Divorce Laws for Army Members Stationed in Washington State

By Heather Frances J.D.

When a divorce involves military members, a combination of both state and federal laws apply, which can complicate matters. However, state courts, not military courts, actually grant the divorce. Military members and their spouses can divorce under Washington’s laws like other Washington couples, but some aspects of the divorce are slightly different due to a spouse’s military status.


Washington courts cannot grant a divorce unless at least one of the spouses is a resident of Washington, or a member of the military who is stationed in Washington. Unlike many other states, Washington’s laws do not dictate a minimum length of time the spouses must reside in Washington before divorcing. A party can file for a divorce in any Washington county where either spouse resides or is stationed. One Washington county, Lincoln County, permits any Washington resident or military member to divorce there regardless of whether either spouse lives in the county.

Filing Requirements

Washington is a pure no-fault divorce state, meaning there is only one ground, or legal reason, for divorce: irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. When a spouse files for divorce in Washington, he must use this ground in his divorce petition. To begin the divorce process, a party must file at least four forms with the court: Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Summons, Confidential Information Form and Vital Statistics Form. Once one party files the forms to begin the divorce, she must serve copies on the other party to give him a chance to respond. If that other party is in the military, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act contains a provision allowing him to stay, or postpone, the divorce while he is overseas or otherwise unable to adequately respond because of his military service.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Community Property

If a divorcing couple cannot agree on the division of property, Washington courts will divide it for them based on community property standards. The courts assume all property acquired during the marriage, including real estate, income and personal property, is owned equally by each spouse. Federal law allows state courts to divide military pensions in a divorce, treating retirement pay like any other marital asset. However, military disability pay, including compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is not divisible by the court.

Child Support

Washington courts set child support amounts as determined by the Washington State Support Schedule, which provides a formula that considers the combined income of both parents. Although the court can deviate from the standard calculation when certain circumstances exist, such as when one party is receiving income from additional sources, federal law limits the garnishment of a military member’s salary to 60 percent for a single soldier and 50 percent if the soldier remarries and has a new family to support.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Military Guidelines for Paying Child Support


Related articles

A Military Wife's Rights in a Texas Divorce

Divorce is rarely easy and the unique nature of military life can make a divorce more complicated for military wives. Servicemembers and their spouses must get divorced in state court just as civilians do. Thus, Texas rules apply to military couples divorcing in Texas. However, federal laws provide additional rules for divorces involving military members and their wives.

Disability in a Military Divorce

If a servicemember becomes disabled due to an injury related to his service, he may receive payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs that add to his military compensation, sometimes reducing his retirement pay in the process. These disability payments are treated differently than retirement payments -- and state divorce courts have limited authority to give a portion of the disability funds to the military member’s ex-spouse.

Steps to Filing for Divorce in Pierce County, Washington

The state of Washington permits you to obtain a divorce if you or your spouse is a resident of the state. State law governs divorce cases, although each county court has its own rules regarding legal filings and fee schedule. In Pierce County, as in other Washington counties, the process begins with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Military Divorce and Alimony

Military couples cannot get divorced by military courts, so they must get their divorces in state courts. Since divorce ...

How to Apply for a Divorce in Washington State

When a Washington marriage doesn’t work out, the couple can receive a divorce, or dissolution, from a Washington court. ...

Military & Divorce Jurisdiction

Like civilians, military members must divorce in state courts since there are no military courts with the ability to ...

Information on Getting Divorced While in the Marine Corps

Like civilians, Marines get divorced. But only civilian courts can grant divorce petitions, and the divorce process is ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED