Washington Divorce & Separation
UPDATED: February 27, 2020
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Washington, like every state, has unique laws and procedures governing legal separations and divorces in the state. It’s natural that you might have some questions about these unique laws. What are the legal requirements for separation or divorce in the state of Washington? Are there expedited divorce proceedings available in the state? Is mediation a requirement before you can get a Washington divorce? What is the law on annulments in Washington? Find the answers to your Washington divorce questions here.
Washington Legal Separation:
To the extent that a legal separation will be most conducive to settling marital issues amicably, separations are allowed in Washington. A written agreement that states the need for separate maintenance, disposes of property appropriately, and provides for support for children will generally be allowed.
Grounds for Divorce/Fault – No Fault:
Washington is a no-fault state. This means that the only required ground for dissolution in the state of Washington is the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” Unless the other party denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken, or there is evidence of coercion or other fraud, the court will grant the dissolution. For some general information about this topic, see our article The Divorce Process: From Separation to Final Judgment.
Residency/Where to File for Divorce:
In order to file, Washington divorce courts require that the filing party be either 1) resident of the state of Washington, 2) a member of the armed forces stationed in Washington, or 3) married to a party who meets requirements #1 and/or #2. Before acting on the case, the court will allow 90 days to elapse from the date of a petition for dissolution.
Availability of Simplified or Special Divorce Procedures:
The filing party must file a petition for dissolution of marriage specifying the parties’ agreement to divorce. If the divorce terms are uncontested, the non-filing party may fill out a separate portion of the petition. After this has occurred, the court may issue an expedited divorce decree.
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Divorce Mediation in Washington:
Some matters benefit from being contested in a mediation session rather than a more acrimonious and stressful courtroom setting. If this is the case, a mediation session may be called to resolve these issues. Mediation sessions are frequently utilized when children are involved in order to minimize the negative impact the parents’ acrimony and discord might have on the children.
Annulment in Washington differs from divorce or legal separation proceedings in that the annulment declares the marriage to have been invalid, such that it never properly existed in the first place. Thus, getting divorced or legally separated is unnecessary.
Annulments are granted under a very limited set of circumstances: failure of a party to give voluntary legal consent at the time of the marriage ceremony (because of force, fraud, either party being under the age of18, suffering from mental illness, or being under the influence of drugs or other incapacitating substance), the inability of a party to consummate the marriage with sexual intercourse, bigamy, or incest.
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