Divorce Laws in Washington
Residency Requirements for Divorce in Washington State
The spouse filing for dissolution of marriage must be a resident of Washington or a member of the Armed Forces stationed in Washington. The dissolution of marriage may be filed for in any county where either the petitioner or respondent resides. In addition, the court will not act on the petition until 90 days has elapsed from the filing and the service of summons on the respondent.
Legal Grounds for Divorce in Washington State
- No Fault Divorce: Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
- General Divorce: Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the only grounds for dissolution of marriage in Washington.
Legal Separation in Washington State
The only grounds for legal separation in Washington is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. The spouse filing for legal separation must be a resident of Washington or a member of the Armed Forces stationed in Washington. The court will not act on the petition until 90 days has elapsed from the filing and the service of summons on the respondent.
Simplified/Special Divorce Procedures in Washington State
All divorce cases must be filed on official Washington forms. The forms are available in printed version from the Washington Office of the Administrator for the Courts. Separation agreements are specifically authorized by law and, if fair, all portions of the agreements are binding on the court, except those relating to parental rights and responsibilities. The spouses must file a Washington Department of Health Certificate with the petition. There are also certain local court rules which apply to dissolutions of marriage. These are found in Washington Local Court Rules, Rule 94.04.
Divorce Mediation in Washington State
Upon the request of either of the spouses, or on the court's own initiative, the spouses may be referred to a counseling service of their choice. A report must be requested from the counseling service within 60 days of the referral. Contested issues relating to custody or visitation will be referred to mediation. There may also be mandatory settlement conferences if there are contested issues.
Divorce Property Distribution
Washington is a "community property" state. Each spouse retains his or her separate property, consisting of:
"Quasi-community" property is property that is acquired while a spouse resides outside of Washington, but that would have been considered community property if acquired while they were living in Washington. "Quasi-community" property is divided as if it were community property. The court will divide the community property of the spouses, consisting of all other property acquired during the marriage, equally or equitably, after a consideration of the following:
- all property acquired prior to marriage
- any gifts or inheritances
- any increase in value of the separate property
Marital misconduct is not to be considered.
- the nature and extent of each spouse's separate property
- the economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective
- the length of the marriage
- the nature and extent of community property
- the desirability of awarding the family home and the right of occupancy for reasonable periods to the custodial parent if there are minor children
Alimony and Spousal Support
Either spouse may be ordered to pay maintenance to the other spouse. Marital misconduct is not to be considered. The factors for consideration are:
Maintenance payments may be required to be paid through the clerk of the court or through the Washington State Support Registry if there are also child support payments being made.
- the time necessary to acquire sufficient education and training to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment and that spouse's future earning capacity
- the standard of living established during the marriage
- the duration of the marriage
- the ability of the spouse from whom support is sought to meet his or her needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking support
- the financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance, including separate or community property apportioned to such spouse and such spouse's ability to meet his or her needs independently
- the needs and obligations of each spouse
- the age of the spouses
- the physical and emotional conditions of the spouses
- any child support responsibilities for a child living with the parent
Spouse's Name After Divorce
Upon request and for a just and reasonable cause, the wife's former or maiden name may be restored.
Child Custody After Divorce
Joint or sole child custody will be determined according to the best interests of the child. Every petition for dissolution of marriage in which a minor child is involved must include a proposed parenting plan. The parents may make an agreement regarding a parenting plan.
The objectives of the parenting plan are to:
The parenting plan should contain provisions for:
- provide for the child's physical care
- maintain the child's emotional stability
- provide for the child's changing needs, as the child grows and matures, in a way that minimizes the need for future modifications
- set out the authority and responsibility of each parent
- minimize the child's exposure to harmful parental conflict
- encourage the parents to reach agreements rather than go to court
- otherwise protect the best interests of the child
The factors which are considered in determining decision-making authority are:
- dispute resolution
- a residential schedule for the child
- allocation of decision-making authority relating to the child
The factors which are considered in determining residential provisions for the child are:
- if both parents agree to mutual decision-making
- the existence of any physical or sexual child or spouse abuse, neglect, or abandonment
- the history of participation of each parent in the decision-making process
- whether the parents have demonstrated an ability and desire to cooperate in the decision-making process
- the parents' geographical proximity to each other, to the extent that it would affect their ability to make timely mutual decisions
Factor (1) is to be given the most weight. A mandatory settlement conference may be required.
- the strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent, including the parent's performance of daily parental functions
- any spouse or child abuse, neglect, or substance abuse
- the history of participation of each parent in child-rearing
- the wishes of the parents
- the wishes of the child, if of sufficient age and maturity to express an opinion
- the child's relationship with siblings and other significant family members
- any agreement between the parties
Equal-time alternating residential provisions will only be ordered if:
The court may order an investigation concerning parenting arrangements for the child.
- there is no child or spouse abuse, neglect, abandonment, or substance abuse
- the parents have agreed to such provisions
- there is a history of shared parenting and cooperation
- the parents are available to each other, especially in terms of geographic location
- the provisions are in the best interests of the child
Child Support After Divorce
Either parent may be ordered to pay child support. Marital misconduct is not a factor to be considered. All relevant factors may be considered. Official child support guidelines and worksheets are available from the Washington Department of Social and Health Services and from the clerk of the court. The official guidelines are presumed to be correct, unless there is a showing that the amount is unjust or inappropriate under the particular circumstances of a case. Mandatory wage assignments may be required if the child support payments are over 15 days past due. Child support payments may be required to be paid through the Washington State Support Registry or directly to the parent, if an approved payment plan is accepted by the court. The court may require either parent to provide health insurance coverage for the child.
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