If you live in Washington and are facing a possible divorce, it helps to be familiar with the laws so that you can keep a cool head during proceedings. According to Washington state court's Family Law Handbook (page 5), Washington must be your permanent home at the time you file, but you do not have to live there for any previous length of time before filing.
Washington is a no-fault divorce state. The only permissible ground for divorce is that the marriage is "irretrievably broken," and only one spouse has to prove that the marriage is irretrievably broken. In other words, you can get a divorce in Washington state, even your spouse does not agree that the marriage is beyond repair.
How to File
To get your divorce started in Washington, you must file the appropriate documents:
- The petitioning spouse must file a summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
- The filing spouse must serve the petition on the responding spouse.
- Responding spouses who live in Washington have 20 days to file a response. (Family Law Guide, pg 5) Spouses who live out of state have 60 days to reply.
The summons and petition must be filed with the court and served upon the other spouse for more than 90 days before the judge signs the "Decree of Dissolution of Marriage" formally ending the marriage and the divorce proceedings.
Dividing the Property
- The type and value of both the community property and separate property
- The length of the marriage
- Each party's financial circumstances and whether it's best for one spouse to stay in the family home with the kids
A spouse who seeks "spousal maintenance" or alimony, must specifically request it in his or her divorce papers. In determining the need, duration, and amount of maintenance, the court considers the following factors:
- The financial resources of the spouse who is seeking support
- How long it will take the recipient to receive training or education to allow her to find suitable employment
- The length of the marriage
- The standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage
- Each spouse's age, financial obligations, and health
- The paying spouse's ability to meet his financial needs
Washington case law also requires courts to equalize the parties' finances in marriages that lasted at least 25 years. If this means one spouse needs spousal maintenance for life, the court must grant it.
Child Support and Custody
One of the court's biggest concerns is the welfare of children in divorce. Washington courts determine custody and child support issues with the best interests of the children in mind.
Washington divorce law requires a parenting plan in any divorce case involving children. Any parenting plan must include the following:
- A schedule of where the children will live and when
- Division of responsibility for decision making regarding medical and educational needs
- A statement of how the parents plan on handling future disputes
Both parents are required to support their children financially and emotionally. Child support is based on the Washington Child Support Schedule. Washington courts retain the authority to modify child support if circumstances change later on. Courts grant modifications in a variety of circumstances, including changes in the child's needs or in cases where a parent's income goes up or down. Child support orders are enforced by payroll deduction. The money deducted from a parent's check is paid to the Washington State Child Support Registry from the day the support order goes into effect. Mandatory payroll deductions are available as a way to collect child support when the paying parent has fallen behind on a child support obligation.
If you wish to end your marriage in Washington, you should start by prioritizing the issues in your case. Deciding which items are most important will help you work with your spouse to divide properly and settle other issues as amicably as possible.