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Grounds for Divorce in Washington State

Grounds for divorce are the legal reasons for divorce. Each state has its own laws that specify what grounds for divorce can end a marriage. This guide covers the grounds for divorce in Washington State.

Grounds for divorce in Washington State

In Washington State, divorce is referred to as a "dissolution of marriage." The only ground for a dissolution of marriage in Washington is "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage." This means at least one spouse in the marriage must believe the marriage can't be saved. As Washington is a no-fault divorce state, this ground for divorce don't require proof that one spouse is at fault for the failure of the marriage. Other states may offer a fault divorce, where the reasons for divorce assign blame to one spouse and can include adultery, abuse, and desertion.

How to file for divorce in Washington State

You can file for divorce in Washington if you or your spouse currently lives in Washington, or if you or your spouse is a member of the military and is stationed in Washington. The spouse seeking the divorce, called the "petitioner" in Washington, files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage ( with the Washington court. This petition includes basic information about the marriage (names, number of years married, etc.), the grounds for divorce, and the petitioning spouse's requests concerning child custody, property division, and alimony.

The petition is then served to the other spouse, called the "respondent" in Washington. The respondent has up to 60 days to reply to the petition. This response must be in writing. If the respondent agrees to the petition, the court will enter a decree of dissolution. If the respondent denies that the marriage is broken, the court will review all relevant factors, including the circumstances under which the petition was filed and the chances for reconciliation. The court will rule in favor of the petition, dismiss the petition or refer the couple to family court and counseling.

Most states require a minimum waiting period before the court finalizes the divorce. In Washington, the waiting period is three months. That means the petition must be filed and served to the other spouse for 90 days before a court can issue a divorce decree. If the other spouse has issues with any aspects of the petition, the waiting period can last longer.

Important considerations regarding grounds for divorce

Any divorce petition must reflect state-appropriate grounds for divorce to be valid. The parties can agree upon the grounds. Although not required, a lawyer's skills and experience may be very helpful in the process.

Additional resources:

Washington Courts: Court Forms (Dissolution/Divorce) (

Washington State Bar Association: Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) (

Divorce Source: State Divorce Laws (

Related Legal Guides:

Understanding Divorce

No-Fault Divorce

Divorce Mediation

Collaborative Divorce (

Divorce Settlement

Legal Separation

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