Grounds for Divorce in Washington

Posted On March 9, 2022 Divorce,Family Law

Washington is a “no-fault” state when it comes to dissolving a marriage, which means you do not need grounds for divorce. 

What are Grounds for Divorce? 

Grounds for divorce are the legal reasons a couple can be granted a divorce. Those can be based on the fault of a spouse or other parties, or it may be no fault. The grounds you need for divorce vary based on the state in which you live. In Washington, divorcing couples can obtain a divorce on the no-fault grounds that their marriage is irretrievably broken. In other words, the marital differences are unresolvable, and reconciliation is hopeless.

In contrast, fault-based states require a spouse to prove that the other is guilty of fault grounds for divorce, which vary by state. Some of the most common grounds are:

  • Adultery
  • Abandonment
  • Substance abuse
  • A felony conviction

The courts will then consider marital misconduct when granting the divorce, dividing property, and awarding alimony. In Washington, you do not have to tell the court what led to your divorce, and a spouse’s behavior will not be considered when granting the divorce. 

Can I Ask for a Fault Divorce in Washington?

Washington is an exclusively no-fault divorce state, so you cannot ask for a fault-based divorce. However, it is usually enough for the court to grant a divorce when only one spouse files and states that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The other spouse typically cannot prevent the divorce but may delay the process if they deny that the marriage has suffered an irretrievable breakdown. In those cases, the court may refer the couple to counseling, request a report from the counseling services professional, or require the case to be transferred to family court. This delay can go on for up to 60 days, but if 60 days have passed and the couple has not reconciled, the court must grant the divorce. 

The Divorce Process in Washington

There are a number of steps involved in divorce proceedings. 


As long as one party resides in or is stationed in Washington as a member of the armed forces, one spouse (the Petitioner) can file a petition for divorce with the court. 

Serving Divorce Papers

The Petitioner must serve a copy of the petition to the other spouse (the Respondent) and prove to the court that they received it.

Contested or Uncontested

The Respondent must file a response to the petition if they disagree with the terms or can sign the “joinder” on the petition if they agree. If they do not contest the divorce, there is a 90-day waiting period before the divorce can be finalized. 

Temporary Orders

A spouse can request pendente lite, or temporary court orders, for the court to decide issues such as child custody, visitation schedules, spousal maintenance, child support, etc. while the divorce is still pending. 

Parenting Seminar

If children are involved, the spouses must attend a parenting seminar. 


Each party will exchange information, including facts and documents related to the case, in preparation for settlement or trial. 


When the parties can resolve their disputed issues, whether through their attorneys or in divorce mediation, a written settlement document can be filed with the Ex Parte Department commissioner. If the commissioner approves the settlement agreement, the divorce is final. 


When the parties cannot reach an agreement, a final hearing will be held for each spouse or their attorney to present their case. The judge will decide on the disputed issues then grant a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. 


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