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Washington State Divorce Laws

Washington State Divorce Laws



The best interests of the child are served by a parenting arrangement that best maintains a child's emotional growth, health and stability, and physical care. Further, the best interest of the child is ordinarily served when the existing pattern of interaction between a parent and child is altered only to the extent necessitated by the changed relationship of the parents or as required to protect the child from physical, mental, or emotional harm. If the parents cannot reach an agreement concerning the child custody and parenting provisions for children of the marriage, then the court may establish either sole or mutual decision making authority and residential provisions considering the following factors:

  • The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent, including whether a parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child (this factor shall be given the most weight).
  • The agreements of the parties, provided they were entered into knowingly and voluntarily.
  • Each parent's past and potential for future performance of parenting functions.
  • The emotional needs and developmental level of the child.
  • The child's relationship with siblings and with other significant adults, as well as the child's involvement with his or her physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities.
  • The wishes of the parents and the wishes of a child who is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to his or her residential schedule.
  • Each parent's employment schedule, and shall make accommodations consistent with those schedules.

The court may order that a child frequently alternate his or her residence between the households of the parents for brief and substantially equal intervals of time only if the court finds the following:

  1. There is no evidence of willful abandonment that continues for an extended period of time or substantial refusal to perform parenting functions; physical, sexual, or a pattern of emotional abuse of a child; or a history of acts of domestic violence as defined in RCW 26.50.010.
  2. The parties have agreed to such provisions and the agreement was knowingly and voluntarily entered into; or have a satisfactory history of cooperation and shared performance of parenting functions; the parties are available to each other, especially in geographic proximity, to the extent necessary to ensure their ability to share performance of the parenting functions.
  3. The provisions are in the best interests of the child.

[Based on Washington State Revised Code - Title 26 - Chapters 26.09.002, 26.09.187, and 26.09.191]


Washington uses the "Income Shares" model to determine the level of child support to be paid. This means that the combination of both parents income is used to determine the basic child support obligation. The provisions for determining child support and reasons for deviation from the standard calculation shall be applied in the same manner by the court, presiding officers, and reviewing officers. An order for child support shall be supported by written findings of fact upon which the support determination is based and shall include reasons for any deviation from the standard calculation and reasons for denial of a party's request for deviation from the standard calculation. The court shall enter written findings of fact in all cases whether or not the court:


  • Sets the support at the presumptive amount, for combined monthly net incomes below five thousand dollars.
  • Sets the support at an advisory amount, for combined monthly net incomes between five thousand and seven thousand dollars.
  • Deviates from the presumptive or advisory amounts.

Worksheets in the form developed by the administrative office of the courts shall be completed under penalty of perjury and filed in every proceeding in which child support is determined. The court shall review the worksheets and the order setting support for the adequacy of the reasons set forth for any deviation or denial of any request for deviation and for the adequacy of the amount of support ordered. Each order shall state the amount of child support calculated using the standard calculation and the amount of child support actually ordered. Worksheets shall be attached to the decree or order or if filed separately shall be initialed or signed by the judge and filed with the order.

In entering or modifying a support order under this chapter, the court shall require either or both parents to maintain or provide health insurance coverage, for any child named in the order if:

  • Coverage that can be extended to cover the child is or becomes available to that parent through employment or is union-related.
  • The cost of such coverage does not exceed twenty-five percent of the obligated parent's basic child support obligation.

[Based on Washington State Revised Code - Title 26 - Chapters 26.09.105, 26.19.050, and 26.19.035]

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