If you’re getting divorced, a divorce by mail in Washington is an option you should consider.

Why would I divorce by mail? Not only is it a low cost divorce choice, but also it can be a huge time saver. Divorce by mail lets you skip court appearances, family law orientation classes, and parenting classes. If you’re eligible to file by mail it’s the simplest solution to divorce for Washington residents.

Table of Contents

  1. How do I qualify for divorce by mail?
  2. Where can I get a divorce by mail?
  3. What are the main benefits of divorce by mail?
  4. Are there any drawbacks to divorce by mail?
  5. Instructions for how to file a divorce by mail
  6. How long will the process take?
  7. What will it cost?

Mailbox

How do I qualify for divorce by mail?

The key to divorce by mail in Washington is that you file an uncontested divorce. If you’re not familiar with the term, an uncontested divorce is one in which the spouses have already decided how to handle all of the issues. This means they’ve decided how to divide assets, spend time with the children, and agreed on all other major decisions. If you and your spouse are on the same page, you’re half way to the mailbox.

To get the rest of the way a Washington court will need jurisdiction over the case. For most people this is easy. Washington residents can file in Washington and a court is able to make a ruling on parenting plans for children with Washington as their home state.

Another common way to get jurisdiction is if a couple lived in Washington while they were married and the spouse preparing the forms still lives in Washington. Also, if the spouses conceived a child in Washington a court will have jurisdiction to oversee the divorce.

If you think you may have difficulty with jurisdiction or have specific questions about eligibility based on jurisdiction please give us a call. Every situation is different, so our attorneys are happy to clarify jurisdiction for you and point you to the best state if Washington is not a possibility.

Where do I get a divorce by mail?

There are two counties in Washington that process divorce by mail, Wahkiakum County and Lincoln County. No matter where you live if you are eligible for divorce by mail in Washington State these two counties will process the divorce.

If you don’t know where these counties are, welcome to the club; I had to look one up too. Wahkiakum County is the second smallest county in Washington and is located in southwest Washington. Lincoln County is the fifth smallest county and is in eastern Washington.

Wahkiakum County Clerk
PO Bo 157
Cathlamet, WA 98612

Lincoln County Clerk
PO Box 68
Davenport, WA 99122

Small counties are incentivized to find ways to make money, so they’ve developed smart divorce by mail systems that are straightforward and can save divorcing spouses a lot of time and money. They also make the county a decent chunk of change, since a lot of people take advantage of the system.

What are the main benefits of divorce by mail?

As we’ve discussed the major benefit to divorce by mail is the efficiency. The biggest step in the process is coming to an agreement with your spouse on the terms of the divorce. Afterwards, you or an attorney can prepare the paperwork within a day or two and mail the signed forms to the court.

Most people are surprised to find that once they drop everything in the mail they’re done. They’ll never need to step away from work to attend a hearing or make time for parenting classes or family law orientation classes. Since the process is so straightforward attorneys are able to charge far less too.

What are the biggest drawbacks?

If you ask experienced lawyers what they don’t like about divorce by mail they’d say that a divorcing couple rarely lives near the county court that will process the divorce, so if an issue does become contested the spouses will need to go to court far from home.

This is true, so if you think there is a chance that either you or your spouse will have a change of heart after the papers are signed, then divorce by mail isn’t your best choice. It would be a hassle to drive to eastern Washington for a court date if you live in Kent and it will be a pain to move an active case to a county court closer to home.

On a related note, sometimes there will be a dispute down the road and the case will need to be reopened. For example, if the parenting plan is no longer workable because both parents moved to different cities, they may want to make a change. This is different than the above example where there is an active case. It is much easier to reopen the case in a new county, than to move an active case.

Even though the divorce was finalized in Wahkiakum County, the parents can reopen the case in the county they live in now, there is just a higher fee since the case is in a new county. The court-filing fee will be about $150 more. Although, people typically will save $150 by filing a divorce by mail in the first place, so this should be a non-issue.

Instructions for how to file a divorce by mail

You can file in three steps once you’ve decided, which court you’d rather work with, Wahkiakum or Lincoln. They both have slightly different requirements.

In general I prefer to work with Wahkiakum County. I’ve had good experiences calling the court clerk when I have a question and the process is slightly cheaper. Below are the steps to file in Wahkiakum County.

Step 1: Complete the following divorce documents:

  • All cases
    • Certificate of Dissolution
    • Confidential Information Form
      • Signed by Petitioner (person who prepared the forms)
    • Petition for Divorce
      • Signed by both spouses
    • Findings and Conclusions about a Marriage
      • Signed by both spouses
    • Verification of Findings and Conclusions
      • Signed and Notarized by both spouses
    • Final Divorce Order
      • Signed by both spouses
  • Additional forms if there are children
    • Parenting Plan
      • Signed by both spouses
    • Washington State Child Support Schedule Worksheets
      • Signed by both spouses
    • Child Support Order
      • Signed by both spouses
    • Declaration about Public Assistance
      • Signed by Petitioner
    • Residential Time Summary Report
      • Signed by Petitioner

There are a lot of options when it comes to preparing your divorce paperwork. You can do the research, print the forms, and fill them in yourself. Alternatively, you can use a pro se service like we have at Truce Law that allows you to select, which specifically what you’d like help with. These services cost extra, but are worth the money, since they’ll save you lots of time and make sure you have everything in order.

Lastly, you can hire an attorney to prepare the paperwork for you. At Truce Law we represent clients all over the state, so often we’ll meet by videoconference and do everything by mail and email. Regardless of what you choose, once the forms are signed you’ll be ready to mail them.

***Important – Please make sure that the signatures are consistent throughout the forms. If your notarized signatures on the Verification of Findings and Conclusions are different than the signatures throughout the rest of the documents, a judge may reject your forms and request they be resent.

Step 2: Mail your forms and court-filing fee to the Wahkiakum County Clerk

Fees must be paid by cashier’s check or money order. Personal checks will not be accepted. You may combine all costs on your chosen payment method.

$324.00: Cashier Check or Money Order Amount

  • Filing Fee: $294
  • Ex Parte Fee: $30

Tip: Cashier’s checks cost about $10 at the bank, where most grocery stores will issue a money order for $1. Choose the money order.

Do not send copies. Only send the original documents with original signatures.

Step 3: Confirm your case documents were received.

Once the clerk’s office receives the paperwork they will mail you a pink form showing which documents were received and if any documents are missing. If you don’t receive the confirmation slip in the mail within 3 weeks call the clerk’s office to confirm they have your forms.

The receipt should include the assigned case number and date the forms will be finalized.

If you would like the court to mail or email you copies of the completed forms, this mailing will include instructions on how to request copies.

How long will the process take?

The court will approve your paperwork in 90 days

Washington has a mandatory cooling off period of 90 days before it will finalize divorce documents. After the 90-day period the court will review your forms and finalize the divorce.

Wahkiakum County does not notify you by phone or mail when the divorce is finalized. They will send copies of the final paperwork if copies are paid for in advance. You can contact the clerk’s office if you questions about the status of your case.

What will it cost?

This depends mostly on how you decided to prepare the paperwork. If you decide to handle the entire process on your own, the $324 fee to the court is your only required cost. Assistance with the paperwork can cost up to $5000, depending on your situation and which firm you hire.

At Truce Law we offer do-it-yourself packages where you’ll only pay for what you need and a full service option in which we can have your case ready to file within a week.

Conclusion 

I hope this gave you a firm understanding of the divorce by mail process. If you’d like help with your divorce by mail, please call 206.409.4086 or send us a message. Thanks for reading.

Cheers,
Justin