Divorce Law Washington


The divorce law in the state of Washing ton is Governed by the Washington Revised Code in Title 26.


No-Fault Ground

The no-fault ground for divorce in the State of Washington is that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Fault Grounds
The Fault Grounds for dissolution of marriage may be
  1. Adultery;
  2. Desertion for a period of one year;
  3. Physical cruelty;
  4. Habitual drunkenness; provided, that this ground shall be construed to include habitual drunkenness caused by the use of any narcotic drug; or
  5. On the application of either party if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for a period of one year.
The dissolution of marriage action may be filed in any county where either party resides. Any party to the marriage may file a petition who is:
  1. a resident of Washington, or
  2. a member of the armed forces and is stationed in Washington, or
  3. is married to a party who is a resident of Washington or who is a member of the armed forces and is stationed in Washington.

If the filing party requests the court to decree a legal separation in lieu of an absolute divorce, the court shall enter the decree in that form, unless the other party objects and petitions for a decree of dissolution of marriage or, in the alternative, a declaration of invalidity of the marriage.

An action for dissolution of marriage is filed in the Superior Court or Family Court. The dissolution action is instituted by the filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, while the document granting the dissolution is referred to as the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. The party instituting the action is referred to as the Petitioner, and the opposing party is the Respondent.

In a divorce, the property (land, house, buildings, and items of personal property) owned (and debts owed) by the couple is divided between the parties.

Both the spouse must agree to this division in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, in which both the spouses must join. They may agree to divide the property any way they like, as long as both of them agree.

If they cannot agree on any item of this division, the dissolution of marriage transforms into a contested divorce. In a contested case, the court shall, without regard to marital misconduct, make such disposition of the property and the liabilities of the parties, either community or separate, as shall appear just and equitable after considering all relevant factors including, but not limited to:
  1. The nature and extent of the community property;
  2. The nature and extent of the separate property;
  3. The duration of the marriage; and
  4. 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 a spouse with whom the children reside the majority of the time.

The court may grant a maintenance order for either spouse. The maintenance order shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, after considering all relevant factors including but not limited to:
  1. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including separate or community property apportioned to him, and his ability to meet his needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party;
  2. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find employment appropriate to his skill, interests, style of life, and other attendant circumstances;
  3. The standard of living established during the marriage;
  4. The duration of the marriage;
  5. The age, physical and emotional condition, and financial obligations of the spouse seeking maintenance; and
  6. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his needs and financial obligations while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
The State of Washington will award joint or sole custody of minor children of the marriage based upon the best interests of the child(ren). Every dissolution action requires that each party file and serve a proposed permanent parenting plan on or before the earliest date of:
  1. Thirty days after filing and service by either party of a notice for trial; or
  2. One hundred eighty days after commencement of the action which one hundred eighty days period may be extended by stipulation of the parties.

The parent submitting a proposed parenting plan shall attach a verified statement that the plan is proposed by that parent in good faith.

The parents may make an agreed permanent parenting plan. The objectives of the permanent parenting plan are to:

  1. Provide for the child's physical care;
  2. Maintain the child's emotional stability;
  3. 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;
  4. t forth the authority and responsibilities of each parent with respect to the child;
  5. Minimize the child's exposure to harmful parental conflict;
  6. Encourage the parents, where appropriate, to meet their responsibilities to their minor children through agreements in the permanent parenting plan, rather than by relying on judicial intervention; and
  7. To otherwise protect the best interests of the child.

The permanent parenting plan shall contain provisions for resolution of future disputes between the parents, allocation of decision making authority, and residential provisions for the child.

The plan shall allocate decision making authority to one or both parties regarding the children's education, health care, and religious upbringing. Regardless of the allocation of decision making in the parenting plan, either parent may make emergency decisions affecting the health or safety of the child.

Each parent may make decisions regarding the day-to-day care and control of the child while the child is residing with that parent. The plan shall include a residential schedule which designates in which parent's home each minor child shall reside on given days of the year, including provision for holidays, birthdays of family members, vacations, and other special occasions.

A person other than a parent may petition the court for visitation with a child at any time or may intervene in a pending dissolution, legal separation, or modification of parenting plan proceeding. A person other than a parent may not petition for visitation under this section unless the child's parent or parents have commenced an action listed above. Grandparent visitation is granted as long as the court finds the visitation to be in the child's best interest, considering the following factors:
  1. The strength of the relationship between the child and the petitioner;
  2. The relationship between each of the child's parents or the person with whom the child is residing and the petitioner;
  3. The nature and reason for either parent's objection to granting the petitioner visitation;
  4. The effect that granting visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the child's parents or the person with whom the child is residing;
  5. The residential time sharing arrangements between the parents;
  6. The good faith of the petitioner;
  7. Any criminal history or history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect by the petitioner; and
  8. Any other factor relevant to the child's best interest.
The court shall order either or both parents owing a duty of support to any child of the marriage dependent upon either or both spouses to pay an amount determined under the child support guidelines established by the State.

In entering a support order, the court shall require either or both parents to maintain or provide health insurance coverage for any child named in the order if:

  1. Coverage that can be extended to cover the child is or becomes available to that parent through employment or is union-related; and
  2. The cost of such coverage does not exceed twenty-five percent of the obligated parent's basic child support obligation.

The court shall consider the best interests of the child and have discretion to order health insurance coverage when entering or modifying a support order under this chapter if the cost of such coverage exceeds twenty-five percent of the obligated parent's basic support obligation. The parents shall maintain such coverage required under this section until:

  1. Further order of the court;
  2. The child is emancipated, if there is no express language to the contrary in the order; or
  3. Health insurance is no longer available through the parents' employer or union and no conversion privileges exist to continue coverage following termination of employment.

A parent ordered to provide health insurance coverage shall provide proof of such coverage or proof that such coverage is unavailable within twenty days of the entry of the order to:

  1. The physical custodian; or
  2. The department of social and health services if the parent has been notified or ordered to make support payments to the Washington state support registry.
The purpose of the mediation proceeding shall be to reduce acrimony which may exist between the parties and to develop an agreement assuring the child's close and continuing contact with both parents after the marriage is dissolved. The mediator shall use his or her best efforts to effect a settlement of the dispute.

Each Superior Court may make available a mediator. Mediation proceedings shall be held in private and shall be confidential.
In entering a decree of dissolution of marriage, the court shall make provision for the change of name of any party.
At least ninety days must elapse from the date the petition was filed and served upon the respondent before the Court may enter a judgment of dissolution of marriage.