Grounds for Divorce in Washington

In some states, you can file for divorce on legal grounds that accuse your spouse of wrongdoing, such as desertion, impotence, extreme cruelty, or inhuman treatment. But Washington does not recognize fault-based grounds for divorce.

Washington no longer allows fault grounds for divorce and is purely a no-fault state. The only allowable ground for divorce in Washington is irreconcilable differences. In other words, there has been a breakdown of the marriage, but it’s not seen by the law as anyone’s fault.

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Information about no-fault divorce in Washington

A no-fault divorce is a type of divorce where neither spouse needs to prove that the other caused the relationship to end. You can file for no-fault divorce without establishing or proving any wrongdoing or misconduct.

The advantage of a no-fault divorce is that it tends to move faster and be less complicated and stressful. Fault-based divorce, on the other hand, often involves lengthy divorce proceedings, including public allegations about what one person did wrong.

What to do before filing for divorce in Washington

Residency requirement

Unlike many other states, Washington does not impose a residency requirement on people filing for divorce. One of you must be a resident of the state, but you don’t have to provide documentation that proves it. This means that even if you've just moved to Washington, you can file for divorce.

Separation requirement

Spouses in Washington do not have to separate or live apart before filing for divorce. This is different from some states that require spouses to live apart before a divorce can be granted. You can file for divorce at any time, whether you still live with your spouse or not.

Waiting period

Washington does have a divorce waiting period of 90 days. What does this mean? A divorce cannot be legally finalized by a judge until at least 90 days have passed since the petition was filed. And, depending on the court schedule, this amount of time could stretch out longer.

An alternative to divorce in Washington

In Washington State, several alternatives to divorce exist. These alternatives include legal separation and the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods.

Legal separation

Legal separation is similar to divorce in many ways. Much like divorce, it involves negotiating custody, visitation, spousal support, child support, and the division of property. But unlike divorce, a legal separation does not legally end the marriage. You may live apart, but you are still legally married and cannot remarry.

To be effective, you'd need to complete a separation agreement with your spouse that specifies the details of your separation, such as who will take of which bills and where each of you will live.

Uncontested divorce is a great option for married couples who want to part ways without extensive stress or expense.

Avoiding court through Alternative Dispute Resolution

If you’re getting divorced and want to stay out of the courtroom, you’re not alone. But it can be hard to compromise on a marital settlement agreement with someone with whom you are breaking up.

Couples wishing to avoid litigation can try Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods. ADR is an umbrella term that covers processes such as mediation and arbitration. The goal is to settle differences and craft a settlement agreement outside of court.


Mediation is one of the most common forms of ADR. A neutral third party (the mediator) facilitates communication between the disputing parties to help them reach a mutually acceptable resolution. Mediation can be used in a wide variety of disputes, including divorce.


In arbitration, a neutral third party (the arbitrator) hears the arguments and evidence from both sides and then makes a decision. If the couple agrees that the arbitration is “ binding,” any decisions made are final and can be enforced by the court. If they opt for non-binding arbitration, however, the decision is merely advisory; it could be rejected by either party.

Collaborative divorce

This process of collaborative divorce involves both spouses and their attorneys. Everyone works together to resolve divorce-related issues with the goal of staying out of court.

Other professionals, like financial advisors and therapists, may be needed to assist in reaching a comprehensive agreement.

Direct negotiation

Direct negotiation is when the parties communicate directly with each other, usually with the assistance of their divorce attorneys. This option is often only possible in simple divorces where the spouses are amicable and willing to negotiate with one another. 

ADR is intended to be more efficient, more cost-effective, and less adversarial than traditional litigation.

At Hello Divorce, we understand Washington divorce law, including the grounds you might use in your own divorce case and how to get a settlement that’s fair. We offer one-on-one sessions with lawyers at flat-rate fees as well as access to other flat-rate divorce services – but only if you need them. We invite you to click here to schedule a free 15-minute phone call to learn more.


Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.