Washington Divorce

Residency Requirements

Divorce proceedings will not begin until at least 90 days have elapsed since the petition was filed and the respondent has been properly served. In order to file for divorce in Washington, one of the parties must be either:

a) a resident of this state; or
b) is a member of the armed forces and is stationed in this state; or
c) is married to a party who is a resident of this state or who is a member of the armed forces and is stationed in this state.


Grounds for Divorce

To be granted a divorce in Washington, at least one party must allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

If the other party joins in the petition or does not deny that the marriage or domestic partnership is irretrievably broken, the court shall enter a decree of dissolution.

If the other party alleges that the petitioner was induced to file the petition by fraud, or coercion, the court shall make a finding as to that allegation and, if it so finds shall dismiss the petition.

If the other party denies that the marriage or domestic partnership is irretrievably broken the court shall consider all relevant factors, including the circumstances that gave rise to the filing of the petition and the prospects for reconciliation.


Division of Property

Washington is a community property state meaning all property acquired during the marriage is divided equally (50/50). Property owned by a spouse before marriage and any property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, descent, or inheritance, shall not be subject to distribution.

In a Washington divorce case, the court will divide property and liabilities of the parties, either community or separate, in an equitable manner after considering all relevant factors, including:

a) The nature and extent of the community property;
b) The nature and extent of the separate property;
c) The duration of the marriage or domestic partnership; and
d) The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to the spouse with whom the children reside the majority of the time.


Spousal Support

The court may grant a maintenance order for either party. The maintenance order shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to misconduct, after considering all relevant factors including but not limited to:

a) The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including separate or community property apportioned to him or her, and his or her ability to meet his or her needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party;
b) The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find employment appropriate to his or her skill, interests, style of life, and other attendant circumstances;
c) The standard of living established during the marriage or domestic partnership;
d) The duration of the marriage or domestic partnership;
e) The age, physical and emotional condition, and financial obligations of the spouse or domestic partner seeking maintenance; and
f) The ability of the spouse or domestic partner from whom maintenance is sought to meet his or her needs and financial obligations while meeting those of the spouse or domestic partner seeking maintenance.


Child Custody

Each party to a child custody decision should file a proposed parenting plan with the court within 30 days after filing and service by either party of a notice for trial or 180 days after commencement of the action. The court may order an investigation and report concerning parenting arrangements for the child, or may appoint a guardian ad litem. The investigator’s report may be received in evidence at the hearing.

The objectives of the permanent parenting plan are to:

a) Provide for the child’s physical care;
b) Maintain the child’s emotional stability;
c) Provide for the child’s changing needs as the child grows and matures, in a way that minimizes the need for future modifications to the permanent parenting plan;
d) Set forth the authority and responsibilities of each parent with respect to the child;
e) Minimize the child’s exposure to harmful parental conflict;
f) Encourage the parents to meet their responsibilities to their minor children through agreements in the permanent parenting plan, rather than by relying on judicial intervention; and
g) To otherwise protect the best interests of the child.

The court shall make residential provisions for each child which encourage each parent to maintain a loving, stable, and nurturing relationship with the child, consistent with the child’s developmental level and the family’s social and economic circumstances.

The court shall consider the following factors:

a) The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent. This factor shall be given the greatest weight;
b) The agreements of the parties, provided they were entered into knowingly and voluntarily;
c) Each parent’s past and potential for future performance of parenting functions, including whether a parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child;
d) The emotional needs and developmental level of the child;
e) The child’s relationship with siblings and with other significant adults, as well as the child’s involvement with his or her physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities;
f) The wishes of the parents and the wishes of a child who is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to his or her residential schedule; and
g) Each parent’s employment schedule, and shall make accommodations consistent with those schedules.


Child Support

The court may assign child support payments to either or both parents to help support the dependent child. The amount is based off a set guideline to ensure support orders are adequate to meet a child’s basic needs and to provide additional child support commensurate with the parents’ income, resources, and standard of living. It is intended that the child support obligation should be equitably apportioned between the parents.



http://www.leg.wa.gov/ (Washington divorce laws)


Washington Resources


Laws & Courts:

Washington Law – title 26, Chapter Chapters 9 through 28.
Washington State Courts – includes a searchable opinion database, court directory, court news and other legal information.

Additional Resources:

Washington State Government – homepage with links to state judicial sites.
Washington State Bar Association – informative public information brochures, legal links and court news from the WSBA.
Children’s Rights Council – national nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC that works to assure children meaningful and continuing contact with both their parents and extended family regardless of the parents’ marital status.

Public Access to Court Records

JIS-Link. Obtain access to information in the Judicial Information System’s statewide computer with a paid subscription.
(Source: National Center for State Courts)

Report broken links or send suggestions by contacting us.

Additional Links

The State Resource pages are provided for informational purposes only. Do not take any actions based upon the information contained within the State Resource pages without first consulting an attorney licensed in your state. We at DadsDivorce.com strive to keep our information up-to-date; however state laws are not static and subject to change without notice.