No one enters into a marriage thinking that they are going to get divorced. However, the sad truth is that a significant number of marriages in the United States end in divorce for a variety of reasons. If you are in a situation where divorce becomes a reality, then you need to think about how this will affect you in the future. Here is a brief overview of things to think about in a divorce case.
How is Divorce Property & Debt Distribution Determined?
Under Washington law, property is divided based upon what is just and equitable. Courts will typically engage in the same analysis for debt allocation as well. Allocating property and debt involves a fact-specific determination of what is appropriate/fair under the circumstances of your case. The court will look at the community (presumed to belong to both parties) property and debt holdings of the parties, the separate (presumed to belong to one party) property and debt holdings of each party, the economic circumstances that the parties will be left in upon the division of property and other considerations that the court may entertain, such as the determination of child support (if applicable) and spousal maintenance (if awarded) in its evaluation of property distribution. Consequently, the court may award one party a disproportion amount of property, debt or both; the court may award one parties’ separate property to the other or the court may just divide everything (property and debt) equally. Bottom line, each case is different, and the court will take an individualized case-by-case approach using the law to make a “fair” decision. Unfortunately, “fair” in the eyes of the court does not always translate to equal.
How are Parenting Plans Determined?
If you have children then you will need to set up a parenting plan, which is a court-ordered determination regarding when the children will be with each parent. The court wants people to decide for themselves what is best in terms of residential time between the parents. However, if the parties cannot agree, then the court will decide. Typically, in Clark County, WA, the local rule is that one parent will be the primary caregiver/residential parent, and the other parent will have visitation every other weekend during the school year, split holidays and half the summer, in blocks of alternating weeks. Of course the individual parenting plan can be varied between the parties, and the court will tailor a parenting plan, depending on the individual facts and circumstances of the parties’ situation. Parenting plans may need to be incredibly detailed, depending on how the parties are getting along.
How is Child Support Determined?
Along the lines of the parenting plan, child support will need to be ordered to ensure that the child/children are being taken care of financially. Child support is determined based upon the income of the parties. There is a statutory matrix that spells out the support level for a child/children based upon the combined income of the parents, as well as the age of the child/children. In addition, other factors are added into the support calculation, such as daycare expenses, if any; medical insurance payments, if any; uninsured medical expenses, if any; potentially transportation expenses in a long-distance travel situation, and other factors for consideration. Parents can receive deviations from the presumed support level for reasons such as having the children more than the usual non-residential parent, which is usually more than 90 overnights per year. Other factors include consideration of income of a new spouse or new domestic partner; child support received from other relationships; gifts; prizes; possession of wealth, extraordinary income of the child; nonrecurring income; debt and high expenses.
How is Divorce Spousal Maintenance Determined?
In Washington, the following factors are used by the court to determine whether spousal maintenance is appropriate and if so for what duration, if any:
(a) The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including separate or community property apportioned to him or her, and his or her ability to meet his or her needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party;
(b) The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find employment appropriate to his or her skill, interests, style of life, and other attendant circumstances;
(c) The standard of living established during the marriage or domestic partnership;
(d) The duration of the marriage or domestic partnership;
(e) The age, physical and emotional condition, and financial obligations of the spouse or domestic partner seeking maintenance; and
(f) The ability of the spouse or domestic partner from whom maintenance is sought to meet his or her needs and financial obligations while meeting those of the spouse or domestic partner seeking maintenance
Divorce Case Factors & Considerations
Please keep in mind that the factors stated above are not exclusive, and the court can use other considerations to make their determinations as to what is appropriate. As a Divorce Lawyer, the two biggest considerations I’ve witnessed regarding maintenance are the length of marriage and the financial earning capacity of the parties.
There is non-binding authority/judicial writings in Washington that suggests parties in short-term marriages (less than 10 years) should go back to the financial position they were in before they were married. In a long-term marriage (twenty-five years or more), it is important to understand In re Marriage of Rockwell, 141 Wn. App. 235, 243, 170 P.3d 572 (2007), review denied, 163 Wn.2d 1055, 187 P.3d 752 (2008), a case that determined in divorces involving marriages of 25 years or more, the court should put the parties in roughly equal financial positions for the rest of their lives. In a mid-term marriage (10 – 25 years) the parties should be placed somewhere in the middle between a short-term and long-term marriage. Though the closure you get to the 25 year point the more likely the court will treat your marriage as a long-term marriage. The specifics of your individual case will determine whether you will pay or receive maintenance. Though, the higher your level of assets and income, the higher the likelihood there will be an award of maintenance to your spouse if your spouse is not in a similar financial position as you are. If you have any divorce questions please contact us.
The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Any results set forth herein are based upon the facts of that particular case and do not represent a promise or guarantee. Please contact an attorney for a consultation on your particular matter.
Nicholas “Nick” Wood – Law Office of Nicholas Wood, P.S.
Nick Wood received his J.D. in 1999 from Lewis and Clark’s Northwestern School of Law in Portland Oregon. The Law Office of Nicholas Wood, P.S. has represented clients for various criminal defense matters since 2006.