Washington Divorce Law

Divorce – State Law Summary – Washington

Notes: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive summary of the laws of divorce in Washington, but does contain basic and other provisions.

No-fault Grounds
The no-fault ground for divorce in the State of Washington is that the marriage is irretrievably broken.  RCW 26.09.030

Waiting Period
At least ninety days must elapse from the date the petition was filed and served upon the respondent before the Court may enter a judgment of dissolution of marriage.  RCW 26.09.030

Residency Requirements
Any party who (1) is a resident of Washington, or (2) is a member of the armed forces and is stationed in Washington, or (3) is married to a party who is a resident of Washington or who is a member of the armed forces and is stationed in Washington may petition the Court for a decree of dissolution of marriage. 26.09.030

Name of court and title of action/parties
An action for dissolution of marriage is filed in the Superior Court or Family Court.  The dissolution action is instituted by the filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, while the document granting the dissolution is referred to as the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.  The party instituting the action is referred to as the Petitioner, and the opposing party is the Respondent.  RCW 26.09.010

Where to File – Venue
The dissolution of marriage action may be filed in any county where either party resides.  RCW 26.09.030

Property Division
In a divorce, the property (land, house, buildings, and items of personal property) owned (and debts owed) by the couple is divided between the parties.  You and your spouse must agree to this division in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, in which you both must join.  You may agree to divide the property any way you like, as long as you both agree. If you cannot agree on any item of this division, the dissolution of marriage transforms into a contested divorce.  In a contested case, 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. RCW 26.09.080

The court may grant a maintenance order for either spouse.  The maintenance order shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, after considering all relevant factors including but not limited to:

(a) 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;
(b) 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;
(c) The standard of living established during the marriage;
(d) The duration of the marriage;
(e) The age, physical and emotional condition, and financial obligations of the spouse seeking maintenance; and
(f) 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.  RCW 26.09.090

Child custody
The State of Washington will award joint or sole custody of minor children of the marriage based upon the best interests of the child(ren).  Every dissolution action requires that each party file and serve a proposed permanent parenting plan on or before the earliest date of:

(a) Thirty days after filing and service by either party of a notice for trial; or
(b) One hundred eighty days after commencement of the action which one hundred eighty day period may be extended by stipulation of the parties.

The parent submitting a proposed parenting plan shall attach a verified statement that the plan is proposed by that parent in good faith.

The parents may make an agreed permanent parenting plan.

The objectives of the permanent parenting plan are to:

(a) Provide for the child’s physical care;
(b) Maintain the child’s emotional stability;
(c) 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;
(d) Set forth the authority and responsibilities of each parent with respect to the child;
(e) Minimize the child’s exposure to harmful parental conflict;
(f) Encourage the parents, where appropriate, to meet their responsibilities to their minor children through agreements in the permanent parenting plan, rather than by relying on judicial intervention; and
(g) To otherwise protect the best interests of the child.

The permanent parenting plan shall contain provisions for resolution of future disputes between the parents, allocation of decision-making authority, and residential provisions for the child. The plan shall allocate decision-making authority to one or both parties regarding the children’s education, health care, and religious upbringing. Regardless of the allocation of decision-making in the parenting plan, either parent may make emergency decisions affecting the health or safety of the child.  Each parent may make decisions regarding the day-to-day care and control of the child while the child is residing with that parent. The plan shall include a residential schedule which designates in which parent’s home each minor child shall reside on given days of the year, including provision for holidays, birthdays of family members, vacations, and other special occasions.  RCW 26.09.184

Child support
The court shall order either or both parents owing a duty of support to any child of the marriage dependent upon either or both spouses to pay an amount determined under the child support guidelines established by the State. In entering a support order, the court shall require either or both parents to maintain or provide health insurance coverage for any child named in the order if:

(a) Coverage that can be extended to cover the child is or becomes available to that parent through employment or is union-related; and
(b) The cost of such coverage does not exceed twenty-five percent of the obligated parent’s basic child support obligation.

The court shall consider the best interests of the child and have discretion to order health insurance coverage when entering or modifying a support order under this chapter if the cost of such coverage exceeds twenty-five percent of the obligated parent’s basic support obligation.  The parents shall maintain such coverage required under this section until:

(a) Further order of the court;
(b) The child is emancipated, if there is no express language to the contrary in the order; or
(c) Health insurance is no longer available through the parents’ employer or union and no conversion privileges exist to continue coverage following termination of employment.

A parent ordered to provide health insurance coverage shall provide proof of such coverage or proof that such coverage is unavailable within twenty days of the entry of the order to:

(a) The physical custodian; or
(b) The department of social and health services if the parent has been notified or ordered to make support payments to the Washington state support registry.  RCW 26.09.100

Name change
In entering a decree of dissolution of marriage, the court shall make provision for the change of name of any party.  RCW 26.09.150

Inside Washington Divorce Law