When it comes to divorce, it is common for people to discuss dividing property, assets, income, retirement savings, etc., but rarely does the issue of dividing debts get raised in casual conversation. For many couples, dividing debt can be an overwhelming challenge and the most contentious part of their divorce.
Credit card debt is particularly difficult because it isn’t uncommon for large credit card balances to come as a surprise to one spouse. Additionally, one spouse may be unaware that the other spouse has multiple credit cards, all with outstanding balances. This can cause a great deal of tension, because although unaware of the debt, they may still be obligated to pay some or all of it.
When debt is incurred during a marriage, it is usually viewed as a community responsibility, meaning that while the credit card is only in one person’s name, both partners are liable for repayment. The courts view married couples as a single entity; therefore it is immaterial who incurred the debt.
To the dismay of divorcing couples everywhere, credit card companies are not bound by divorce decrees. After the divorce is final, the credit card companies can come after you to cover debt incurred during the marriage. When the credit card was obtained, you entered into a contract with the credit card company and a family law judge doesn’t have the jurisdiction to alter the credit card company’s rights. While the credit card company may come after you to repay debt assigned to your spouse, you aren’t without recourse. If the divorce decree has assigned that debt to your spouse, they fail to pay and you suffer damages, you will have grounds to sue.
If you are facing divorce or separation, it is important to be proactive in protecting your credit and limiting your exposure to liabilities. Contact your financial institution or creditor and find out how to transfer joint accounts to a single account holder. You may still have legal responsibilities for the existing balances on the account once it is transferred, but will limit your spouse’s ability to exact financial revenge.
Dividing debt can be challenging and there are numerous factors to consider. Be sure to speak with an experienced family lawyer and financial planner to understand how your divorce will affect your unique situation. Our managing attorney, Ken Alan, is always happy to answer your questions over the phone at no charge. (206) 448-1010
In this episode of Life Coach with Sarah and Danny Bonaduce, Seattle divorce attorney Rick Jones gives the four-one-one on custody, jurisdiction, enforcing a parenting plan, and meretricious relationships.
The show’s first caller had some concerns about custody and wanted to know what the next steps would be for getting a custody order. Three months ago she relocated to Washington state with her daughter and she was worried that she might have broken the law. Rick quickly put her concerns to rest and informed her that she hasn’t broken any laws by relocating. He then explained the next step is to establish jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction is defined as “the power or right to make judgments about the law” and “the power or right to govern an area”. In Washington, there is a 6-month waiting period before jurisdiction is established. Rick informs the caller that after the 6 months has passed, she will need to file to create a parenting plan in Washington that defines custodial rights and outlines any restrictions that might need to be put in place.
The next caller had questions about enforcing her custody order. Her custody order grants her authority to enroll her child in extra curricular activities as long as they are within reason and the cost is to be shared between her and the child’s father. The caller stated that the child’s father has declined to share the expense of the activity and she wanted to know if she can enforce the order and require him to pay.
Rick told her that the father is indeed responsible for the portion outlined in the custody order, but it is possible he won’t pay. Rick also advised the caller to evaluate the cost to enforce the order to determine if it makes financial sense. Danny chimed in and posited that going to court over $20 a month doesn’t make sense. Rick followed up saying that in this instance the cost to enforce the order will greatly exceed the cost of paying for 100% of the activity.
You can hear Rick’s advice about these situations and more in the clip below. If you have questions about your rights as a husband or father give us a call. We are happy to provide answers over the phone at no charge and no obligation. (206) 448-1010
If you have ever been in our office, you know that the team at Goldberg Jones is avid about sports—particularly our home teams.
This year proved to be a golden opportunity to not only support the Seahawks, but also a good cause. Every year our firm participates in Seattle University’s Red Tie Celebration to support student-athletes “who are striving, not only to be champions in the athletic world, but also future leaders in our community.” Part of that event is a charity auction and last year’s auction included tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Red Tie Celebration happens well before the NFL preseason begins, so it was serendipitous that managing partner, Rick Jones, secured the tickets with his winning bid in the charity auction. Supporting a good cause always pays off, but it is the ultimate reward to have our beloved Seahawks playing in tomorrow’s game!
Rick has been sharing his Super Bowl experience and is the official correspondent for KZOK. You can hear some of Rick’s report and his predictions in the clip below. Additionally, we will be sending out updates on twitter during the big game—so follow us at @GoldbergJonesWA
A YouTube video has surfaced that claims Greg Keating is Conan O’Brien’s illegitimate son. The video was created by Keating, who has a striking resemblance to the late-night comedian, in what seems to be an attempt to kindle a father son relationship (or at least fund his college education).
While no statement has been released by O’Brien’s camp, this situation does raise some interesting issues about paternity and support. We regularly handle paternity cases and are well versed in how custody and support laws might be applied in a similar situation. The two biggest questions that arise in this situation are: How is paternity established and will Conan be responsible for back child support.
While laws will vary from state to state, it is interesting to explore how this situation might play out in Washington. Given that Keating was conceived in 1993 he is close to 21 years old. This won’t affect establishing paternity, but it will factor into any financial support he might be seeking.
There are four ways that paternity is established in Washington. First is marriage. If the mother and biological father are married before the child is born there is presumption of parentage. The spouse will be considered the legal parent unless one parent (or other interested party) challenges the presumption.
Being in a registered domestic partnership functions much like marriage in regards to establishing paternity. The registered domestic partner is presumed to be the legal parent unless the parentage is challenged.
Those not married or in a registered domestic partnership can establish parentage by signing a Paternity Acknowledgment form. The man who signs the form is considered the legal father once the form is signed, notarized, and filed with the Washington State Department of Health.
Finally, paternity can be established by a court order. Often the court will require genetic testing to determine if the man is in fact the biological father. It is most likely that Conan will have a genetic test done to determine if he is indeed Keating’s biological father.
The second question that comes up in this scenario relates to support. In Washington there is a five-year statute of limitation. That means that if Keating is O’Brien’s son he may be required to pay back support. In this case, under Washington State laws, O’Brien would only be responsible for 2 years of support. Since Keating is 21 and the statute of limitations is 5 years, that means the support obligation would start at age 16. Due to the fact that support ceases at age 18, the result is a potential obligation of 2 years. Given O’Brien’s high income this could produce enough money to substantially fund Keating’s college education.
It will be interesting to see how Mr. O’Brien handles the allegations of paternity and subsequently the results of a possible genetic test. You can check out Keating’s video below and decide for yourself if you think Team Coco might be his dad. We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
With the average cost of divorce in the United States somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000 it can be daunting to think about the financial aspects of dissolving your marriage. Fortunately for most people there are things that can be done to save money on divorce.
Knowledge is power—and educating yourself on your rights, and how your circumstances will affect your case, is an essential first step in the divorce process. Understanding how your unique situation will affect your divorce will help you prioritize and craft your strategy. Additionally, understanding how the divorce process functions will enable you to do some of the work yourself. Working with your attorney to determine what you can do yourself and what requires the expertise of your lawyer will make sure your case makes efficient and affordable progress. It is imperative that you work in tandem with your attorney, as adhering to deadlines and following protocol are very important for producing the most favorable outcome possible.
Organization is an often overlooked, yet effective way to minimize costs during divorce. Having important documents accessible and logically arranged will reduce the amount of clerical work your attorney has to do, thus saving you money. Too often people will bring in piles, or even boxes, of documents and their attorney has to go through and organize everything.
Being (or getting) organized can be difficult in the midst of a divorce. It can be overwhelming to have to comb through financial statements, tax returns, etc. while dealing with the stress and emotions that are common for people in the process of ending their marriage.
Not everyone has the time or the patience to get documents in order. For those that want to hand off that task, it is advisable to hire a temporary personal assistant instead of having your attorney do the same work at a much higher price. The cost of a personal assistant, on average, is around $20-$50 an hour. Compare that to the $200-$400 per hour that is common for a divorce lawyer and the savings are significant.
Going into the divorce with a clear set of priorities will help you pick your battles. The more a couple fights, and the more contentious the divorce, the greater the final cost. Unfortunately it is a common scenario for couples to spend thousands of dollars fighting over an item that could easily be replaced new for a fraction of the cost of lawyer and court fees.
If you are trying to save money, remember that honesty is the best policy. It is a costly mistake to withhold information from your attorney or to be untruthful about your circumstances. If your divorce lawyer has all the information from the beginning, they can create an effective strategy for achieving your goals. Information that is withheld or untruthful can undermine that strategy and force your attorney to change course in the middle of your case, which could cost you thousands of dollars.
Finally, don’t use your attorney as a therapist. It can be easy to lean on your attorney for emotional support, but this can be expensive and less effective than working with a mental health professional. Seeking emotional support from friends, family or a professional will provide a network of encouragement that will help you navigate the emotional challenges of your divorce at a fraction of the cost of your attorney.