Washington Divorce Laws

Posted On October 1, 2021 Divorce

Whether or not you retain a Spokane divorce attorney, it is critical to understand the laws related to getting a divorce in Washington so that you can have the best possible outcome for your situation. Several statutes outline divorce and family law matters, but RCW Title 26 is the most notable. 

Grounds for Divorce in Washington

Washington is exclusively a “no-fault” state, which means you do not have to have grounds for a divorce. In other words, the court does not need to be aware of a spouse’s behaviors that led to a divorce. All that is required is that one spouse is a resident of the state, and both parties agree the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Meaning there is no chance of reconciliation. (RCW 26.09.030)

Washington’s Residency Requirement

Under RCW 26.09.010 and 26.09.030, the state requires the following to dissolve a marriage:

  • One of the parties must be a resident of the state or stationed in Washington as an armed forces member. 
  • A 90-day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized by the court. 
  • The petition for Dissolution of Marriage is generally filed in the county in which the filing spouse resides. 

Marital Property in Washington

Marital property is generally all assets acquired during a marriage, except for inheritances or gifts given to one spouse and has remained separate from marital assets. (RCW 26.09.080)

Division of Assets

As a community property state, marital assets are divided 50/50 in a divorce. If you do not want an equal split, spouses have the option of reaching a divorce settlement agreement on their own. However, the court will only approve the agreement if it is fair. 

Debts

Debts accumulated during a couple’s marriage will also be subject to equal division. 

Spousal Maintenance

While a divorce case is ongoing, a judge can order temporary spousal maintenance, as well as when the case ends. A spouse may be entitled to spousal maintenance (alimony) if the divorce will make it challenging for them to maintain a similar standard of living as they had during the marriage. See RCW § 26-09-090.

Parenting Time and Child Custody

Divorcing parents are required to establish a parenting plan, which will define each parent’s role in their child’s custody. The parties have the option to submit their own or offer one together. A judge will decide whether their custody proposal will become an official court order. If the parties cannot agree on a parenting plan, a judge will decide in trial. (RCW 26.09.181)

Child Support

The court may order one or both divorcing parents to pay child support. It will typically depend on the custody arrangement and each parent’s income. The noncustodial parent will normally be responsible for child support payments, which is the parent who spends less than half of the time with the child. The state provides child support guidelines for calculating payments, but the parents can agree to pay more. In any case, a judge must approve the final child support amount. (RCW 26.09.100)

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