Step One - File Your Petition
You have to prepare a Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and file it with the court. The forms can be found on www.washington.courts.forms. It's best to attach a copy of the proposed final orders to the Petition.
Step 2 - Serve Your Spouse
The rules for service are somewhat technical, so it would be best to use a professional process server or retain an attorney. If you know where your spouse is, you need to arrange for the Summons and Petition to be personally served. If you don't know where your spouse is, you can get court authorization to serve by certified mail or by publication in a newspaper of general circulation. The process server or newspaper will supply you with an affidavit of service once service has been accomplished. The original of that affidavit must be filed with the Court Clerk in your divorce case.
Step 3 - Wait 60/90 days
The Civil Rules provide that if the opposing party has not filed a response or a Notice of Appearance within 60 days of service and filing, you can file a Motion for Default. However, in divorces you must wait 90 days before you can get your divorce entered. For that reason, when I represent someone whose spouse fails to respond, I wait the 90 days, file the Motion for Default, and ask the court to enter both the default and the final orders at the same time. That saves my client from sending me to court two times instead of just one.
Step 4 - Get the Order of Default and the Final Orders Entered
Civil Rule 55 is the state rule governing default orders. The CR 55 is supplemented in many counties by Local Rules about Defaults. Your attorney will need to check both the State and Local Rules to make sure that the final orders are entered by default. The courts do not like to enter orders by default, so your papers and proof of service must be perfect. You will need to show that the summons and petition were filed more than 90 days ago, were properly served in person, by certified mail, or by publication, and that your spouse has not responded to the petition or filed a Notice of Appearance. In addition, there are some limited situations where a party cannot be defaulted because they have "informally appeared." The issue of informal appearance will be the subject of another AVVO Legal Guide.
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