It certainly is possible in Washington State to divorce without a lawyer, although as a lawyer I need to clarify that I do not recommend it. I have had clients spend a lot of money trying to undo mistakes they made writing their own court orders (remember the old car care commercial “Pay me now, or pay me later”?).
For those who are considering a divorce without a lawyer, there is a state website where most of the forms that you would need are available. Also, you should review the court rules. For some local forms, you may need to go to the superior court website for your county. Here are some links to King County forms, local court rules, and information about Family Court. Finally, you should also review the laws regarding divorce in Washington.
If you cannot afford to have an attorney handle the whole divorce for you, it is worth at least paying an attorney to draft the documents you will need. I have had people ask me to review the documents they have drafted themselves, but I often find that it would be cheaper for me to re-draft the documents myself than to go through the client’s drafts pointing out all the places where I would suggest changes.
Having a lawyer help you draft the divorce documents can help you avoid common problems like:
- Not including ALL property and debt in the distribution
- Failing to address in appropriate detail how real property and retirement plans are going to be divided and distributed
- Incorrectly calculating child support
- Drafting a parenting plan that does not address common conflict areas
If your case is contested (you need to ask the court to make decisions on issues the two of you are not able to agree on), then the help of a lawyer becomes even more important. Correctly preparing for a hearing, getting the right documents turned in for the hearing, and knowing what to say at the hearing, can make a huge difference in the outcome.