5 Things to Know About Divorce In Washington

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UPDATED: Every state has its own unique laws. This extends to divorce and child custody. If you’re considering divorce, it’s important to know how where you live impacts the process.

For those getting divorced in Washington State, here are five things you should 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. It takes into consideration the financial situation of each spouse and creates a settlement that is equitable to both parties.

Washington is one of the nine states that uses the community property model instead of equitable distribution.

Community property treats all marital assets as joint holdings, even if it was acquired in only one spouse’s name.

To exclude property acquired during the marriage from being considered community property, the item must be solely in one spouse’s name and purchased and maintained with money held separately from the other spouse. That money can’t be used to contribute to the marital expenses. If it is, it becomes a shared asset.

2. There’s a waiting period for divorce

Once you’ve made the decision to divorce, chances are you want it over as fast as possible. There are definitely things you can do to speed up the divorce process, but there is one hurdle you can’t avoid: the waiting period.

Most states have a waiting period for divorce, though like laws, it varies from one to the next. Some make you wait a few weeks, while in others it takes six months. The majority fall somewhere in between.

In Washington, the mandatory waiting period is 90 days from the time you file your paperwork until your divorce is finalized.

The process often takes much longer than three months to complete if it’s contentious. However, 90 days is the minimum timeframe.

Negotiating parenting plans, division of assets, and spousal support can all slow down your divorce. Though it may take more time, it’s important to settle on favorable terms now. Modifications down the road may be difficult, expensive, and in some instances not an option.

3. Post-Secondary Support

Post-secondary support provides financial support to your children to help them cover the expense of education beyond the high school level.

In Washington, parents pay child support until the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever occurs later. The post-secondary support is additional support negotiated into the support order .

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, factor in. Things like the parents’ resources, expectations, and level of education are also used to evaluate the inclusion of post-secondary support.

Laying out the legal standards, 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. Choices you make now have lasting consequences

The choices you make now will affect your financial future for five, ten, even 20 years or beyond.

Many people going through a divorce want to get it over with ASAP. Unfortunately, rushing through the process can have long lasting negative effects.

Remember, once the ink dries on your divorce agreement you have to live with those decisions.

Divorce is an inherently emotional process, but it’s 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 during the proceedings. Also, try to be realistic about what your financial situation will be after the divorce. If you can’t afford to maintain your house, boat, or vacation property post-divorce, don’t fight for over it just to spite your ex. Really think about what’s important and what you can afford.

Additionally, how  retirement funds are divided can have a major impact on when and if you retire.

It also affect syour standard of living once you do retire. Talk to your attorney about your options are and how to protect your retirement.

5. Debt will be divided in your divorce

Dividing assets is a major part of the divorce process. What many people fail to consider is that debt gets divided the same way.

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. Divorce doesn’t automatically remove your name from any existing financial agreements.

For example, if your ex-wife defaults on a loan assigned to her, you can still be held responsible for repaying that creditor if you remain on the paperwork.

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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