What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Washington State?

March 24, 2023

Many people who are considering divorce wonder what kind of reason, or “grounds” they need to have to do so. The good news is that all 50 states, including Washington state, have no-fault divorces. This means that people can divorced for the simple fact that it’s “just not working out” between the two of them. In the past, this was less common. Older laws often required people to have a cause for divorce as a means to discourage it in the first place.

Today, however, millions of people file for divorce for “irreconcilable differences” because they just can’t make the marriage work. For the courts, that is usually more than enough to proceed with the divorce case. The main reason that people choose to file an at-fault divorce with grounds involved is that they want the divorce or custody matters to work out in their favor.

For example, if one spouse can choose that the other is abusive and cheating regularly, they can often get full custody of the children and a better division of the assets. They will usually get to keep the marital home when they get the kids, too, so there’s a lot at stake here. For those who have gone beyond the point of trying to amicably resolve things, there’s certainly plenty of cause for filing a divorce with provable grounds.

If you choose to go that route, here’s what you need to know.


Common Grounds for Divorce in Washington

If you do wish to file a divorce based on fault, you will have to prove your case very clearly. Although every case is different, the most common reasons people file for divorce when they have cause include:

Mutual Consent

If it can be proven that one of the spouses did not consent or was incapable of consenting at the time of marriage, this can be used as the grounds for divorce.


When one spouse commits adultery, the other spouse can file for divorce because of that if they desire. Again, however, you will have to make sure that you have proof of this, whether it be texts, pictures, or other information.


Of course, if someone is getting divorced because their spouse is abusive, neglectful, or otherwise cruel toward them, they can petition the court for this reason. It may help them get a more favorable outcome.


In the event one spouse deserts the other, this can be grounds for divorce. It may be used in an attempt to get a better outcome, as well as to retain custody of the children or prove the other parent is unfit in some way because they deserted the family.

Mental Disorders 

Some divorces happen because one spouse has a severe mental health condition. This can not only affect the marriage, but also the children. In cases where custody is concerned, this is often a common argument that one parent will use to keep the kids away from the mentally ill parent.

Presumed Death

In some instances, a spouse may be able to file for divorce with the outcome in their favor on the basis that the other spouse is presumed to be dead. This is often much more difficult to prove, but after a certain amount of time, it becomes easier. It’s rare, but it is a reason that is used.


Of course, these aren’t the only grounds for divorce that you can file. You can talk to a divorce attorney to learn more about the different reasons and whether you need one at all. You may just choose to file a divorce or dissolution based on “irreconcilable differences” and that will be enough—it all depends on how you want the divorce proceedings to go and what situation you are facing.


Residency Requirements for Divorce in Washington State

Washington only requires at least one of the spouses to live in the state to file for divorce. There is no time requirement for residency in this state. That means that whether you’ve lived there for 30 days or 30 years, you can still file for divorce.

You can also file for divorce in Washington state if you are married to:

  • Someone who is a resident of the state
  • A military member stationed in the state

Furthermore, if you are a military member that is stationed in Washington, you are permitted to file for divorce in the state while you’re stationed there. The only time residency concerns arise is if someone has recently moved to the state and cannot prove a future intent to remain a resident. Otherwise, most cases are handled just fine.


The Divorce Process: Steps and More


In Washington state, the basic steps to get a divorce are the same regardless of the cause or whether there is one. You’ll first want to determine what type of situation you have. Will the other spouse be agreeable, or will they contest the case? If you think that they can agree with you on the terms of the divorce, mediation or other alternative resolution methods might be worth considering.

Some courts will even require mediation as a part of the divorce process, depending on the way it’s filed, the laws of the court, and other factors. If you know that your spouse won’t be agreeable or they will want to file a contested divorce, it’s time to get your lawyer involved and make sure that you are ready to fight for what you deserve.

Collect and prepare all the necessary forms. Then, you can file them with the courts. Your lawyer, again, can help with this so that you can ensure everything is accurate and you can expedite the process. Serve your spouse with the filed divorce petition, either by mail or hand delivery. You can also have a county sheriff or process server deliver the forms for you.

90-Day Waiting Period

Washington requires a 90-day waiting period once all the divorce forms have been filed. Known as the “cooling off period,” this allows couples to potentially work things out and get back together or figure out how to settle things on their own. Only then will people be able to file for a hearing date from the courts. This could take a while depending on how busy the courts are at the time of your case.

The Hearing

Once your hearing date arrives, you and your spouse will attend court with your lawyers. The judge will read the relevant facts of the case and review the information to ensure that it’s all correct. They will then make their judgment, or determination, on how to rule in the divorce case. When two people can agree on the elements of their divorce, this can save them from being at the mercy of the judge.

Your lawyer will get in touch with you well in advance and help you prepare for the hearing in several ways. They will help you understand what to expect, ask you important questions, and give you an idea of how the court process goes so that you aren’t walking in blindly. They will also answer your questions and make sure that you’re prepared for your case so that you get the outcome that you deserve.


Benefits of Hiring a Washington State Divorce Lawyer

We’ve mentioned a lot throughout this guide on divorce that you can use the assistance of a divorce lawyer in Washington to help with your case. Several benefits come from choosing this option. For starters, it’s never a good idea to take on something like divorce or separation on your own because you don’t have the knowledge or experience to get an outcome that is in your favor.

Not only that, but then you have to deal with filing all the paperwork (and figuring out what paperwork to file in the first place) on your own. That’s a process in and of itself. Plus, a lawyer will be more prepared and capable if the judge attempts to rule in the favor of the other spouse or in a way that isn’t in your best interest.

Lawyers know the law and they have handled hundreds of divorce cases throughout their careers. They show the court that you are serious about your case and that you have done your homework to ensure that you have the best representation. People who hire divorce lawyers aren’t likely to reconcile because once you get to the point of hiring legal help, it’s usually too far gone.


The Bottom Line

Anyone can get divorced in Washington state, for any reason. All they need to do is prove to the courts that they A) are married, and B) cannot continue the marriage because it is too broken. This doesn’t make the court process any easier, of course, so it will still be a good idea to have a divorce lawyer on your side to help you navigate all the steps involved.

If you are dealing with divorce in Washington, the team at the Aberdeen Law Firm is ready and waiting to help. Our attorneys have years of experience in helping with family law and divorce cases and we can work to get an outcome that is in your best interests. Plus, we’ll provide you with a free consultation and plenty of educational resources to help you see why we’re the best choice for the job. To learn more, call us at 855-593-1497.

Related Content: The Ultimate Guide To Divorce in Washington



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