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What do you need to do before filing for divorce in Washington?

On Behalf of | Jan 17, 2022 | Divorce |

There are certain rules and procedures to follow when you want to file for divorce in Washington. You should familiarize yourself with the process to know how to protect yourself and make it go as smoothly as possible. On the filing date, you must be a resident of Washington, so don’t move out of state just yet.

Close joint credit accounts

Some spouses drive up joint credit out of spite when they find out their partner wants a divorce. Before filing for divorce, you should close the joint credit accounts. If you’re not able to pay off the account to close it, you can try negotiating a deal with the creditor. Freeze the account if you’re unable to negotiate a deal.

Leave the joint bank accounts and investments alone

Some people make the mistake of emptying the joint bank account or withdrawing half of it when they file for divorce. Your joint bank account is community property under Washington law. You and your spouse need to wait for the divorce proceedings to complete to know how to divide the money and investments.

If you empty the account or withdraw too much, the judge can order you to return the money. In some cases, the judge issues a penalty on a spouse who empties the joint bank account. What you can do to protect your finances moving forward is open your own bank account where you can deposit your paychecks to keep yourself safe from a potentially vindictive spouse.

Download or buy the divorce forms

Washington charges a fee if you want to retrieve a copy of the forms from the courthouse. The state allows you to download and print them from your computer for free. You will first submit a “petition for divorce” form to start the divorce process. This will inform your spouse that you want to divorce along with any requested stipulations, such as spousal support and property you want to keep.

Your spouse has the option to contest the terms of your divorce petition. For this reason, it’s ideal to negotiate beforehand with your spouse on the terms of the divorce. You can work with a divorce mediator for assistance in amicably coming to a fair agreement while saving money. Arguing with each other in court is a more expensive process.

It’s important to check state law to know what you can and can’t do when you file for divorce. Everything you and your spouse acquired during the marriage is community property, so you can’t automatically take whatever you perceive as yours.