Washington No-Fault Divorce: What are the Grounds for a Dissolution of Marriage?

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Divorce is a decision that should never be taken lightly. Unfortunately, there are many instances in which divorce is simply unavoidable, and it’s in the best interest of all parties involved to file a dissolution of marriage. Before proceeding, however, it’s essential to understand that Washington State is a no-fault divorce state.  

What is a No-Fault Divorce?

When it comes to the topic of divorce, there are two ways to approach it: No-Fault divorce and fault divorce. 

  • Fault Divorce: This scenario involves proving that someone is “at fault” for the marriage’s failure. This can be due to adultery, desertion, cruelty, etc. 
  • No-Fault Divorce: In this scenario, you and your spouse have decided to separate due to irreconcilable differences.

What are the Grounds for Divorce in Washington?

An at fault divorce, as used in some states, legally requires the petitioner to prove that their spouse, referred to as the respondent, was at fault for the marriage coming to an end. However, Washington state is a no-fault divorce state, so the courts do not require proof of wrongdoing on either individual’s part. 

That means, legally, the only reason required to be granted a dissolution of marriage in Washington is that at least one spouse declares that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

What is the Process of a Washington No-Fault Divorce?

The entire purpose of a no-fault divorce system is to help reduce and/or eliminate any resentment or bitterness between the parties involved. The typical divorce process in Washington State looks like this:

  • The petitioner files for dissolution of marriage.
  • The respondent is served the petition for dissolution of marriage.
  • In Washington State, there is a mandatory 90-day waiting period between the service of the petition and the finalization of the dissolution of marriage – meaning that no divorce can be finalized in under 90 days.

The court provides the 90-day waiting period in order to give time for a cooling down of emotions and an opportunity for reconciliation.  Again, the goal is to give the couple and their marriage a chance to succeed.  And it sometimes works.  The simple reality is that the steps that they are taking to end their relationship may be enough to cause reflection on what they are going to lose, and change their minds.   

It is clear that we have created a somewhat complex and expensive legal process for divorce that, in many ways, is intended to discourage couples from easily terminating their marriages.  However, no-fault divorce goes another step further by legislatively determining that the courts will not be involved in deciding who is right and who is wrong in the actions that have led up to a divorce filing.  

Not only is it not required that fault be apportioned, allegations or arguments of fault are not accepted by the court, or even considered in their granting of the divorce decree.  Pointing the finger of blame is useless in the process and actively discouraged.  

The result should be, and  generally is, a more civil and less adversarial process because many, if not all, of the emotional trigger points and moral judgments are eliminated from the process.  

If a couple does not choose to reconcile during the mandatory waiting period, the process will continue on:

  • After the respondent receives the petition for dissolution of marriage, they will have the opportunity to respond to the petition. If they do not choose to respond, the petitioner can file a motion for default to end the divorce at the end of the 90-day waiting period. However, if the respondent does respond, the case will move to the discovery stage.
  • Temporary Orders may be filed to control issues like finances, child support and custody, taxes, and shared bank accounts during the divorce process.
  • The legal process of Discovery, a formal sharing of documents and information, will likely occur.
  • Informal negotiations will likely take place and sometimes more formal mediations and settlement conferences will be used to help the parties reach an agreement to resolve their differences on the terms of their divorce.  
  • Ultimately, a trial might be necessary if the parties are unable to reach an agreement to the final terms of their divorce and parenting plan.  

It is important to make the distinction that there may be some issues to be resolved in the process of divorce in which the actions or behavior of a party do become a critical factor.  So, while no fault will be apportioned to a spouse as the reason for the failure of the marriage, some behavior could become an important reason for other decisions.  Like deciding if a person’s parental rights should be restricted, such as in custody of a child.  Having a clear understanding of these differences can be essential in reaching your goals on the terms of your divorce.  

Divorce Lawyers for Men: Get Help in Washington with a No-Fault Divorce 

For those in Washington State, no-fault divorces can get a little tricky to navigate, especially when both parties aren’t on the same page. Whether or not you and your spouse are in agreement to the dissolution of marriage, it’s always wise to seek out legal advice to ensure all your bases are covered, and no stones are left unturned. If you aren’t quite sure how to move forward with a Washington State no-fault divorce, then call us at 360-866-7393 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation.

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