No one should feel stuck in a bad situation because they don't have the money for a divorce. Washington State has the following free and low-cost options for domestic violence survivors who want to divorce:
1. Uncontested Divorce - In Washington, you and your ex can sign the court forms together and file your divorce in court without a lawyer. If you are nervous that your ex is trying to hurt you or take advantage, then you can go to a free legal clinic to review the forms before you file. If the forms are confusing, then you can go to a free legal clinic for help before you file. Or many lawyers will accept a low hourly rate to review your forms.
The court forms for your divorce are HERE
The court forms are free. The court filing fee is $314, but you can ask the court to waive the fee HERE
You can file the forms by sending an email to the Family Law Facilitators (FLIC) HERE. It costs $30 to file the forms, but you can also ask the FLIC to waive this fee.
2. Informal Trial - If you and your ex can't sign the forms together, there's still no need to pay a lawyer. Fill out the forms on your own. You can file the forms on your own and ask for an Informal Trial. The rules in an Informal Trial are easier for Domestic Violence situations - the judge has to listen to what you say even if it's "hearsay" or even if the rules normally wouldn't allow you to bring in the evidence. The info comparing Informal Trials to a Litigation Trial is HERE Use this form to ask the court for an Informal Trial HERE
3. Domestic Violence Guide - If you have questions about fair child support, visit schedules, spousal support, or other issues, the Family Law Manual is HERE and the Domestic Violence Guide that the judges use to decide cases involving domestic violence is HERE The Domestic Violence Guide will tell you whether or not the judge can limit your exe's time with the children (usually only if the child have been harmed by the relationship) and other questions you might have.
You may still feel overwhelmed. If you need support, including therapy, help with rent, and someone to help you fill out your forms, then these free clinics can help you find a therapist or other resource.
KCBA Family Law Clinics (scroll down to the middle of the page and the phone number is 206-267-7070)
4. Safety Tips - You know better than anyone else what you need to stay safe. Please don't override your own judgment. Here are some tips that may be useful to you, depending on your situation.
- Change all your email passwords and the code to open your phone and computer before your ex finds out you want to leave. Send copies of evidence like pictures and screenshots to a friend you trust, so you can always get it later even if your ex hacks your phone or computer.
- If you live together, and you're afraid for your safety, your ex will have to leave the house if you get a Domestic Violence Protection Order. The police will enforce the order for you. You don't need a lawyer. You don't have to tell your ex you're getting a protection order ahead of time.
- Here is a link to get a Domestic Violence Protection Order in King County. Getting an order is free. Again, you don't need a lawyer.
- Here are helpful things to put in your request for a Domestic Violence Protection Order:
- Physical harm of any kind - Tell the court if your ex pushed you or your child, grabbed your arm or your child's arm, slammed a door on you, grabbed something out of your hands, or took away your phone so you couldn't call for help.
- Threats of harm - Chasing you, saying things like "I could kill you and no one would know," shaking a fist in your direction, or describing hurting someone else could all count as a threat.
- Don't worry about telling your ex's side of the story when you describe what happened. Just state the action very clearly and provide any evidence. "My ex grabbed my arm to turn me around. It left a mark. Here's a picture." Or "My ex was talking to their friend on the phone and said very loudly that I know I would get hurt if I ever tried to leave." You don't have to provide context or try to be fair to your ex. The court will give your ex a chance to talk too.
- Your ex may try to say that they grabbed you to make you calm down, or they hit you because you were hitting them, or just something to paint the situation as your fault. It doesn't matter. If your ex admits to touching you, then the judge is likely to grant the order you're requesting.