Washington Divorce Basics

Get started here to learn about the divorce process in Washington.

Washington is a no-fault state, meaning that the only basis for filing for divorce is an assertion that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Grounds for Divorce

Washington is a no-fault state, meaning that the only basis for filing for divorce is an assertion that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Registered domestic partners in Washington have most of the same rights and responsibilities as married couples, and the procedure for dissolving a domestic partnership is the same as for an opposite-sex couple's divorce.

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

In order to file for divorce in Washington, one of the spouses must be a resident of the state at the time the divorce action is filed. The court won't enter a final judgment of divorce until at least  90 days have passed from the date the divorce papers were filed in court.

Property Division

Washington is a community property state, so any property acquired during the marriage will be divided equally between the two spouses at divorce. Each spouse may keep any separate property that the spouse had before the marriage began or that was received as a separate gift or inheritance. The couple may also come to an agreement on the distribution of property and in that situation, the property would not have to be equally divided.

Alimony

Either spouse can ask the court for an award of spousal support, otherwise known as alimony. The court may base its decision on each party’s financial resources, the standard of living established during the marriage, each party’s physical and emotional condition, and the time and training it would take to make the spouse seeking support self-sufficient.

The court may order that the alimony payments be made in a lump sum or over a certain period of time.

Child Support

Washington state has guidelines for monthly basic child support amounts, determined by the parents’ combined monthly net income and the number of children being supported. The table also takes into consideration the ages of the children being supported. For example, if there are three children under 11 years old, and the parents’ combined net income is $8,600, then the basic support amount would be $758. However, if those three children were over 11 years old, and all other factors were the same, the support amount would be increased to $936. Which parent pays how much of that support amount depends on the parents' respective incomes and resources.

Child support guidelines and other important information can be found at the website for the Division of Child Support, here.

Child Custody

The main objective of the Washington court in a child custody action is that the parenting plan and custody decision be in the best interests of the child. If parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, then the court considers all of the relevant factors and establishes a plan for them. The order would require parents to provide for the child’s physical and emotional wellbeing, and minimize the child’s exposure to harmful conflict between the parents. The plan would also include the limits of each parent’s authority and responsibility, the child's residential schedule, and  a provision for how the parents will settle future disagreements.

Either parent may ask the court for a modification in the permanent parenting plan if a substantial change occurs or if the modification would be in the best interests of the child. If either of the parents wants to move, and that move would affect the parenting plan, then they must file a petition for modification. The judge would look to see if the move was a substantial change in circumstances and whether it is in the best interest of the child to relocate with the parent.

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