Washington is a no-fault-divorce state. This means that assigning blame, and/or proving that one spouse or the other is at fault for the marriage failing, is not necessary. This comes as a surprise to some people who come into our office to consult regarding the end of their marriage. Some are disappointed to learn that their spouse is not going to be punished by the court for his or her marriage-ending behavior. While we empathize with the hurt and sense of injustice our clients feel, we maintain our focus on the issues that will matter most in our clients’ cases.
Instead of requiring that one party be ordered at fault, in our state it is only required that one spouse state that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and ask the court to dissolve the union.
There are limited circumstances when the court will want to know about the behavior of one or both of the spouses that led to the failure of the marriage. For example, if the failure was due to domestic violence the court will do what it can to protect the victim and/or any children involved. Or, if the failure was due to a wasting of financial resources by one spouse, the court may want to consider this when determining whether to enter temporary orders restricting use of community financial resources. In other words, behavior during marriage is not irrelevant to the divorce process, but it is also not necessarily determinative of the outcome.