5 Things to Know About Divorce In WA State

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Every state has its own unique divorce and custody laws— if you are considering getting divorced in Washington State there are a few things you need to know.

1. Washington is a community property state

There are two approaches to dividing marital assets in a divorce: equitable distribution and community property. Equitable distribution is used in 41 of the 50 states, making it more common than community property.

Equitable distribution provides judges more discretion and flexibility in dividing assets (and debts). Equitable distribution will take into consideration the financial situation of each of the spouses and then create a settlement that is equitable to both parties.

Washington State is one of the 9 states that use community property instead of equitable distribution. Community property will treat all marital assets as joint property even if the property was acquired only in one spouse’s name. For a spouse to have property that was acquired during the marriage excluded from being considered community property, the item must be acquired solely in one spouse’s name and purchased (and maintained) with money that is held separately from the other spouse and is not used to contribute to the marital expenses.

2. There is a waiting period for divorce in Washington

If you have made the decision to divorce, chances are you want to expedite the process. There are definitely things you can do to speed up the finalization of your divorce, but there is one process that can’t be avoided—the waiting period.

In Washington State there is a mandatory 90 day waiting period from the time your divorce paperwork has been filed until your divorce is finalized. Your divorce may take longer than three months to complete if there are contested issues.

Negotiating parenting plans, division of assets, and spousal support can all slow down your divorce, but it is important to negotiate the most favorable terms now because modifications down the road may be difficult (and in some instances not an option) and expensive.

3. Post-Secondary Support

Post-secondary support is financial support provided to your children to help them cover the expense of obtaining education beyond the high school level.  In Washington State child support is paid until the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever occurs later. The post-secondary support is additional support that is negotiated into the support order to pay for accredited education.

There are a number of factors that are considered by the courts when deciding to award post-secondary support. Things like the child’s needs, prospects, and aptitude, as well as the parent’s resources, expectations, and level of education are all used to evaluate the inclusion of post-secondary support. RCW 26.19.090 states:

“When considering whether to order support for post-secondary educational expenses, the court shall determine whether the child is in fact dependent and is relying upon the parents for the reasonable necessities of life. The court shall exercise its discretion when determining whether and for how long to award post-secondary educational support based upon consideration of factors that include but are not limited to the following: Age of the child; the child’s needs; the expectations of the parties for their children when the parents were together; the child’s prospects, desires, aptitudes, abilities or disabilities; the nature of the post-secondary education sought; and the parents’ level of education, standard of living, and current and future resources. Also to be considered are the amount and type of support that the child would have been afforded if the parents had stayed together.”

4. The choices you make now will affect you 5, 10 and even 20 years from now

For many men going through a divorce, they just want to get it over with. Unfortunately rushing through the divorce process can have long lasting effects. Once the ink dries on your divorce agreement you are going to have to live with those decisions.

Divorce is an inherently emotional process, it is important to stay focused on making smart, logical decisions that will protect your assets for a long time. Choosing your battles wisely will save you money and headaches and try to be realistic about what your financial situation will be after the divorce. If you can’t afford to maintain your house, boat, vacation property, etc. post divorce, don’t fight for that asset just to spite your ex.

Additionally, how your retirement funds are divided can have a major impact on when and if you retire. It will also affect your standard of living once you are retired. Speak to your attorney to understand what your options are and how you can protect your retirement.

5. Debt will be divided in your divorce

In a divorce, your debt will be divided just like your assets. Debt accrued during the marriage, and even some debt that was brought into the marriage can be divided between the spouses. Unfortunately dividing debt in a divorce doesn’t always mean you won’t be required to pay down the road. If your ex-wife defaults on debt that was assigned to her, you can still be held responsible for repaying that creditor. It is imperative that you speak with your attorney to discuss all your options and your liability for the marital debt.

The best way to prepare for divorce is to arm yourself with information and the right advocate. The more you know the easier it will be to make the right decisions for your unique circumstances.

Related Reading: How Do I File For Divorce In Washington?
Related Reading: How Does Washington Handle Debt In Divorce?
Related Reading: Should You Move Out During A Divorce?

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