If you or your spouse is stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord or another Washington military base or installation, you have the option of filing for divorce in this state. If you have legal residency in another state, as many military families do, you can also choose to file there. When determining where you want to file for divorce, you’ll want to consider a number of factors, including each state’s laws concerning divorce and (if you have children) custody and parenting rights.
You don’t have to worry about having lived here long enough to establish residency, since Washington doesn’t require a specific length of residency, as some states do. The law only requires that a divorce decree can’t be issued in fewer than 90 days “from the date when service of summons was made.”
If you’re planning to move back home to another state or your servicemember spouse is going to be transferred to another state soon, you may determine that Washington isn’t going to be the most convenient state logistically for proceeding with your divorce. However, convenience is only one factor to consider.
Understanding state laws
It’s also important to consider whether the laws in one state where you’re eligible to file will benefit or disadvantage you considerably more than those in another state. For example, Washington is a community property state. That means that unless you and your spouse agree to a different division strategy, the value of assets that were acquired during the marriage will likely be divided 50-50 by the court. If you’re a servicemember, that can have a significant effect on how much of your military income and pension you may be required to share. If you’re the spouse of a servicemember, that may work to your benefit.
Washington is strictly a “no-fault” state, which means that all you have to do is say that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” That can be advantageous if you’re concerned that your spouse might want to claim adultery or some other common “fault” that many other states allow to be considered by the court during a litigated divorce process.
Divorce requires individuals to make a lot of decisions. If you are considering or intend to file (or your spouse has already filed) for divorce here in Washington, the best first step you can take is to seek experienced legal guidance. This will help you to make informed decisions and protect your rights as you move forward.