what is no-fault divorce

Does Washington Have No-Fault Divorce?

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Marriages end for a variety of reasons. Infidelity, abuse, mistrust, financial issues, and more. The list of causes of divorce is practically endless. That doesn’t mean, however, that one person must always carry the blame. This is where no-fault divorce comes in.

Sometimes two people grow apart and evolve in different, incompatible directions. Any number of factors can further complicate matters. For instance, adultery may lead to divorce, but in Washington, how does adultery affect the process?

Another such snag is when you want to end your marriage, but the other party has other ideas. What can you do if your spouse doesn’t want to divorce?  With the exception of Mississippi and South Dakota, it doesn’t matter if your spouse disagrees.

Every other state in the union, including Washington, practices no-fault divorce.

What Is No-Fault Divorce?

In short, no-fault divorce is exactly what it sounds like. You don’t have to prove that either party is to blame for the marriage crumbling. If adultery broke your marriage, for instance, it doesn’t really matter. You don’t have to prove adultery in Washington.

All the court requires is that you declare the union broken beyond repair with no hope of reconciliation. Do that, actually be legally married, meet state residency requirements, and follow the proper procedure, and you can dissolve your marriage.

In a practical sense, no-fault divorce streamlines ending a marriage. Without having to prove one person is to blame, it speeds up the timeline.

There’s no need to dig up painful memories or sling mud back and forth. And even if your spouse doesn’t want to divorce, you can get out and move on with your life.

Related Reading: Average Costs of Divorce In Washington

Does it Affect Settlement Agreements?

Under no-fault divorce statutes, the court doesn’t take wrongdoing into account when dissolving a marriage. Wrongdoing can, however, come into play in a variety of areas in divorce cases.

Child custody, the division of property, spousal support, and others can all feel the influence. If wrongdoing has a direct impact on circumstances, fault could possibly factor in.

Can Adultery Affect No-Fault Divorce?

In spite of the fact that Washington is a no-fault state, there are instances where wrongdoing, including adultery, can affect divorce. Infidelity can kill relationships and there’s often no coming back from cheating. But it also factors into the divorce when it negatively impacts the surrounding circumstances

Division of Property

Though it’s rare, one area where adultery in Washington and cheating may impact divorce is in the division of property.  As there’s no blame to assign, adultery doesn’t usually come into play. One situation where it can is if cheating directly contributed to financial issues.

For example, the court may consider this if:

    • An affair included lavish gifts,
    • Racked up extensive hotel bills,
    • Or contributed to other economic hardships.

Can Child Custody Be Affected?

If an affair negatively influences a person’s parenting ability, like forgetting to pick up your child from band practice because you are otherwise “engaged,” that can play into child custody decisions.

    • Perhaps it’s possible to illustrate that an affair is part of a larger pattern of neglect.
    • Did your ex routinely choose infidelity over parental duties?
    • Did they shack up in a hotel room instead of going to your child’s birthday party?

If you show cheating directly led to bad parenting choices, the court may consider that factor in child custody decisions.

Can Adultery Increase Alimony Payments?

Spousal support is another area where adultery may factor into your divorce thanks to no-fault statues in Washington. It’s also another area where it’s difficult to demonstrate the concrete impact. Again, if you can prove that infidelity directly triggered an undue financial burden, it may apply.

Perhaps your spouse drained your savings or ran up substantial credit card debt in the course of an affair. The court will likely consider that when it awards spousal support.

They may also consider significant emotional distress caused by adultery. In this case, however, it must be severe, like negatively impacting the ability to find or hold a job.

Related Reading: How Is Spousal Support Calculated In Washington?

Arguments For No-Fault Divorce

Proponents of no-fault divorce often cite suicide rates and incidents of domestic violence to back their claims. Both dropped in states that picked up this practice.

Also, they state that outside interests, like the courts, shouldn’t be able to determine whether a person has legitimate reasons for wanting out of a marriage. Just the fact that you want out should be enough, even if your spouse doesn’t want to divorce.

Arguments Against No-Fault Divorce

Opponents argue that no-fault divorce decreases the inherent value of marriage. That by making it easier to end a marriage, it lessens the significance of the matrimonial bond.

Another point of contention claims that often the person actually at fault is the one who files for divorce. In these situations, an abuser or cheating spouse can end a marriage with no consequences.

The list of why marriages and relationships break down is practically endless. It’s as long as the list of why people wed in the first place. Abuse, infidelity, and financial problems are just a few common causes. But sometimes people just grow apart or want different things.

No-fault divorce helps smooth over the process and means neither party has to blame the other. You can end your marriage even if your spouse doesn’t want to divorce.

Related Reading: Common Mediation Questions
Related Reading: How Is Debt Divided During A Divorce? In-Depth

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