Steps to Filing for Divorce in Pierce County, Washington
By Tom Streissguth
The state of Washington permits you to obtain a divorce if you or your spouse is a resident of the state. State law governs divorce cases, although each county court has its own rules regarding legal filings and fee schedule. In Pierce County, as in other Washington counties, the process begins with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
Prepare a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Summons. The petition must state the grounds for divorce, which in the state of Washington may simply be "irreconcilable differences" with no fault alleged or proven by the petitioner. Prepare a proposed Summons, which must be issued by the Pierce County clerk. The Summons is a court order to the respondent to file an Answer to the Petition.
File the Petition for Dissolution and Summons at the Clerk of Pierce County Superior Court, 930 Tacoma Ave South, Room 110, Tacoma, WA 98402. You may file in Pierce County if you are a resident there, if your spouse is a resident there or if either party is a member of the armed forces and is stationed there. File any Motions for Temporary Orders, which request the court to decide important matters while you are awaiting the hearing. Have the court clerk enter the petition and motions into the record and issue the Summons for service.
Serve the Summons and Petition on the respondent (your spouse), either through the sheriff's office of the county where he lives or by using a private process server. If your spouse has hired an attorney, the attorney is authorized to accept service and should also be provided with any motions or other pleadings that you file in the case.
Receive the respondent's Answer to your Petition for Dissolution. If you have filed a Motion for Temporary Orders or a Motion for Restraining Order, the court will schedule a hearing. Once service is effected, however, state law imposes a 90-day waiting period before the hearing on the Final Decree may take place.
Items you will need
Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
Forms and information on the divorce process in Pierce County are available at the Office of Domestic Relations Facilitators, Rooms 104 and 119 in the Pierce County Court Building in Tacoma.
The state of Washington offers an online filing process that allows you to complete the necessary divorce forms online. The divorce must be uncontested by your spouse, and there must be no children involved. Visit washingtonlawhelp.org for more information.
If you are unable to afford the filing fee, file a Motion for Waiver of Filing Fee at the same time you file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. If you are unable to create the motion or don't have an attorney to do it, the court clerk will have this form available.
You must complete service for the divorce process to move forward. If you are unable to locate your spouse, or your spouse is avoiding service, you may carry out service by publication, in which you place a public notice in a local newspaper. The court clerk will have instructions and forms for completing this step.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.