Divorce is not a one size fits all experience, including the process by which a divorce is finalized. There are three main types of divorce processes in Washington: uncontested divorce, mediation, and litigation. Consider the following pros and cons when determining the best process for you.

Uncontested Divorce

Uncontested divorce is typically the easiest and most cost-effective divorce process option. For example, it is common for parties to make their own agreements regarding property division, a parenting plan, and child support without help from a mediator or attorneys. Thus, an uncontested divorce typically takes the shortest amount of time to be finalized. This is the easiest option to utilize especially if the parties do not wish or need to involve attorneys or other third parties.

While some attorneys may offer services to review paperwork prior to filing or provide guidance on the self-filing process, however, uncontested divorces are usually driven by the parties themselves. For example, parties will have to complete the majority of the paperwork and filing themselves, including ensuring that everything is ready to be finalized by the judge. 

Pros: Cost effective, simplest process, usually takes the shortest amount of time.

Cons: Typically involves very little attorney guidance and legal advice, parties must do their own paperwork, and the parties are responsible for ensuring that the divorce is finalized.

Best for: Parties who are self-responsible and cooperative. This option is best for those who are able to make their own agreements regarding property division, parenting plan, and child support (if applicable) if they have not already without extensive legal advice or attorney assistance.


Mediation is the process in which parties agree to use a third party to help them make agreements for property division, a parenting plan, and/or child support. Contrary to what people may think, parties do not need attorneys to mediate. Typically, a family law mediator is an attorney or retired judge who has experience in practicing family law. A mediator is a good option for unrepresented parties who would like more support with coming to reasonable agreements and are otherwise unable to do so themselves. A mediator is also a good option for represented parties who do not wish to have a court decide on the divorce issues.

However, mediators can be costly and typically charge by the hour. In addition to paying for the mediator, parties should anticipate paying their attorney’s hourly rate to attend, if applicable. Mediation days vary widely in length, so parties should be prepared for a potentially long day.

Finally, mediation requires the parties to have the ability and willingness to make compromises. It is not the venue for parties who want to “win” or “lose.”

Pros: Participation of a neutral third party can help provide guidance with making agreements, can participate in mediation without attorney involvement, avoids court.

Cons: Can be a costly and time-consuming process, not conducive to parties who are not willing to compromise.

Best for: Parties who would benefit from extra support when making agreements for their divorce, but don’t want or need a judge to make decisions for them.


Divorce litigation varies widely on a case-by-case basis and a variety of factors, including: the complexity of the marital estate, whether children are involved, and the standing relationship of the parties. While it is not uncommon for parties to represent themselves pro se, litigation typically involves attorneys on both sides, paperwork to be filed with the court, and eventually trial. At trial, the judge will be the ultimate decision-maker of property division, a parenting plan, and child support. However, parties retain some flexibility as they may choose to engage in settlement negotiations or mediate if they wish to avoid trial.

While having an attorney affords parties a high level of support and advocation, litigation can quickly become expensive. In addition, at minimum, litigation can take at least a year before a divorce is finalized. Finally, because the judge is the decision-maker, there is a risk that parties will not get a result they want. 

Pros: High level of attorney support, parties retain some flexibility if they want to continue attempting to settle.

Cons: Can be expensive, long-term time commitment, parties may not get the result they want.

Best for: Parties who are unable to come to agreements, or when one party refuses to engage in mediation or uncontested divorce.

Divorce is a difficult and emotional life transition. Our experienced legal team is ready and available to help you weigh your options and guide you through the process. Contact us today so that we may best support and help you decide on what approach is best for you and your family.