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Spokane Family Law Blog

How do courts divide debts, like credit cards and student loans?

When facing divorce, many people feel overwhelmed by all the potential changes. After concerns about child custody and visitation, questions about financial changes, including the division of marital assets and debts, are typically the most pressing. The greater your overall level of assets, the more reason you may have for concern. After all, you've become acclimated to a certain standard of living during your marriage.

Will you end up with reduced income, as well as a significant share of your marital debts? Understanding how the family courts in Washington look at and distribute both debts and assets from a marriage can help you understand the likely financial impact of your divorce.

How is maintenance determined in Washington?

A divorce or separation of domestic partners can be stressful - especially if it creates an extreme financial disparity between the spouses or partners. For example, if one party was the primary breadwinner and the other didn't work out of the home or perhaps had few marketable job skills, the latter may find him- or herself in relatively poor financial circumstances. In the state of Washington, a maintenance order can help to equalize such disparities.

Whether pursuant to a divorce or the dissolution of a domestic partnership, a maintenance order provides for payments to be made by one party to the other. A judge will determine the amount of the payments, the duration of the maintenance order, and how it will be paid. A maintenance order can be temporary or permanent, paid in increments or given as one lump sum. A judge will determine whether maintenance should be ordered by evaluating several statutory factors.

Look for the positives when it comes to finances and divorce

People in Washington whose marriages are ending may wonder what their financial future will hold. After all, after the divorce is complete they will be living on a single income, and they may have been dealt a certain amount of the marital debt. Moreover, they will be responsible for their life expenses -- shelter, food, clothing, utilities and more -- all on their own. The whole situation may seem rather daunting. However, couples in Washington should note that there are financial benefits one could experience after divorce.

First, when a person is single, they will no longer be arguing with their ex over money -- a common source of fights among married couples. After divorce, a person can decide on a budget and expenditures on their own.

Failure to pay child support is a big deal

Failure to pay child support is every bit as serious as it sounds, so you don't want to find yourself in this situation. Instead, if you realize that you're unable to make payment, the best thing you can do is seek a modification.

Requesting a child support modification is easier said than done. Here's why: You need to convince the court that you are unable to make your current payment. While this may sound difficult, there are steps you can take to put yourself in position for success:

  • Take immediate action. Don't wait around and hope that you catch up on back payments. If you realize that you can't afford your current payment, it's time to put the wheels in motion.
  • Talk to the other parent about your change in circumstances. Depending on your relationship, this person may agree to a child support modification, which makes it much easier to obtain a final approval.
  • Keep up to the best of your ability. You never know what will happen in the future, so you shouldn't stop paying your child support until you get the go ahead from the court. Even if you can't pay in full, do your best to keep up.
  • Show your change in circumstances. You can't obtain a child support modification unless you can prove that you are unable to pay. For example, you may need to show that you are no longer employed or that you are facing a serious health concern.
  • File your request. When the time comes, you'll need to file your modification request with the appropriate family law court.

What are the consequences for failing to pay child support?

Parents in Washington are under an obligation to support their child. Whether they are married, divorced, in a relationship or separated, both of a child's parents must see to it that the child has food, clothing, shelter and more. A child deserves to get a proper education, to engage in extracurricular activities, to have ways to be entertained, and more. Therefore, when a parent in Washington is ordered to pay child support, and fails to do so, there could be negative consequences.

If a court finds that the paying parentis able to pay part or all of what is owed, the paying parent may be held in contempt of court. They could be fined, or even be incarcerated. There are other penalties that may apply as well.

Complications may arise in same-sex divorce

Divvying up assets in a same-sex divorce is proving to be a difficult task in some cases. In a heterosexual divorce, there is almost always a definitive date of which the parties began to share assets. Therefore, a judge can use that date by which to determine ownership of different assets.

In same-sex marriages, the parties have often been together for many years prior to their marriage due to laws that did not allow them to become legally married at the time. The problem lies in the fact that, during a same-sex divorce, there is often no form of proof of the date on which a relationship began. This leaves the decision solely with a judge as to whether assets should be divided equitable beginning with the marriage date, or whether he or she finds significant evidence showing a likely amount of time the couple were together prior to marriage.

Will a history of substance abuse impact custody in your divorce?

Getting a divorce means ending what was likely the most important relationship in your life. It also means major changes to other important relationships, such as the ones between you and your children. You may worry about the outcome of custody proceedings, particularly if you and your spouse cannot agree to terms for shared custody.

There are many factors that can impact the outcome of a Washington state divorce, especially when the courts must decide the custody arrangements or parenting plan for minor children. In some cases, issues like substance abuse or addiction can impact the outcome of custody decisions. If you have struggled with addiction or are leaving someone who has an addition issue, you likely want to know how that could affect custody proceedings.

Survivor benefit plan designations in a military divorce

Military service members, both active duty and retired, have access to what is known as a Survivor's Benefit Plan (SBP). Deducted monthly from military pay, these plans are funded by the government in part, and by the military member in remainder. If a service member chooses not to have an SBP, then all benefits will cease upon his or her death.

One of the options in initiating an SBP is for a military member to designate a beneficiary. Included in this designation is the amount of pay, or percentage of pay, the member would like a beneficiary to receive. In percentage, the amount can be as high as 55 percent of the member's full regular monthly benefit. The amount that a beneficiary is to receive will determine the cost of the plan which will be deducted from the service member's pay.

What happens to your retirement fund when you divorce in WA?

There are a lot of variables to a divorce that can leave those considering ending their marriage confused and worried about the future. Custody of minor children is often a concern, as is how the courts will handle dividing your assets. You may find yourself worrying about the implications of a divorce on your financial future.

Retirement accounts or pensions are often some of the biggest assets a couple builds up over the course of their marriage. Home equity is another. You may find yourself worrying about how the courts will handle your retirement or pension account, especially if it isn't in your name.

Using mediation in a Washington State divorce

Washington State does not require mediation in a divorce. It does, however, give the courts the authority to order mediation.

Some counties have mandated local rules which require alternative dispute resolution in a divorce. One of those alternative methods is mediation. A party may file a waiver to this rule in certain situations, one of which is where domestic violence is an issue.

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