If you've considered separating or getting a divorce in Washington, this page provides resources and information to help you prepare. You can review experienced local divorce lawyers, download divorce forms or access divorce services for doing your own paperwork online, and use the support schedule worksheet to estimate child support. You can also read through the online divorce laws, find support meetings, access domestic violence resources, and get information on parenting classes.
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Washington recognizes domestic partnerships, and the following information applies to both dissolution of marriage (divorce) and dissolution of domestic partnership situations.
Residency requirements & grounds for divorce - In Washington, a divorce is called "dissolution of marriage". You may file for dissolution of marriage if either you or your spouse is a resident of the state. If your spouse is a military member stationed in Washington, they must continue to reside in the state for 90 after the petition is filed and the summons is served for the state to have jurisdiction in the matter.
A decree of dissolution may be entered based on the grounds that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If a spouse alleges they were coerced into filing the petition, the court may dismiss the petition. If one party denies the marriage is irretrievably broken, the couple could be referred to counseling by the court. If the couple agrees to reconcile, the petition will be dismissed. If the couple hasn't reconciled and the court finds the marriage irretrievably broken, the court will grant a decree of dissolution of marriage.
Legal separation - Spouses may get a legal separation providing for the division of property, spousal maintenance, the parenting plan and support provisions for their children, and the release from the other spouse's future liabilities.
Conversion of legal separation to a decree of dissolution - Either party can motion to convert a legal separation to a decree of dissolution if at least 6 months have passed since the legal separation was decreed.
Division of property and liabilities - Washington is a community property state. The court will divide the property and the liabilities of the parties, either community or separate, in a just and equitable manner without regard to misconduct, based on:
Spousal maintenance orders - The court may grant an order for the maintenance of either spouse, without considering the misconduct of either party. When determining the amounts and duration of maintenance, some of the factors the court will consider are:
Maintenance may be modified upon a showing of a substantial change of circumstances. The obligation to pay maintenance ends if either party dies or upon the remarriage of the party receiving maintenance.
Name change - Either party may request a former name to be restored upon the dissolution of marriage.
Child support: Child support is established using the Washington State Support Schedule, considering both parent's incomes and the child's basic needs, with the obligation being equitably allocated between the parents. In split custody situations, such as those in which one of the children lives with one parent, and the other child lives with the other parent, the court can adjust the monthly support amount.
The court requires both parents to provide medical support for their children. Monthly health care costs are to be shared by the parents in the same proportion as the basic child support obligation, as well as daycare, tuition, and long-distance transportation costs to and from the parents for visitation purposes.
Child support may be modified via a petition for Modification of Child Support or a motion for Adjustment of Child Support based upon a showing of substantially changed circumstances at any time. An order of child support may be modified one year or more after it has been entered without a showing of substantially changed circumstances.
Child support generally stops when a child is 18 or graduates from high school, but can be extended for postsecondary educational support. The court won't order postsecondary educational support beyond a child's twenty-third birthday, except for exceptional circumstances, such as mental, physical, or emotional disabilities. Unless there are provisions otherwise, child support will be terminated by the death of the parent obligated to support the child.
Child Custody: The state of Washington doesn't refer to the term "custody", but instead discusses the residential schedule and decision-making authority for the children.
If the parents can't agree, the court will make the residential and decision-making provisions based on the child's best interests. The most important factor that the court will consider regarding the residential schedule is the relative strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent. The court will also take into consideration:
The parents also need to reach an agreement on the allocation of decision-making authority regarding the child's schooling, health care, and religious upbringing. The court will generally approve an agreement between the parents regarding decision-making-authority if it is fair and reached voluntarily. If parents can't reach an agreement, the court may order either sole decision-making authority if the parents can't cooperate, or mutual decision-making authority based on the parent's geographic proximity and their ability to cooperate with one another.
Everything regarding issues concerning the children will be incorporated into a parenting plan. A permanent parenting plan contains provisions for resolving future disputes between the parents, residential provisions for the child, allocation of decision-making authority, and relocation stipulations. The parenting plan shall include a residential schedule designating in which parent's home each minor child will reside on given days of the year, including provisions for holidays, birthdays of family members, vacations, and other special occasions.
Need a Family Lawyer? Give the details of your situation and receive a response from a local divorce attorney who can discuss your options and take your case. Receive your free family law case review now!
WA State Bar Association - You can search for qualified Family Law attorneys in your area by using the myWSBA lawyer directory which is accessible from the site. They also offer information on how to search for legal clinics and programs to help you with your situation. Even though the State Bar Association doesn't directly operate a lawyer referral service, you can get referrals from the various county bar associations, and the contact information for these is listed on the website as well. You can also access consumer information pamphlets on the site to get more information about your legal issues.
Equitable Mediation Services
Phone: (425) 329-8609
Office Locations: Serving clients throughout Washington State
It’s a common misconception that you need to hire an attorney to get divorced. But there's a better alternative for many couples. You can choose to work with a divorce mediator to help you negotiate your divorce, as opposed to battling it out in court and having a judge make the decisions in your case.
A mediated divorce is typically much less expensive and takes considerably less time than a litigated divorce. In mediation, the focus is shifted towards solutions as opposed to pointing out blame. As a result, mediation can help you reach an agreement you’re comfortable with while helping preserve a civil relationship with your spouse for the sake of your children.
If you want your divorce to be peaceful, fair, and cost-effective, contact us to find out more about our customized flat-fee mediation services.
Get your uncontested divorce papers completed without having to hire a lawyer! This premium divorce service helps you prepare your paperwork online by answering guided questions about the specifics of your divorce and settlement issues.
Pierce County Parenting Seminars - In Pierce County, divorce parents are required to attend the "Impact on Children" workshop. Visit the link or call (253) 565-4484 for information.
Children in Between Online Program - Most counties in Washington, except King county, accept the certificate of completion from this program. Before enrolling, confirm with your country clerk that this class will be accepted.
Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-562-6025
Shelter Services, Hotlines, and Member Programs