

Getting a divorce in Washington is a fairly complicated process.  The place to start is with a guide, which will provide basic information about legal procedures and the forms you will need in order to finalize your dissolution.  This webpage explains the process in three steps.  First, you will learn about divorce and what is required to get a divorce in Washington State.  Second, all contested family law cases must participate in some form of Alternative Dispute Resolution prior to trial, where a third party helps the spouses agree on the terms of their dissolution.  (This is explained in greater detail below.)  Finally, you must fill out a series of forms.

Step 1:  Learn about Dissolution (Divorce) in Washington State.  A good source of information on dissolution in Washington is General Information about Divorce, a publication of the Northwest Justice Project.  Basic Guide to Dissolution: Click Here to get a basic understanding of dissolution (divorce).  Other helpful guides include Ending Your Marriage in Washington with Children:  The Basics and Ending Your Marriage in Washington without Children:  The Basics.  These guides define the basic legal terminology you will need to understand and provide answers to questions such as:

  1. Where you should file for divorce?
  2. How long should it take to get a divorce?
  3. What should you do if served with divorce
    papers?
  4. How does the court decide who gets the
    house (and other property) and who has to
    pay debts?
  5. Who will get child custody?
  6. Will my spouse have to pay child support?

Step 2:  Alternative Dispute Resolution.  Parties in every contested civil case, including contested family law cases, must participate in some form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) prior to trial, unless this requirement is waived by the court.  One form of ADR is a settlement conference.  This is a purely voluntary process which gives both sides the opportunity to hear from an independent third party regarding the likely trial result in your case.

King County Superior Court and the King County Bar Association have established a program to conduct settlement conferences at the King County Courthouse for Seattle-designated cases, and at the Regional Justice Center in Kent, for Kent-designated cases.  Settlement conferences are conducted by an attorney/settlement conference master who has been practicing for at least seven years and is experienced in the area of family law.  As a public service, these experienced attorneys donate their time to conduct settlement conferences at no cost to you.

For more information on settlement conferences, please visit the Settlement Conference webpage.

Step 3: Filing for Divorce.  Filing for divorce simply means filing the proper forms with the right court.  In Washington State, you will be required to fill out both Washington State forms and, if you are filing in King County, King County forms.  The first link below will take you to an instruction sheet that lists all of the forms you will be required to fill out in order to get a dissolution in Washington State.  The second link will take you to a packet that provides detailed instructions on how to fill out the state forms.  The last link will take you to the King County forms that you must fill out prior to getting a divorce in King County.

  1. Form Checklist and King County Instructions.  Contested Dissolution (Divorce): This instruction sheet provides a list of all of the forms you will need to get a divorce in Washington State. There are also basic instructions on what you need to do to file with the court. If these instructions do not provide enough information you can use the link below under "B" (State Forms) to get a detailed explanation on how to fill out the forms, and how to file with the Court.
  2. State Forms.  Filing for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce).  This packet was written to help you get a divorce and it provides a list of SOME of the forms you will be required to fill out. This packet only provides instructions for the State forms. If you follow the instructions and fill out all of the forms in this packet you should be able to do your own divorce. But, you will still need to fill out 1 additional King County form listed below. By: Northwest Justice Project Read this in: Español
  3. King County Form.  Before you file your case with a King County court, you will need to fill out a King County Superior Court Assignment Designation and Case Information Cover Sheet.

If you still need help, please contact the Family Law Facilitators office.

Additional Resources

If you did not find what you were looking for above, please view the following resources for additional information.

  • Community Debt and Bankruptcy Issues
    Community debts are those debts that both you and your spouse are liable for. This fact sheet defines community debts. (PDF file)
    By: Northwest Women's Law Center

  • Parenting Plans (court orders about child custody)
    This publication provides general information about what a parenting plan is and how to get one. It also explains how to enforce or change a permanent parenting plan.
    By: Northwest Justice Project

  • Contempt of Court in a Family Law Case: The Basics
    This publication gives general information about the law concerning contempt in family law cases. It covers only the type of contempt most commonly used in family law cases, here called “coercive civil contempt”. The main goal is to have a person who is violating a court order obey that order in the future.
    By: Northwest Justice Project

  • Enforcing Your Divorce Decree: Financial and
    Property Issues
    A brief description of your legal options for collecting unpaid child support, maintenance, money judgments, and property. [link to PDF file]
    By: Northwest Women's Law Center

  • Retirement, Divorce and You (Separate Website)
    Explains the importance of including retirement benefits when dividing up property in your divorce. [link to PDF file]
    By: Northwest Women's Law Center

  • Filing a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Waiver of Filing Fee)
    This packet includes the instructions and forms needed to ask the court to waive (not ask for) the filing fee required to file for divorce. These forms are generic. Some counties require that you file forms that our specific to that county. Call your county clerk and ask before filling out the forms included in this packet.
    By: Northwest Justice Project.

  • Filing a Motion for Emergency Orders for Dissolution Cases
    This packet was written to help you get emergency orders while your case is pending in court. This type of motion is a way for you or another party to ask the court to enter an immediate court order that gives you certain rights and/or protections in your family law case between the time your case is filed and the date it is finished.
    By: Northwest Justice Project

  • Filing a Motion for Temporary Orders for Dissolution Cases and for Custody/Parenting Plan Modification
    This packet was written to help you get temporary orders while your case is pending in court. Temporary Orders can order who gets to use what property, who shall pay which bills, appoint a guardian ad litem, and establish temporary child support payments and a parenting plan to be followed until final orders have been entered. This packet can be used for any type of family law action, including dissolution or modification of an existing parenting plan or custody decree.
    By: Northwest Justice Project

  • Responding to a Petition for Dissolution (Divorce)
    This packet was written to help you respond to a Petition for Dissolution. It provides general information about the law and some of the forms you will need to fill out if you have been served with divorce papers.
    By: Northwest Justice Project

  • Finishing Your Dissolution of Marriage by Default
    This packet was written to help you complete a dissolution (divorce) action that has been filed, but has no final orders signed by the Judge. It provides information about the law and some of the forms you will need to fill out. You may use this packet if your spouse agrees with what you are asking for or fails to respond in time. This packet will help you get final orders signed by the judge dissolving your marriage, dividing property and debts, changing your name (if desired), awarding maintenance (alimony) to one spouse, and entering a restraining order (if desired).
    By: Northwest Justice Project