Washington Divorce Laws

Divorce Laws in Washington State

Washington is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means that the only grounds necessary to obtain a divorce in Washington is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Under Washington law, there is a mandatory 90-day wait upon filing a Petition for Dissolution. The parties must then address the division of property, including assets and debts, as well as parenting, child support, and spousal support or alimony, which is called spousal maintenance in Washington. There are many options available to divorcing couples today to address these issues, including Collaborative Law and Mediation.

The process to obtain a legal separation is similar to that of divorce. The same issues must be addressed by the parties involved, including division of assets and debts, parenting, child support, and spousal maintenance. However, upon obtaining a legal separation, unlike a divorce, the parties are still legally married.

Washington Divorce Requirements

The state of Washington has specific residency requirements that need to be met prior to filing for divorce. Divorce cases are handled by the county circuit court system, which means where individuals file for divorce is important.

Prior to submitting a divorce petition in Washington an individual must first reside within the state borders and be a state resident. Those who are stationed in Washington for service in the armed forces are considered state residents and may petition for divorce.

Also, all those who are currently married to a Washington state resident or an individual serving in the United States armed forces may petition for a Washington divorce.

If both individuals reside within the state but live in separate counties, either individual may petition for divorce in either county. When individuals file for divorce on the claims of irreconcilable differences, at least ninety days must pass before the court will continue the filing process and summon the opposing spouse.

Grounds for Divorce

When individuals file for divorce they must also state why they desire a divorce. This is called the grounds for divorce. Each state has different grounds for divorce.

Washington divorcing grounds will not be legal in the surrounding states. Prior to filing the individuals involved will decide upon which grounds they will file and present them to the court. If only one individual is filing for divorce, he or she will need to prove these decided grounds before the court.

Washington divorce grounds include the grounds of irretrievable breakage. This is where the couple states that the marriage is diminished beyond repair. Under these circumstances, many couples first enter into marriage counseling prior to filing for divorce. The grounds of irretrievable breakage also do not name one individual responsible for the divorce decree.

Under these grounds, both individuals must agree that the marriage is beyond repair before the court will consider granting a divorce petition. If one individual opposes that the marriage is beyond repair, the court will consider the situation and the reasoning for the claims.

If the court cannot find a true reason to grant the divorce, the petition will be dismissed. The circumstances of the marriage and any possible means of reconciling will also be considered before a decision is discussed.

Child Support

In the State of Washington, divorcing couples are required by law to enter an Order of Child Support and related worksheets. Child support is determined by the parent’s net income. The Economic Table determines the basic child support obligation of both parents using their combined net incomes. The amount of child support is further based on the total number of children in the family, but the parent’s financial obligations to children of other relationships, as well as their own financial circumstances, are also a factor. Parents have some latitude in setting the amount of child support in certain situations, but generally, this amount is determined by law.

The collaborative process, as well as uncontested and amicable solutions, offers parents the opportunity to reach their own agreements, and to provide their children with financial support based on their specific needs and circumstances, while still operating within the framework of the law.

Spousal Support

Spousal support, or alimony, which is called spousal maintenance in Washington, entails payment of money from one spouse to the other. Unlike child support, it is not obligatory, nor is it determined by an economic table. Instead, spousal maintenance is guided by a set of factors laid out in the law. These factors include consideration of the length of the parties’ marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, the receiving spouse’s financial need and ability to support himself or herself, including the ability to provide financially for any children in the household and the paying spouse’s ability to pay and still meet his/her own financial needs.

Spousal maintenance is a device that can be used from an equitable approach, to help reach a fair financial result between spouses. It can also be used to help a lower-earning spouse, or a spouse just entering or returning to the workforce to get through the transition of becoming self-supportive.

A financial specialist is often used in the collaborative process to create a detailed financial report and analysis of the parties’ projected financial futures. This can be an extremely beneficial tool in helping the p

Distributing Property

When a divorce petition is to be granted, the individuals must then divide the acquired marital property. The state of Washington is considered a community property state where all the property in the marriage is to be divided equally between the individuals.

Other states may be considered equitable property states where the property is distributed fairly, rather than equally. If those involved cannot reach a decision on who shall claim which kind of property, the court will intervene.

The court will consider all the factors surrounding the marriage when dividing the property. These things include which spouse has custody of subsequent children, the individual’s employment status, the length of the marriage, each individual’s contribution to the household, and each individual’s economic status.

The court will also consider any circumstances of desertion, infidelity, and marital misconduct.