How to File Divorce in Washington State

How to File Divorce in Washington State

Did you know, Washington is the only state named after a President, and no President has ever gotten divorced?  If you are considering a divorce, though, you need to review these laws in Washington.

Residency and time limits

Unlike many other states, you do not have to be a resident of Washington for a specific amount of time before you can file for a divorce.  

The law will still keep you from moving to the state and immediately getting a divorce, though.

The divorce cannot be granted until 90 days have elapsed after the petition for divorce is filed.  

Grounds for divorce

Washington only grants divorce on a no-fault basis.

That means a couple just has to say that their marriage is “irretrievably broken” and then the judge can grant a divorce.  Fault divorces, which required couples to prove their spouse did something wrong, are no longer allowed in Washington even though they continue to exist in many other states.

This basically just means that if the couple wants to break up they can.

If at least one spouse says the marriage is broken, then the court is typically going to grant the divorce.  Washington does have provisions that require the judge to consider the prospect of reconciliation.

If one spouse refuses to admit that the marriage is irretrievably broken, then the court can decide the marriage is not dead and can pause the divorce process while the couple gets counseling.

In reality, very few people are sent to marriage counseling against their will.  If at least one spouse wants out the divorce will usually be granted.

Do it yourself

Having two spouses hire lawyers to fight each other over every little thing can get very expensive.  The reality is that most couples do not have the resources to launch those kinds of fights.

Instead, it makes more sense for many couples to do the divorce themselves at a minimal cost.  The Washington court system tries to accommodate this by providing forms that are easy to understand and can be completed by the general public.  

Splitting the community property

Washington is one of only a handful of states that follow the “community property” system.

The idea is that everything the couple gains during the marriage, including all their income, is owned equally between the two of them regardless of whose name is on it.  So a husband equally owns a bank account that is only in his wife’s name.

Property that one spouse receives as a gift or inheritance is not part of the community property.  At divorce, the court will split the property and debts in a way that is “just and equitable.”  That means the judge can do whatever they want, though the split usually ends up being about equal.  

Caring for children

When a divorce is finalized the court will usually issue a final parenting plan for any children of the divorcing couple.  The spouses are required to propose their own plans and then attend a settlement conference if they cannot agree.  

The court may also order one spouse to pay child support to the other to help share the costs of raising the child.

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