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Spokane Family Law Blog

The importance of prenuptial agreements

Earlier this month, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, and wife MacKenzie, announced their intent to divorce. Bezos is known as the world's wealthiest man, with an estimated worth of $136 billion. However, Bezos and his wife reportedly did not have a prenuptial agreement, and may not have a postnuptial agreement either. Without these agreements in place, a high-asset divorce like theirs could get complicated as state laws often come into play.

Bezos and his wife reside in Washington, a community property state, where all money and property acquired during the marriage is considered community property and will generally be divided equally between the couple upon divorce. Not having a prenup agreement in place could be a costly mistake for Bezos, whose wealth could be cut in half once the divorce is finalized.

Gray divorce is on the rise

When you see a couple that remains married even when approaching retirement age, do you assume they'll stay married for the rest of their lives? They appear to be exactly what people mean when they say, "Til death do us part."

The reality, though, is anything but. Gray divorce, the term given to these late-life divorces, has increased dramatically in recent years. More and more often, these couples decide to call it quits.

Actor files for divorce to end long-term marriage with wife

Actor Forest Whitaker has enjoyed a long and successful career. His many pursuits in film and on television have brought joy and intrigue to the lives of Washington residents for decades. However, Whitaker has been in the news recently for something unrelated to his acting career: he recently decided to file for divorce from his wife.

Whitaker and his wife have been married for more than 20 years and share two adult children. While the end of their union is undoubtedly sad, there are a number of considerations that readers can take from it to understand the differences that couples may experience when they divorce after long-term marriages instead of after only a few years.

Understanding the role of a step-parent in a child's life

The divorce of one's parents can be emotionally challenging for a Washington child. When one or both of their parents later decide to remarry, however, the child may be confronted with the difficult situation of understanding how to relate to their new step-mom or step-dad. Step-parents may also have concerns about what rights, if any, they have with regard to raising their step-children.

Generally, step-parents do not have any legal rights with regard to their step-children. This is because the children presumably still have two parents who are responsible for providing them with the financial, emotional and physical care that the children require. Birth parents do not give up their rights to be parents when they divorce; a parent who does not have physical custody of their child does not cease to be a parent to their child.

Setting up custody with full-time work loads: A challenge

One difficult thing to do is to manage a parenting plan when both parents work full time. It can't be easy to share custody when you both work similar hours, and deciding who should have custody of your children when you're unable to watch over them yourself can be quite the task.

For some parents, family members can step in and watch their children after school or in the mornings. For others, changing their schedules is possible, so they do so in a way that gives them both the most amount of time with their children. However, for people with few relatives or family members to work with and similar schedules, custody becomes a real problem.

Modifications of custody could help your child (and you)

There may come a time when you begin to have trouble with the custody plan you set up during your divorce. It might be that the other parent is starting to interfere with your right to custody, or it could be that your child has decided to make transitions extremely difficult each time you switch their care.

As a responsible parent, you know that the best thing you can do in this situation is to make it as simple as possible for your child. You want to reduce the likelihood of conflict and to stop any risk of losing time with your child due to the other parent's actions.

What options are available for missed child support payments?

Having a child is more than an emotional commitment: it is a financial commitment as well. From making sure that a child has a safe place to call home to keeping them fed and adequately clothed for their surroundings can force a Washington parent to cut back on their savings as they invest more into the health and happiness of their child. Most parents relish in being able to take care of their families, but for custodial parents who are dependent on support payments, getting by when money is lean can be tough.

Their situations may be made even harder if their children's noncustodial parents fail to make the child support payments that they are bound to provide. Whether they are committed to payments through court orders or party-made agreements, noncustodial parents who are obligated to pay support must do so or be subject to enforcement efforts when they fall behind.

Support for ending your same-sex divorce

Since the United States Supreme Court's 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex couples in the United States have been granted the right to have their marriages recognized in every state in the nation. Prior to the Obergefell decision, a same-sex Washington couple may find that their union was not considered valid if they traveled to a state where same-sex marriages were not recognized.

The Obergefell decision was also paramount in allowing same-sex couples to pursue divorces in various jurisdictions. Before the decision a couple may have to establish residency in a location that recognized same-sex marriages just to get into the courts to end their legal relationship. If they were married and then moved to a location where same-sex marriage was not recognized, they may not have been allowed to get a divorce since their marriage was not considered valid.

Changes to tax laws will impact how alimony is treated

Paying alimony can be a cumbersome undertaking for someone who is trying to start their life over after ending their marriage. In Washington and other states throughout the country, payers of alimony have been allowed to deduct the money that they pay to their former spouse from their taxable income and therefore lower the amount of money that they must pay in taxes each and every year. However, in 2018 the federal government passed a huge overhaul of the tax system, and part of that overhaul addressed how alimony payments will be dealt with in the future.

Beginning in the new year, alimony payments will no longer be tax deductible. That means that a person may not reduce their taxable income by the amount of money that they provide to their former spouse through support payments. In addition to losing income to payments, a payer will also be on the hook for the taxes that apply to that money from having earned it themselves.

How you benefit from filing an uncontested divorce

Getting divorced in Washington isn't easy. In fact, it can be one of the most difficult things you ever have to do. However, a divorce is also a fresh start.

Once you get through ending this marriage, you can move on to a new chapter in your life. While you want to ensure that the outcome of the divorce is fair, you don't necessarily want to have to deal with protracted, drawn-out court proceedings.

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