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What are the grounds for divorce in Washington State?

Understanding Divorce in Washington State

Divorce, legally known as dissolution of marriage, can be an emotionally and legally complex process. Each state has its own laws governing the grounds on which a divorce can be granted. In Washington State, the approach to divorce is distinct in that it is a 'no-fault' divorce state.

No-Fault Divorce Explained

Unlike some states where you must prove wrongdoing by one spouse (such as adultery, cruelty, or abandonment) to obtain a divorce, Washington State does not require spouses to assign blame. The only ground for divorce in Washington is that the marriage is 'irretrievably broken'. This means that if one spouse believes there is no reasonable hope of reconciliation, they can file for divorce and it will be granted.

Process and Considerations

In Washington State, the process begins with one spouse filing a petition for dissolution of marriage in the superior court of the county where either spouse resides. The other spouse then has the opportunity to respond. If both parties agree that the marriage is indeed irretrievably broken, they may proceed with a more amicable and often less costly collaborative process.

However, if one spouse disputes the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, the court may require a period of separation or counseling before the divorce can be finalized. It's important to note that even in a no-fault state like Washington, the conduct of spouses can still affect the division of assets, spousal support, and child custody arrangements.

Historical Context

The move towards no-fault divorce gained momentum in the United States in the late 1960s and 1970s, with California being the first state to implement it in 1969. Washington State followed suit by enacting its no-fault legislation. This shift represented a significant change from previous laws that required proof of specific grounds for divorce, which often led to protracted and bitter legal battles.


In summary, Washington State's sole ground for divorce is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This approach simplifies the legal process and often reduces hostility between divorcing parties. Those considering divorce in Washington should consult with a qualified attorney to navigate the dissolution process and address any issues related to property division, alimony, or child custody.