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Washington - Divorce Requirements
The following information is to provide a basic understanding of the various aspects of Washington divorce.

Click here for more specific information regarding Washington divorce laws.

Every effort has been made to assure that the information contained in these pages is accurate however, due to the ever changing nature of the law some material may be outdated or may no longer apply.

Residency Requirements There are no residency requirements for filing a divorce in Washington state
Where to File The county in which he Petitioner or Respondent resides
Grounds for Divorce Washington is a "no fault" divorce state. The only ground for divorce under Washington state laws is that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Voluntary or required mediation Yes
Voluntary or recommended CounselingYes
Property Distribution In a proceeding for dissolution of the marriage, legal separation, declaration of invalidity, or in a proceeding for disposition of property following dissolution of the marriage 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:
  • The nature and extent of the community property
  • The nature and extent of the separate property
  • The duration of the marriage
  • 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
Child Custody Every divorce case involving child custody, whether uncontested or contested, must include a parenting plan that will set out provisions for resolution of future disputes between the parents, allocation of decision-making authority (legal custody), and residential provisions (physical custody) for the child.

Assuming none of the following factors exist, the court will allocate decision-making authority (legal custody) to one or both parties regarding the children's education, health care, and religious upbringing based on the parenting plan proposed by the parents. 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 also may make decisions regarding the day-to-day care and control of the child while the child is residing with that parent.

The objectives of the permanent parenting plan are to:
  • 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 to the permanent parenting plan
  • Set forth the authority and responsibilities of each parent with respect to the child
  • Minimize the child's exposure to harmful parental conflict
  • 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
  • To otherwise protect the best interests of the child
The court shall consider the following in deciding whether to award in favor of or against joint legal custody:
  • The history of participation of each parent in decision making regarding the child(ren)
  • Whether the parents have a demonstrated ability and desire to cooperate with one another in making decisions regarding the child(ren)
  • The parents' geographic proximity to one another, to the extent that it affects their ability to make timely mutual decisions
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 when determining the residential custody of the child:
  • The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent, including whether a parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child
  • The agreements of the parties, provided they were entered into knowingly and voluntarily
  • Each parent's past and potential for future performance of parenting functions
  • The emotional needs and developmental level of the child
  • 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
  • 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
  • Each parent's employment schedule, and shall make accommodations consistent with those schedules
Child Support In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, declaration of invalidity, maintenance, or child support, after considering all relevant factors but without regard to marital misconduct, 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 using the child support guideline.

(2) The court may require automatic periodic adjustments or modifications of child support. That portion of any decree that requires periodic adjustments or modifications of child support shall use the provisions in the child support guidelines as the basis for the adjustment or modification.

The adjustment or modification provision may be modified by the court due to economic hardship consistent with the provisions of *RCW 26.09.170(4)(a).
Spousal Support In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, declaration of invalidity, or in a proceeding for maintenance following dissolution of the marriage by a court which lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse, 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:
  • 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
  • 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
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age, physical and emotional condition, and financial obligations of the spouse seeking maintenance
  • 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