10 Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce in Washington State

1. What are the grounds for divorce in Washington State?

Washington State is a no-fault state. That means a spouse does not have to prove the other spouse
did anything wrong to get a divorce. Stating the marriage is “irretrievably broken” as the reason
is enough.

2. When can I get a divorce in Washington State?

A divorce may be granted under the following conditions:

  • You are legally married.
  • You or your spouse resides in Washington State.
  • You or your spouse state the marriage is irretrievably broken.
  • The Petition for Dissolution and Summons are filed.
  • At least 90 days have passed since the Petition for Dissolution and Summons are filed
    and served or a signed “joinder” is filed.

3. Can I get a divorce even if my spouse does not agree to one?

Yes. Agreement is not needed, and there is no way for a spouse to prevent one.

4. Do spouses have to be separated before a divorce can be filed?

No. Washington State does not require the spouses to be separated, or living separate and apart,
prior to filing for divorce.

5. Do both spouses have to live in Washington State to file for divorce here?

No. Only one party, the party filing for a divorce, needs to be a resident of Washington State or a
member of the armed forces stationed in the state.

6. Does my spouse have to reside in Washington State before filing a divorce here?

No, but the general rule is that your spouse must have lived with you in Washington State
before departing for Washington State courts to be able to order a property division or
spousal maintenance. If you have children, other significant contacts with Washington State,
such as conceiving a child in Washington State, may substitute for prior residency for
Washington State to have authority over parenting and child support.

7. If I have children, how long do I have to live in Washington State before filing for Divorce?

The general rule is that the children must have lived in Washington State since birth or the six

months before the divorce action is filed (i.e., Washington State must have “home state”

8. How do I file for a divorce in Washington State?

To start a divorce, a spouse (the “petitioner”) must generally file a petition for dissolution and
summons, and then serve both on the other spouse to start the divorce action and the 90 day
waiting period. The legal term for delivery of legal documents to the other spouse is called
“service of process”.

Exception – Uncontested Divorce – However, if the spouses have come to agreement on
all legal issues beforehand, the case is uncontested and the spouses start the divorce
action by filing a petition with a “joinder”. No summons is necessary.

9. What does a “no-fault” divorce mean?

It means marital misconduct (i.e., adultery, verbal abuse, etc.) is not needed to obtain a divorce,
and, with limited exception, is not considered a factor in determining property division, spousal
maintenance, or child support.

10. Do I need a lawyer to get a Divorce?

No. A lawyer is not required, but is very beneficial. An unrepresented party is at a severe
disadvantage, particularly in complex cases. Legal advice in the form of a consult is always
recommended. If you cannot afford a lawyer for the entire process, lawyers may offer
“unbundled” services for individual legal tasks.