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Divorce, Separation and Custody Quick Guide

The Divorce, Separation and Custody Quick Guide is for parents/caregivers who are either pursuing divorce or experiencing the aftermath issues of separation.  In both cases, they may need help organizing legal paperwork work and contacting appropriate and affordable legal service.  Parents may also need help in building appropriate bonds to support children, as well as, reframing to cope effectively.

The goal of the Divorce, Separation and Custody Quick Guide is provide individual and families with the tools to help them navigate the dissolution process as well as resources to help with the aftermath of the dissolution.


  • The choice to end a marriage or domestic partnership in Washington State can be a challenging decision to make and the process of filing for dissolution of marriage can make the process even more daunting. For more information, see the Dissolution of Marriage with Children document or the Dissolution of Marriage without children.
  • When children are involved with dissolution of marriage, a parenting plan will be put in place to determine custody and visitation rights for both parents. For more information, see Parenting Plans document, also available in Spanish.
  • Service members- both those active duty and those separated from duty, have unique circumstances that can affect dissolution of marriage including rules and regulations effecting their benefits. For more information about separated service members, see the VA benefits and Divorce, or for more information on active duty service members, see the Service Members and Divorce.


Dissolution of Marriage can frequently have short-term negative impact on children. Depending on the age of the children the separation can have different implications. Fortunately, there does not appear to be any evidence that separation between parents have any long term behavioral effects on children. Parents play an important role in guiding children through the difficulties of the separation. For more information, see Helping Children with Divorce learning resources.

When a Victim of Domestic Violence is seeking dissolution of marriage there are special considerations they must make. These include how to find a divorce lawyer, gathering evidence, and safety planning as they relate to parenting plans. For more information, see the Managing Your Divorce- A Guide for Battered Women.

In Washington State non-custodial parents are required to pay child support based on their income. If this parent is not paying this, the custodial parent can request help from a Support Enforcement Officer from DSHS. For more information, see the Child Support and Enforcement learning resources.

For community resources to help with the dissolution of marriage process, see the Dissolution of Marriage Resource Tool