Washington Divorce Laws
The state of Washington has unique divorce laws for people who wish to terminate their marriage.
We are providing this online divorce information to you as an easy divorce reference guide to help you while you are doing your own divorce. This information (and much more) is available inside your personal 3StepDivorce account area in order to help you understand how Washington addresses the most important issues in the divorce process and certain elements throughout your divorce forms.
The following overview of Washington divorce laws will help you understand the filing procedure and other primary issues concerning your divorce. Please keep in mind that our Washington online divorce service and support staff will make the process easy for you from start to finish. We take the difficulty out of doing your own divorce.
Residency Requirements: In order to file for a Dissolution of Marriage in Washington, you or your spouse must meet the strict residency requirements. These requirements permit the court to have jurisdiction of your case, resulting in allowing you to use their judicial system. These requirements are only a concern for spouses who have recently relocated or plan to relocate in the near future. They are as follows:
When a party who (1) Is a resident of this state, or (2) Is a member of the armed forces and is stationed in this state, or (3) 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.
Petitions for a dissolution of marriage, and alleges that the marriage is irretrievably broken will not be acted upon by the court until 90 days has elapsed since the filing and the service of summons on the respondent.
The Dissolution of Marriage is typically filed with in county in which the filing spouse resides. (Revised Code of Washington - Title 26 - Chapters: 26.09.010, 26.09.030)
No-Fault Grounds: Most uncontested Dissolution of Marriage cases are filed according to a "no-fault" ground. We are using the term "no-fault" in a generic fashion by labeling all grounds that do not actually declare a "fault" as "no-fault". In the state of Washington the "no-fault" grounds are as follows:
The only grounds for a dissolution of marriage in the state of Washington is, "Irretrievable Breakdown of the Marriage".
If the other party joins in the petition or does not deny that the marriage 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 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. (Revised Code of Washington - Title 26 - Chapters: 26.09.030)
Filing Party Name: The Petitioner. This is the spouse who is recognized as the initiator of the Dissolution of Marriage and is the one who actually files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the county court.
Non-Filing Party Name: The Respondent. This spouse plays a lesser role in an uncontested Dissolution of Marriage versus a contested Dissolution of Marriage. He or she will be required to sign and/or respond in a timely fashion to the documents filed by his or her spouse.
Family Law or Domestic Relations Court: In the __________ Court of the State of Washington, in and for the County of __________. All Dissolution of Marriage cases in the state of Washington are facilitated through this court for that particular county.
Clerk's Name: All correspondence with a Washington clerk of the court should formally address him or her as follows: County Clerk's Office of the Family Court.
Property and Debt Division: Washington is considered a "community property" state. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on how the community property will be divided, the court shall use a three step process. First, it will determine what property is community. Second, it will put a value on the community property. Third, it will divide the community property in an equal fashion.
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: (A) The nature and extent of the community property; (B) The nature and extent of the separate property; (C) The duration of the marriage; 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 a spouse with whom the children reside the majority of the time. (Revised Code of Washington - Title 26 - Chapters: 26.09.080, 26.16.010, 26.16.020, 26.16.030, 26.16.220)
Spousal Support, Maintenance, or Alimony: Determining the amount of spousal support, if any, is not as objective as determining child support. Spousal support, whether permanent or temporary, is typically decided on a case-by-case basis, because it is very likely that unique circumstances and factors regarding the marriage and the property award will play a significant role in allowing the court to arrive at the appropriate amount.
When determining a support award, the court, without regard to marital misconduct, will consider 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. (Revised Code of Washington - Title 26 - Chapters: 26.09.050, 26.09.090, 26.09.120)
Custody and Visitation: Shared or joint child custody has become more and more popular with the Washington courts. If you and your spouse request to have joint or shared "legal" custody, it will almost always be granted. As for joint or shared "physical" custody, the court will examine this a bit more closely to determine if it is a realistic choice that would result in an arrangement that is best for the children.
Custody, whether joint or sole, will be awarded to the father or the mother or both based on the best interests of the children. With each petition filed with minor children, the parties must also have a proposed parenting plan to be approved by the court.
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) Set 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 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. (Revised Code of Washington - Title 26 - Chapters: 26.09.181, 26.09.220)
Determining Child Support: The basis for determining a monthly support amount is best achieved by referring to the Washington child support worksheet. The worksheet utilizes the child support guidelines that are defined by state law. The court will use this same worksheet as a building block for determining the support obligation, that is if you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on this issue.
Written findings of fact supported by the evidence. An order for child support shall be supported by written findings of fact upon which the support determination is based and shall include reasons for any deviation from the standard calculation and reasons for denial of a party's request for deviation from the standard calculation. The court shall enter written findings of fact in all cases whether or not the court: (a) Sets the support at the presumptive amount, for combined monthly net incomes below five thousand dollars; (b) sets the support at an advisory amount, for combined monthly net incomes between five thousand and seven thousand dollars; or (c) deviates from the presumptive or advisory amounts.
Completion of worksheets. Worksheets in the form developed by the administrative office of the courts shall be completed under penalty of perjury and filed in every proceeding in which child support is determined. The court shall not accept incomplete worksheets or worksheets that vary from the worksheets developed by the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Tax returns for the preceding two years and current paystubs shall be provided to verify income and deductions. Other sufficient verification shall be required for income and deductions which do not appear on tax returns or paystubs.
Reasons for deviation from the standard calculation include but are not limited to the following: (a) Sources of income and tax plannings, (b) Nonrecurring income. (c) Debt and high expenses. (d) Residential schedule. (e) Children from other relationships. (Revised Code of Washington - Title 26 - Chapters: 26.09.040, 26.09.050, 26.09.100, 26.09.120)
Copyright Notice: These Washington divorce laws above are copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This abbreviated and revised version of the state laws has been compiled from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction in any fashion is prohibited. Violation of this copyright notice may result in immediate legal action.
A Simple Divorce Process
Visit Our Support Sites - Divorce Support & Divorce Source
Disclaimer: This is a quality non-lawyer self-help divorce solution. The 3StepDivorce Documentation software and service is not a substitute for the advice of a lawyer. Divorce Source, Inc. does not practice law and does not give out legal advice. The software and service allows you to represent yourself in doing your own divorce. If you need or desire legal representation we recommend that you hire a lawyer. Click here to learn more about our service.