State Of Washington Divorce Laws

Washington State Family Law And Divorce Resource

U.S. Divorce Laws are enacted by each state using their respective legislative process. Once legislation is enacted into law, the family law courts in Washington state have the authority to manage the divorce proceedings, including, spousal and child support payments, custodial rights of parents and the division of community property.

Since state laws are repealed and amended frequently, it is always advisable to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer before making any important decisions about your marriage.

As of 2016, all states allow for “no fault” divorce. Yet many courts still factor in the respective parties past behavior when determining the division of community property, debts, custody, support and related issues.


On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a right protected by the US Constitution in all 50 states. It follows, therefore, that the rights and obligations between same-sex divorcing parties are subject to the same dissolution laws of that state. Reference: US Supreme Court Opinion: Obergefell v. Hodges.


To meet the Washington state residency requirement, one of the parties must be a resident of the state at the time the divorce action was filed. The court will not enter a final divorce judgment until at least 90 days have passed from the date the divorce was filed by the parties.


Washington state follows the no-fault grounds for divorce, which is the recognition by both parties that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If one 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 and shall: (1) Make a finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken and enter a decree of dissolution of the marriage; or (2) At the request of either party or on its own motion, transfer the cause to the family court, refer them to another counseling service of their choice, and request a report back from the counseling service within sixty days, or continue the matter for not more than sixty days for hearing.


The parties to a marriage may enter into a written separation contract providing for the maintenance of either of them, the disposition of any property owned by both or either of them, the parenting plan and support for their children and for the release of each other from all obligation except that expressed in the contract.


The matter may be sent out for mediation relating to the contested issues before or concurrent with the setting of the matter for hearing. The purpose of the mediation is not reconciliation, but rather to reduce animosity between the parties and to develop an agreement that promotes the child’s close and continuing contact with both parents after the marriage is dissolved.

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Washington is a community property state, meaning that property and debts acquired during the marriage shall be split equally, unless the parties reach an agreement independent of a court ruling. The court will take the following factors into consideration:

  1. The nature and extent of the community property;
  2. The nature and extent of the separate property;
  3. The duration of the marriage; and
  4. 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.


Either spouse can request that the court award spousal support. This term is also known as alimony. Among other factors, the court will consider the following issues in determining fair and just spousal support:

* The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including separate or community property apportioned in the settlement agreement, and the ability to meet his or her needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party;

* 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;

* The standard of living established during the marriage;

* The duration of the marriage;

* The age, physical and emotional condition, and financial obligations of the spouse seeking maintenance; and

* 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.

Special Note: The court may order that the alimony payments be made in a lump sum or over a scheduled term of time.


Upon request of a party whose marriage is dissolved or declared invalid, the court shall order a former name restored or the court may, in its discretion, order a change to another name.


Washington state has determined that the best interests of the child are served by a parenting arrangement that best maintains a child’s emotional growth, health and stability, and physical care. Further, the best interest of the child is ordinarily served when the existing pattern of interaction between a parent and child is altered only to the extent necessitated by the changed relationship of the parents or as required to protect the child from physical, mental, or emotional harm.

If the parents cannot reach an agreement concerning the custody and parenting provisions for children of the marriage, then the court may establish either sole or mutual decision making authority and residential provisions based on, but not limited to the following factors:

  1. The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, including whether a parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child. This factor shall be given the most weight;
  2. The agreements of the parties, provided they were entered into knowingly and voluntarily;
  3. Each parent’s past and potential for future performance of parenting functions;
  4. The emotional needs and developmental level of the child;
  5. The child’s relationship with siblings and with other significant adults, as well as the child’s involvement with his or her physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities;
  6. The wishes of the parents and the wishes of a child who is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to his or her residential schedule; and
  7. Each parent’s employment schedule, and shall make accommodations consistent with those schedules.


Washington uses the “Income Shares” model to determine the level of child support to be paid. This means that the combination of both parents income is used to determine the basic child support obligation. To estimate child support the Washington provides an Online Calculator.

Deviation from the standard calculation (see above) shall be applied in the same manner by the court, presiding officers, and reviewing officers. 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. For more information on enforcing child support refer to the State Online Resource.

In entering or modifying a support order under this chapter, 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.


Learn about the Federal Office of Child Support and Enforcement:




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