Washington Divorce Laws and Regulations

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW), Title 26, governs divorce law, known as dissolution of marriage. A person who wants to pursue dissolution of marriage in Washington is likely to have questions about divorce, child custody, or domestic violence protection orders.

What are the Grounds for a Divorce in Washington?

The sole grounds for a divorce in the State of Washington is “irreconcilable differences.” Washington is a no-fault state, so one spouse needs only to state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” to start the divorce.

What are the Grounds of Jurisdiction for Divorce?

The RCW, Chapter 26.09.030 allows a spouse who is a resident of Washington, who is married to a resident of Washington or who is a member of the military and stationed in Washington for 90 days prior to the filing of the case to seek a divorce. A Court of Appeals case upheld the subject matter jurisdiction statute.

How Do I Obtain Custody of Minor Children?

Either party to the dissolution of marriage may seek custody of minor children. The RCW 26.09.270 requires that a party “seeking a temporary custody order or a temporary parenting plan or modification of a custody decree or parenting plan” submit an affidavit with their motion.

The affidavit needs to state facts supporting the order or modification. The party also provides notice to other parties of the divorce proceedings.

What does the Court Consider When Making Orders Related to Children?

The objectives of a permanent parenting plan are to provide for physical care of children, for maintaining their emotional stability and to provide for the changing needs of children. The court sets forth the responsibilities and authority of each parent and encourages parents to abide by their responsibilities set forth in the permanent parenting plan.

What Financial Orders Does the Court Make in a Divorce Case?

The court makes financial orders related to the disposition of property and liability, communal or separate, in an equitable manner. One exception is that property acquired by inheritance or gift remains solely with the person given the property.

The primary parent of the minor children usually retains the matrimonial home.

The court may order either parent to pay child support.

How does the Court Protect Domestic Violence Victims?

Either party has the right to ask the court for a temporary restraining order under RCW 26.09.060. The court may issue orders restraining a person from transferring, removing or destroying property, or from entering the home, school or workplace of the other party or minor children.

The court may issue domestic violence protection or anti-harassment orders.