Filing for Divorce in the State of Washington

Filing for Divorce in the State of Washington

Divorce Law Cheat Sheet for the State of Washington

1. What are the residency requirements for filing for divorce in Washington?

You or your spouse must be a resident of Washington or a member of the armed services stationed in the state to file for a divorce there.

2. Does Washington have a waiting period?

Yes. The court will not hold a hearing in your case until at least 90 days after you file.

3. Does the state have grounds for divorce?

You may file on the ground that your marriage is irretrievably broken. If your spouse does not disagree, the court can proceed. If your spouse says that you filed the petition for divorce because of fraud or you were coerced to do so, the court will investigate and may or may not dismiss your petition for divorce. If your spouse disagrees that your marriage is irretrievably broken, the court may: rule that your marriage is, in fact, irretrievably broken transfer your case to family court, refer you to counseling and request a report from the counselor within 60 days, then rule on your case delay your hearing for 60 days and then rule on your case.

4. How does Washington determine the division of property?

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You and your spouse are encouraged to come up with a settlement on your own and present it to the court. If you can’t agree, the court will divide your property for you. The court will divide your community property and your separate property. In Washington, your community property is all property that you and your spouse acquired after your marriage. Your separate property is: property you acquired before you were married, property you acquired by gift or inheritance (this includes gifts from your spouse), and property you received in exchange for your separate property.

The court will divide your property in whatever way it finds most equitable, or fair, without taking into account any misconduct on the part of you or your spouse. In determining what is fair, the court will consider:

  • What kind of community property you and your spouse have.
  • How much and what kind of separate property you and your spouse have.
  • How long you were married you and your spouse’s economic circumstances.
  • Whethe parent with primary physical custody of your child should receive or have the right to live in your family home.

5. Does Washington require mediation before a divorce is granted?

Mediation is not a requirement, but the court may order it in your case to resolve any disputes between you and your spouse over child custody or visitation (unless there is evidence of domestic violence or child abuse).

6. How does the state determine child custody?

Legal custody and physical custody are two different things. Legal custody outlines how involved each parent is in the major decisions of a child’s life — where a child goes to school, what faith he or she is raised in and other biggies.

Physical custody addresses where a child will live and with whom. Visitation is then negotiated based your physical custody arrangement.The state recognizes the importance of continued parent-child relationships as long as they are in your child’s best interest. You and your spouse each will be required to submit a proposed parenting plan within 30 days of filing or being served with notice or 180 days after your case has begun. You also may submit a plan together.

If one of you fails to file a plan and the other submits a plan that meets the court’s standards, the court may adopt the plan that was submitted. You each must attach a verified statement to your proposed parenting plans saying you developed it in good faith.You and your spouse may be required to attend a settlement conference, at which you review your proposed parenting plans and any other issues with a judge.

Your permanent parenting plan must:

  • Describe your child’s physical care, including holidays, vacations and special occasions.
  • Maintain your child’s emotional stability.
  • Address your child’s changing needs as he or she grows, with the idea of minimizing future modifications to your plan.
  • Identify you and your spouse’s rights and responsibilities toward your child, including education, health care and religious upbringing.
  • Minimize your child’s exposure to conflict between you and your spouse.
  • Include a way to try to resolve disputes first without going to court.
  • Protect your child’s best interest.

In considering whether to approve joint decision-making, the court will weigh these criteria:

  • You and your spouse’s past participation in making decisions regarding your child.
  • Whether you and your spouse have shown an ability to cooperate with each other in decision-making.
  • How close you and your spouse will live to each other and how that affects your ability to make mutual decisions.

The court also will evaluate your residential schedule to be sure it complies with the state’s guidelines. In addition, the court will consider these factors:

  • Your child’s relationship with you and your spouse.
  • Any agreement that you and your spouse made voluntarily.
  • Uou and your spouse’s past and potential performance as parents, including whether one of you has taken greater responsibility for your child’s daily needs.
  • Your child’s emotional needs and developmental level.
  • Your child’s relationship with his or her siblings or other people significant in his or her life.
  • Your child’s involvement in his or her school, community or activities.
  • You and your spouse’s wishes your child’s wishes, if the court considers him or her mature enough to express a preference.
  • You and your spouse’s work schedules.
  • Mutual decision-making and residential time will be affected if there’s any evidence of abandonment; physical, sexual or emotional abuse; or domestic violence.

Your child’s grandparents may also seek visitation with your child. The court will take into consideration whether they have a significant relationship with your child and whether it would be in your child’s best interest. To evaluate your child’s best interest in this case, the court will take into consideration:

  • The relationship between your child’s grandparents and you or your spouse.
  • The reason you or your spouse object to visitation.
  • The effects of visitation on your child’s relationship with you and your spouse.
  • Your child’s residential schedule with you and your spouse.
  • The intentions of your child’s grandparents.
  • Any evidence of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect on the part of your child’s grandparents.
  • Any other factor the court considers relevant.

7. How does the state calculate child support?

You and your spouse’s monthly basic child support is based on your combined net incomes and the number of children you have. The sum indicated by the state’s chart is divided between you and your spouse proportionately based on the same proportions as your individual incomes are to the combined total.

Ordinary health care expenses are included in the state’s economic table. Monthly health care expenses greater than five percent of the basic support obligation are considered extraordinary health care expenses, which are shared by you and your spouse in the same proportions as your basic child support. Daycare and special child rearing expenses, such as tuition and long-distance transportation costs between you and your spouse for visitation, are not included in the table. These expenses are shared in the same proportion as the basic child support obligation.

The court also will address the federal income tax exemption for your child, awarding it to one of you or the other, or divide it in some way. The court may order support different from the standard in considering the following:

  • Income from other adults in the household (or later, a new spouse) only if the parent who will be living with.
  • The other adults (or remarrying) is asking for a deviation for some other reason than this new income child support received from other relationships.
  • Gifts prizes wealth held in savings, investments, real estate, business interests, vehicles, insurance plans and other such assets.
  • Extraordinary income earned by your child.
  • Tax planning considerations.
  • Non-recurring income, if the standard calculation included this amount from overtime, bonuses, income from a second job or the like.
  • Extraordinary debt beyond your control.
  • The special needs of any disabled children.
  • Any other special medical, educational or psychological needs of your child.

The court also will modify your support if your child spends a significant amount of time with the spouse paying support, but only when it doesn’t leave the parent receiving support with insufficient funds; and only when it does change the expenses in each household significantly. In addition, the court will take into account any support that you pay for children from other relationships.

It may or may not order you and your spouse to support your child’s college education. In considering this obligation, the court will determine whether your child is, in fact, dependent on you for basic necessities, as well as:

  • Your child’s age.
  • You and your spouse’s expectations for your child while you were married.
  • Your child’s potential, desire, aptitude and abilities.
  • The type of education your child is seeking.
  • You and your spouse’s level of education.
  • You and your spouse’ s standard of living and current and future resources.
  • The amount and type of support you would have offered your child had you stayed married.
  • Your child has to enroll in an accredited academic or vocational school, take classes toward his or her academic goals and remain in good academic standing.
  • Your child will have to show both you and your spouse all of his or her academic grades and records.
  • Support would end when your child turns 23, unless there is some special circumstance such as a physical, mental or emotional disability.

8. How does the state determine and calculate alimony?

Alimony, also known as maintenance, is not a standard part of a divorce case, but either you or your spouse may request it. If you decide to seek alimony, the court will take into account these factors when deciding whether to award it and if so, how much:

  • Your financial resources, including the separate and community property you received in your divorce.
  • Your ability to meet your needs on your own and whether support for your child includes a sum for you as well.
  • How long it would take for you to acquire the training or education necessary to get a job.
  • You and your spouse’s standard of living while you were married.
  • How long you were married.
  • Your age, physical and emotional condition and financial obligations,
  • Your spouse’s ability to meet his or her own needs while paying alimony.
  • Any misconduct during your marriage is not a factor in deciding alimony.

9. Is there a waiting period before remarriage in Washington?

No. Your divorce is final when the decree is entered. As long as any appeal doesn’t challenge the finding that your marriage was irretrievably broken, you are free to remarry.


Washington’s state statutes can be found online here.

Please note: Local and state laws change constantly, therefore this information is for educational purposes only. We do our best to keep state-specific information up-to-date, but please contact us to discuss your unique situation.

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