The effect of domestic violence on divorce The effect of domestic violence on a divorce in Washington State is a very complex area of the law. The existence of domestic violence doesn’t affect the whether or not a judge will grant a divorce, and it doesn’t necessarily affect issues such as child custody or alimony but it may affect a divorce indirectly.

Below we’ll discuss some of the ways domestic violence may come into play in a divorce. Note, if you are the victim of domestic violence, there are legal means available to protect yourself (e.g., Domestic Violence Order for Protection, Restraining Order, No-Contact Order, etc.), as well as local resources for victims that you can utilize.

For immediate help, you can call the Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-562-6025 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week, or you can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, 24 hours/seven days a week.

Washington Divorce Law and Domestic Violence

Washington is a no-fault divorce state that means neither party has to be at fault for the judge to grant the divorce; you only have to say that you have irreconcilable differences. So the judge will not consider domestic violence when granting your divorce.

Also, the Revised Code of Washington 26.09.090 and RCW 26.09.080 provide that when judges make determinations about spousal support and the distribution of property, they must do so “without regard for misconduct.” In other words, they cannot consider domestic violence as a factor when deciding on alimony and when dividing the marital property.

Domestic Violence Indirect Implications on Divorce

While domestic violence may not be a direct factor in divorce, it can still come into play. Below are a few examples of when it may be a factor.

  • Child custody: The judge makes custody determinations that are in the best interest of the child. If one parent has a history of abuse, it may affect the judge’s decisions; there may be restrictions and limits placed on visitation.
  • Maintenance: A judge cannot consider misconduct when granting alimony, but the judge can consider domestic violence as it relates to financial matters and the abused spouse’s employability. For example, if the abuse has caused her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, caused her to lose her job, has been cut off from support networks, or tore down her confidence to work, it can affect maintenance awards.
  • Equitable distribution: If the domestic violence has dissipated marital assets (counseling, medical bills, etc.), it may affect how the judge handles the allocation of assets.


To schedule a consultation with a divorce attorney that handles delicate cases involving domestic violence, contact Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today at 425-460-0550 .

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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