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Spokane Family Law Blog

Will divorce mean splitting your military pension with your ex?

Getting divorced is often a difficult process. There are strong emotions involved, as well as the need to start developing a new plan for the rest of your life. That process may include reviewing your financial circumstances and adapting plans for the future, such as your retirement. One consideration that people may overlook in the initial stages of a divorce is the potential impact of the end of their marriage on their retirement, including their pensions.

For those in the military, there are special considerations that may differ from those in the private sector. One such difference is that active duty and deployment could delay your ability to finalize a divorce for some time. Another is that unusual visitation arrangements, such as virtual visitation, may be your only option while you're abroad for military work. It also means that there are special rules in place regarding how to handle a pension.

Divorce preparation can ease the process in Washington

Divorce is typically not an easy process for the individuals involved. There may be heartbreak or sadness, and in some cases, disagreement or animosity. If there are children involved, their well-being will be of utmost importance for both the parents and the court. Clearly the process of getting divorced can be fraught with emotion and scattered with pitfalls that can derail the process at any time.

Fortunately, the State of Washington does not make the process of getting a divorce particularly difficult. The laws, in fact, are designed to facilitate the most amicable dissolution (or separation) possible. Unlike some other states, which require a showing of misconduct on the part of one spouse before a divorce will be granted, Washington's courts are designed to take the wishes of the parties into consideration. This, in turn, helps to ease the tensions and stressors that the parties must experience during divorce proceedings.

Legal separation in Washington state

In the state of Washington, married couples who wish to separate but not divorce can file a petition for legal separation. Legal separation is not too different from marital dissolution. In fact, the processes for both are quite similar. The parties file a petition in court, and after the initial pleadings, the assigned judge may hear motions and make some early rulings.

In some cases, the court may issue temporary orders regarding custody, support and assets. There may also be a discovery phase in which the spouses disclose their financial situations, along with any other facts that may help the court in issuing its final decree of separation. Often, a court may order mediation or arbitration if the judge believes that it can help to resolve disputed matters more quickly and efficiently.

Dealing with the effects of divorce on your military career

A military divorce is something that some service members have to go through. They, or their spouses, no longer feel comfortable in their marriages and decide to end them.

Military divorces work much like any other divorces do, but there are additional factors that have to be considered. For instance, retirement is split differently, and child custody arrangements may require special planning.

Military deployment and child custody: The reality

When you're getting a divorce, you want to make sure your children get the best of both worlds. You want them to get time with you and the other parent while also feeling supported and having a stable routine. This is sometimes difficult, especially if you're about to be deployed.

Deployment adds an extra layer of complications to a custody plan. For instance, if you are deployed, who is responsible for your child's care? What happens if your child gets sick? Who becomes an emergency contact?

In Washington, "de facto" parents can receive parental rights

In Washington, people who are not the biological parents of a child can be given parental rights under a legal doctrine established by case law over the last decade or so. The "de facto parent" doctrine was first introduced in the context of a same-sex divorce that involved a child. Since then, it has been expanded to anyone who can meet all four prongs of a test laid down by the Washington Supreme Court.

The de facto parent doctrine was first recognized in the 2005 case, In re: the Matter of the Parentage of L.B., minor. This developing area of law came into being when two women in a same-sex couple separated. One was the biological parent of their child, and the other sought parental rights. The Washington Supreme Court held that a nonbiological parent can be a "de facto parent" if four criteria are met: The individual(s) had a parent-like relationship that was permitted by the biological parent(s); the child lived with the individual(s); the individual(s) assumed obligations of parenthood without expectation of compensation; and they have an established, bonded relationship with the child.

A formal arrangement can help to prevent child custody disputes

Divorce, unfortunately, always carries the possibility of having negative effects on the children involved. And most often, divorcing parents want to act in the best interests of their children. When the parents have a good relationship, they may consider a "handshake" child custody arrangement in order to do "what's best" for the children. In Washington, as in any other state, this is not the best idea.

Child custody arrangements typically encompass many years. Over such a long course even the best post-martial relationships can hit a few rocky patches. For this reason, a formalized child custody arrangement can go a long way in setting out what each parent's responsibilities are and help the child or children acquire a sense of stability in the post-divorce environment.

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.

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