Bellevue Family Law Frequently Asked Questions
Making important decisions about your family's future can be difficult -- and learning about the legal avenues that can make those changes happen can also be hard. This page of Bellevue, WA, divorce frequently asked questions is here to help those who are learning about Seattle family law issues such as divorce, child custody, domestic violence, and divorce mediation.
Do you have a question that isn't addressed below? Contact us today to talk to an experienced Seattle family law attorney.
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Is Verbal Abuse A Crime in Washington?
Verbal abuse and verbal assault are tricky topics when it comes to the law and what constitutes a crime. However, if you can prove that a person such as your partner or spouse threatened to harm you under certain circumstances, verbal abuse may indeed lead to criminal charges.
What Is Verbal Abuse?
Verbal abuse takes place when words are used to inflict pain, harm, and control over another person. Forms of verbal abuse, which most often takes place between those who are in a relationship or used to be in a relationship, include yelling, swearing, blaming, threats, insulting, name-calling, blaming, and intimidations. Verbal abuse can lead to feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, depression, loss of self, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Those who believe they are victims of verbal abuse should remove themselves from their unhealthy environment as quickly as possible. For help in the Washington State area, click here for a list of local Seattle abuse resources.
Is Verbal Abuse Considered A Crime in Washington?
Generally, verbal abuse and emotional abuse are not themselves crimes. But Washington State does have several laws that are sometimes applied to cases of domestic verbal abuse. For example, a person who is loudly and disruptively shouting at their spouse may be charged with Disorderly Conduct.
More commonly, a person who is verbally abusing his or her spouse or partner may be met with a Harassment charge. It is important to note, however, that this charge requires specific types of verbal abuse: your spouse must threaten you in a manner that is reasonable to believe. In other words, if his or her threats are empty ones, it is not likely that charges will follow. On the other hands, if he or she threatens to assault or kill you and it is reasonable that he or she may do so, a law has been broken.
Aside from the question of whether verbal abuse is a crime in Washington State, it is vital to understand that verbal abuse is often an indicator of emotional abuse and future physical abuse. If your partner or spouse is calling you names, shouting at you, or threatening you, that abuse may escalate to even more damaging forms of abuse. In addition, you should understand that verbal abuse — even if it is not breaking a law — can have serious and long-term effects on your mental health and wellbeing.
Do you need legal assistance regarding verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or physical abuse? Call a Seattle domestic abuse attorney at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today at 425-460-0550.
When Will My Washington State Divorce Be Finalized?
Your divorce is final when the judge in your case signs the final decision and the clerk files the signed decision. However, it is important to understand that even then, your spouse could file an appeal, request a new trial, or otherwise continue the divorce process further.
Before the judge signs his or her final decision, you must petition the court to end your marriage and your spouse must be served divorce papers. You must also divide your property and decide on important issues including: debts, assets, child custody, child visitation, child support, and alimony. You may accomplish this through mediation, divorce collaboration, or a settlement. If you are unable to settle these issues out of court, you will go to trial.
How long does it take to finalize a divorce? The answer to that question depends heavily on the details of your case. How complicated are your finances? Do you have children? How long have you been married? Are you likely to fight over property? Is there domestic abuse involved? Do both of you wish to be divorced? Will you need to go to trial? While a Washington State divorce can take as little as 90 days, many divorces take more time than that because of the above issues.
An experienced and knowledgeable Seattle divorce attorney could make your divorce go as quickly as possible considering the details of your case. If you would like to speak with a Washington family lawyer, call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today at 425-460-0550.
Can I delay my Washington divorce proceedings?
The court may reschedule or pause the divorce proceedings if there is a good reason to do so. However, when you wish to delay or stop your Washington divorce, it is important to ask yourself why you want to do so and what the delay will accomplish. You may also wish to speak with your Seattle divorce lawyer about why you may need more time before finalizing your divorce.
You must realize that although you may be able to delay your divorce, you cannot stop a divorce as long as your spouse wants to move ahead with it.
There are a number of valid reasons to delay a divorce or reschedule a court hearing (request a continuance):
- You need more time to seek legal advice or legal counsel.
- You would like to collect more evidence.
- You will not be able to make an appearance on the court date.
- You need more time to prepare.
The sooner you ask for a delay, the more likely you are that it will be granted.
If you would like to delay the divorce to try to work on your marriage, the divorce process may be able to be delayed as long as both parties agree that they would like to try reconcile through family counseling or mediation.
It is not advised to seek to delay your divorce simply because you do not wish to get divorced, because you would like to inconvenience your spouse, or because of a financial reason.
Do you need a Seattle divorce attorney? Call Molly B. Kenny today at 425-460-0550.
What should I wear to court for my divorce?
You might want someone to notice your clothing if you are dressing for a party or event. But when you have a court date for your divorce trial, you do not want anyone to be surprised by what you are wearing, especially the judge.
The best advice for how to dress for your divorce court date is this: pick something clean, respectful, professional, and plain.
Here is a short list of don’ts:
- Don’t wear anything revealing.
- Don’t wear trendy, designer clothing.
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry.
- Take out all visible piercings besides ear piercings.
- If possible, don’t wear anything that shows your tattoos.
- Don’t wear a hat.
- Don’t wear anything casual, including t-shirts, sandals, shorts, tank tops, sunglasses, or jeans.
- Don’t wear anything that is dirty or damaged.
- Don’t wear anything that is uncomfortable, especially to sit in.
- Stay away from very bright colors or anything that makes a “statement.”
So, what should you wear? Think about what you might wear to a business meeting or professional event and think about how you would like the judge to see you. Remember that you don’t want your clothes to be noticed or commented on, you just want to look clean, presentable, and respectful. Also make sure that you are comfortable, as trials can take time and require your close attention.
Is your divorce headed for court? You may wish to have the assistance of a Washington divorce attorney. To learn more about our legal services, contact the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today: 425-460-0550.
What Happens If My Washington Divorce Mediation Fails?
Mediation can be a great option for divorcing couples that wish to settle their split quickly and with minimal drama (and costs). However, if mediation doesn’t work out, you can be sent back to square one – and end up spending more time and money that you would have if you had skipped trying the mediation process.
Mediation can fail for a number of reasons: you can’t reach a settlement that both parties agree with; your split is complicated by issues of abuse, addiction, or manipulation; or your mediator doesn’t stay neutral or follow mediation guidelines. In these situations, your case will be left in the hands of a judge and you may need to go to trial to figure out issues like division of property, spousal support, child support, and child custody.
However, it is important to note that mediation doesn’t fail often – and that a failed mediation can be avoided in most cases. You can avoid most failed mediations by not entering into the process unless you are confident that both you and your spouse are willing to communicate, compromise, and work together to find common ground and a workable solution. Also don’t enter into a mediation situation if you believe your spouse won’t be 100 percent truthful or if you believe your spouse may not respect the process.
Try not to feel guilty or angry if your mediation does fail – these things sometimes happen and sometimes you truly do need a judge to help you come to a settlement.
Do you need a Seattle divorce mediation attorney, either for legal guidance during your mediation or for your court divorce? Contact the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today: 425-460-0550.
Can We Be Legally Separated and Still Live in the Same House?
Yes, you can be legally separated and still live in the same house, just as you can be legally divorced in Washington State and live in the same house. Getting a divorce or a legal separation cuts many ties between two people, but they still have the freedom to live under the same roof if they wish. While this may seem odd to many, some divorced or legally separated couples choose to continue living together for any number of reasons. Some wish to continue raising their children together, while others choose to stay together in the same physical space for financial reasons.
The Differences and Similarities in Legal Separation and Divorce
Legal separation and divorce are surprisingly similar in Washington State: at the end of both processes, the couple has no financial ties and has divided their shared property, assets, and debts. The only technical difference is that a legally separated couple is still legally married. Why do some people choose legal separation? Today, legal separation is often an option for couples who still want some of the benefits of being married (such as health insurance coverage), couples that belong to a religion that frowns upon divorce, and couples who are unsure about the finality of divorce.
Seattle Divorce Attorney Can Help With Legal Options
Are you considering a legal separation or a divorce? Are you unsure of which option is best for you and your family? Hiring an experienced and assertive Seattle divorce attorney can help make sure that you know your legal options and the pros and cons of each. To schedule an appointment at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, call today: 425-460-0550.
How long does a divorce take in Washington State?
Technically, a divorce in Washington State can be finalized 90 days after the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed and is signed by both spouses (or is signed by one spouse and served to the other spouse). However, many divorces take longer than 90 days to finalize due to a number of different factors.
Here are just a few issues that could delay your divorce process:
- Child custody or child visitation issues
- Child support or spousal support issues
- Divorce of property disagreements
- Domestic violence issues
- An uncooperative spouse
- Divorce after many decades
- Divorce involving complicated finances or a family business
Generally, the fastest divorces are uncontested divorces between amicable couples who do not have complex finances or who do not have children. The slowest divorces take place between acrimonious couples who require multiple court dates and a trial in order to resolve issues like division of property and child custody. On average, an uncontested divorce will take three months, while a contested divorce may take a year or even longer.
Generally, a longer, more complicated divorce is more expensive, while an uncontested divorce or a divorce handled through divorce mediation is shorter and less expensive.
An experienced and knowledgeable attorney will be able to make sure that your divorce is finalized as quickly as possible, keeping in mind any unique circumstances surrounding your divorce. To speak with a Seattle divorce attorney at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, call today: 425-460-0550.
Can my divorce be finalized before our marital house sells in Washington State?
In many cases, the marital home is the largest asset a couple has—and what happens to the home is often the most important puzzle piece when dealing with the property settlement. Because of the recent recession and housing bubble burst, dealing with the marital home has become even more complex than in the past. Sometimes, the house may stay on the market for years, or the couple cannot make their mortgage payments, and the home goes into foreclosure. When the fate of the house is uncertain, can the divorce still be finalized?
While all divorces are different, the answer is usually, “yes.” Divorces are regularly finalized before all of the couple’s assets are allocated—and the fate of the home is decided in a separate property settlement agreement. However, there are instances in which a judge may order the house put up for sale before the divorce is finalized or that an official plan for the house is in place.
Although getting a divorce finalized before selling the marital home used to be rare, it has become more common because of the difficult housing market and the tough economy. More couples—with the help of their attorneys—are making non-traditional decisions regarding their marital homes, such as renting them out until the housing market improves.
It is vital that, whatever happens to your marital home, you get your fair share during your divorce and property settlement. To ensure that you get the assets that you deserve during the divorce process, work with an experienced and knowledgeable Washington divorce attorney. To speak with a lawyer today, call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny at 425-460-0550.
Should Unhappy Newlyweds Consider Divorce?
Preserving a happy and rewarding marriage can be much more difficult than couples realize—and many face serious challenges once they return from the honeymoon and enter the first months and years of marriage. Some might feel that they simply no longer love the person that they married, while others may find that they weren’t prepared for a long-term commitment. Still others may discover that an issue in the marriage, such as money problems, infidelity, or domestic abuse, makes continuing the union impossible.
But how can you know when you should work on your new marriage or whether you should seek a divorce and a fresh start with someone new?
While all relationships are different, it is important to take a close look at your feelings—and what the possible solutions are. Do you see any way of compromising with your spouse? Have you tried marriage counseling or other forms of more open communication? Do you believe that your differences will never be resolved? Have you made any attempts at reconciliation or change? Are you sure that your feelings will not change?
Keep in mind that there are some circumstances in which taking a “wait and see” approach may not be healthy or safe. If you are a newlywed who is dealing with issues like domestic abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, child abuse, or a spouse’s substance abuse, you should get help now and make certain that you are safe.
Do you need the assistance of a Seattle divorce attorney? The lawyers at the Law Office of Molly B. Kenny are here to help. Call us today to schedule a meeting: 425-460-0550.
Can Our Mediator Stop or Terminate My Divorce Mediation?
Yes, there are certain circumstances in which a good moderator will halt or permanently terminate a divorce or child custody mediation—and you must trust that stopping mediation to deal with a related issue is probably the best choice for you and your family. In general, a mediator will only stop or suspend a mediation session if the safety of someone in the family is threatened or if continuing the mediation would not fairly serve both parties.
First and foremost, a mediator will stop a mediation session if she believes that either party or their children are in danger. For example, if one party threatens another party, or threatens to harm or abduct the children involved in the divorce, a mediator will not continue and will alert authorities if they need to under the law. In addition, if the mediator sees evidence of domestic abuse, child abuse, or child neglect, they will also halt the mediation sessions and may be legally obligated to tell police.
A mediator will also stop the mediation process if she believes that the process is no longer fair to both parties. For example, if the mediator feels that she can no longer act as a neutral third party or that she is biased toward one party, mediation will stop. Likewise, the mediator may stop mediation if she feels that the final settlement is unfair to one party or if one party is using mediation to take advantage of the other party.
Are you considering divorce mediation in Washington, but would like a lawyer to guide you through the process and make certain your rights are protected? Call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today: 425-460-0550.
Who Will Get The Family Car In My Washington State Divorce?
Keeping the family car in a divorce—or securing enough funds to purchase a new car—can be vital during your Washington State divorce, especially if you need a vehicle to get to work, get to the grocery store, or get your kids to school. But how does a judge decide who keeps the car after a divorce if you share a vehicle with your spouse?
First, the judge will consider whether the car was purchased before the marriage, given as a gift, or inherited from a family member. If the car was purchased together by the couple—and if the car’s upkeep and repairs are also shared by the couple—the judge will examine who uses the car and for what purposes. If you use the car to commute to work or if you use the car to secure necessities for your family, you may have a better chance of retaining the car.
It is important to remember that if you don’t win the family car in the divorce settlement, you will likely be compensated, either with other types of property from the divorce or with the funds to secure a new or used vehicle. If the car specific to your case has a special value that goes beyond its use as a form of transportation (for example, if it has sentimental value or is a collector’s item) make sure that is clear when discussing this item during property division.
A Seattle divorce attorney can help you better understand all aspects of your divorce settlement—and make sure you get what is rightfully yours. To speak to a family lawyer today, call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny at 425-460-0550.
Should I Keep Family Photographs After A Divorce?
Long after your Seattle divorce has been finalized, the memories of your relationship live on through many objects in your home, from your wedding ring to your kitchen table. But perhaps the hardest things to look at are your old family photos—whether or not you believe that divorce was the right choice for you.
What you decide to do with your old photographs—from professional pictures of your engagement and wedding to casual shots of your vacations and anniversaries—depends heavily on what your marriage and divorce were like and on how you are adjusting to your new life. If your divorce was amicable and if you are comfortable focusing on the good times in your past, you may wish to keep the photographs, but just put them out of sight. If your marriage was a largely painful one, or if the details of your divorce ruined even the best memories, you might heal from throwing out old pictures.
If you have children—whether they are babies, adolescents, or adults—consider keeping your photographs even if you have no interest in them. Your children may find the pictures meaningful or, at the least, an interesting part of their history. If you have young children who are struggling with your divorce, consider hanging a family photo in their room so that they are reminded of the people that love them.
Do you need legal assistance as you navigate the divorce process in Washington State? The Bellevue divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny may be able to help. Call today to learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment: 425-460-0550.
What Is Caucusing? Should we use it?
Caucuses are private meetings that take place within the process of divorce mediation between the mediator and one of the parties. The information exchanged during these meetings is confidential, unless clearly stated otherwise. Caucuses may take place before mediation begins, during mediation sessions, or after a mediation session is over. A mediator may ask for a caucus, or one of the parties may request one.
A mediator may wish to call a caucus for a number of reasons:
- To discuss the settlement privately with one party
- To share negotiation tips
- To allow one party to let off steam
- To relieve building tension during a mediation session
While some mediators often rely on caucuses to move the mediation process forward, others do not believe that caucusing is a helpful tool. These latter mediators believe that caucusing can create bias, or the perception of bias, and that caucusing goes against the philosophy behind mediation. Before beginning the mediation process, it is important to understand your mediator’s stance on caucusing, as well as how the caucusing process will work during your sessions.
The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny works with clients going through divorce and child custody mediation in the Seattle area. To speak with a Washington mediation attorney or to find legal representation, call us today at 425-460-0550.
Should We Use Caucusing During Our Divorce Mediation?
When you meet with your divorce mediator, she should overview the mediation process and share the rules that you must abide by during your mediation sessions. Some mediators will utilize caucuses as a tool during your sessions. There are both pros and cons to taking advantage of caucusing, and whether or not you decide to make caucusing part of your sessions depends on your unique situation, as well as your own thoughts and feelings on the subject.
Some believe that caucusing gives both parties a special opportunity to speak openly and confidentially with the mediator—an opportunity that can speed up the mediation process, lead to a fairer settlement, and ensure that everyone’s needs are met. Caucusing can also prevent emotions from running too high or keep potential solutions from being considered.
On the other hand, some believe that caucusing goes against what is at the heart of the mediation process: open and honest communication. Breaking up joint mediation sessions with private sessions could possibly cause bias or the perception of bias—and promote secret sharing. In some cases, caucusing could make the mediation process take longer or make coming to an agreement more difficult.
Before embarking on your divorce mediation process, make sure you and your ex both understand whether caucusing will be used and what the rules surrounding caucuses are, according to your mediator.
Do you need the assistance of a Seattle divorce mediation attorney? Call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today to speak to a lawyer in your area: 425-460-0550.
How Do I Ask My Spouse for a Divorce?
As you might guess, how you ask your spouse for a divorce depends on a number of individual factors: does your spouse know that your marriage isn’t going well? Have you discussed divorce in the past? Have you tried marriage counseling?
Realize that the way that you ask for a divorce may well color the remainder of your divorce process: asking for a divorce in a way that respects your current partner’s feelings and that makes your needs clear can increase your chances of a more amicable and fair divorce. Asking for a divorce during an argument, opening old wounds, or making overly hurtful statements may get you off on the wrong foot and cause more pain than necessary. While the vast majority of divorces will involve hurt feelings, sadness, and even anger, establishing good communication and mutual empathy during your initial conversation can help minimize these aspects of the process.
It is important to note that if your marriage involves domestic violence, emotional abuse, or substance abuse, you should approach asking your spouse for a divorce in a way that makes your safety and your children’s safety a priority. Ask for a divorce in a public place where you will not be in danger, and arrange for a place to go after the conversation happens.
The Bellevue divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny assist both men and women through the Washington State divorce process, including property division, child custody, parenting planning, and domestic violence issues. Call today to speak with one of our family lawyers: 425-460-0550.
How Does the Court Determine the Best Interests of a Child?
When reading about child custody and child support in Washington State, it is likely that you have read the phrase, “the best interests of the child.” But what exactly does this phrase mean, and how does the court determine it?
Very simply, determining the best interests of a child is determining the life a child should have that best preserves their wellbeing, health, and happiness. When a child’s parents divorce, separate, or break up, it can be difficult to know where that child should live, who makes decisions for the child, and who will financially support the child. A judge can look at the evidence in the case and answer these questions based on what environment and parenting plan will best benefit the child.
The best interests of a child are based on the child’s needs and—if the child is old enough and mature enough—the child’s wishes. It is important to understand that a younger child’s wishes may not be in their best interest. In fact, a parent’s wants and wishes may not be in a child’s best interest.
In Washington State, it is usually in the best interest of the child to keep an ongoing relationship with both parents, unless one parent has a potentially harmful issue, such as drug addiction or violent tendencies. Most Washington parenting plans involve joint custody and a visitation schedule, though the details of these plans vary widely from family to family.
Every parent wants what is ultimately best for their child. If you need a Seattle child custody attorney, call Molly B. Kenny today: 425-460-0550.
How Should Divorce Mediator Payment Be Handled?
Divorce mediation can be significantly less expensive than a court divorce, but it still requires payment. Before agreeing to a divorce or child custody mediation arrangement, be certain to discuss all aspects of the payment and fee policy with everyone involved in the process, including the mediator. In fact, the payment arrangement for your mediation should not only be discussed verbally, it should also be explained in writing within your mediation agreement.
There are several instances in which you should not pay your mediator. For example, it is unethical for a mediator to accept payment in exchange of a referral to another mediator or professional. It is also unprofessional for a mediator to collect full payment if the mediation process is not completed. If the mediator has been paid in full but the mediation process isn’t finished, the mediator is expected to pay back a portion of the fees. In addition, a mediator should never base a fee or payment on the outcome of the mediation or on the final settlement. Again, look for these provisions in your written mediation agreement before beginning the process.
An experienced Washington mediation attorney can help you review your mediation agreement and payment agreement to make certain that it is ethical and fair—and to ensure that it is in alignment with the accepted standards of practice. A mediation lawyer can also guide you through the entire process and protect your rights. To speak with a family law attorney at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, call 425-460-0550 to schedule a consultation.
Will my disability affect my Washington State child custody case?
Unfortunately, parents with mental and physical disabilities are often discriminated against when it comes to child custody cases and divorce proceedings. While there are laws in place to protect the rights of the disabled, there are also a number of troubling recent cases in which children have been unjustly taken from the homes of their disabled parents.
At the heart of every child custody case in Washington State are the best interests of the child. In many cases, this means that a child will be in contact with both of his or her parents regardless of their medical conditions. However, this may also mean that a parent that is suffering from a severe mental illness or physical disability may not get physical custody of their children if they are unable to properly care for them. In the end, the court will balance the rights of the disabled parent with the wellbeing of the child or children in question.
If you are disabled and have lost custody of your child, do not lose hope. You may be able to fight to get your kids back if you can prove that you are an effective, loving, and capable parent despite your limitations.
Every child custody case is different. To learn more about whether your disability could affect your chances of getting custody of your child, consider speaking to a Seattle child custody attorney about the unique details of your case. Call Molly B. Kenny today at 425-460-0550 to schedule a meeting with an experienced family lawyer.
Should My Child Participate In The Mediation Process?
Children should not be involved in the divorce and child custody mediation process unless both parents consent and unless the child’s court representative believes it is in the best interests of the child. Although younger children and children lacking emotional maturity may not benefit (or even be harmed) by being included in the mediation process, older children may add to and benefit from the process.
Before children are asked to participate in the mediation process, the mediator will discuss how and to what extent the child will participate—as well as how this participation will benefit the final outcome and parenting plan. As in all parts of the process, the mediator will take a neutral position on the subject, but present both the pros and cons of child participation in your case specifically. In addition, the mediator will review the different ways that a child can participate in the process, from actual participation in a session to a written or taped statement from the child, and share the pros and cons of each of those ways.
If you are using mediation to discuss child custody and form a working parenting plan, you may wish to have the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced family lawyer on your side. This lawyer can help you know your rights, better understand the mediation process, and ensure that you get the outcome you and your children deserve. To speak with a Bellevue family law attorney at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, call 425-460-0550. to schedule an appointment.
Learn More About Involving Your Children in the Mediation Process +
Can I Go to Court to Terminate the Parental Rights of My Ex?
Whether or not a judge will consider the termination of your ex-spouse’s parental rights depends on the specifics of your child custody case. However, in Washington State, the courts generally do not wish to terminate a parent’s rights except in the most extreme circumstances. Under Washington law, judges will always act in the best interests of the child in question. It is rare that completely severing a relationship between children and one of their biological parents is a positive change–unless a child is in danger of being physically or emotionally harmed by the parent (or has been in the past).
Generally, you must have a very strong reason to try to terminate the parental rights of your child’s other parent–and that reason must involve the wellbeing of your child, not you. If you simply want your ex out of your life, it is unlikely you will be able to terminate parental rights even if your ex is not currently contributing to your child’s life.
You may have a better chance of terminating parental rights if someone else is willing to adopt the child and care for his or her needs, such as your new spouse. Again, this may only be possible if the biological parent has abandoned your child and if he or she voluntarily relinquishes his or her rights.
It is important to realize that the termination of parental rights can have a serious affect on your child or children: without parental rights, your ex will not have the legal right to contact, influence, or care for your kids. In addition, they will not have the obligation to pay child support or financially assist your child in any way.
Do you have more questions about the termination of parental rights in Washington State? Call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today: 425-460-0550.
How is property divided in a Washington State divorce?
Depending on the state you live in, property is divided in two different ways during a divorce: community property or non-community (separate) property. Non-community property states use a “fair instead of equal” approach to property division in which assets are dealt with equitably instead of equally. Washington State, however, is a community property state, which means that the court considers that each spouse owns half of any property acquired during the course of the marriage.
Generally, in community property situations, a judge will split most property and assets 50-50, regardless of who may have technically earned or acquired it–and regardless of who owns the property according to a title. Debts are shared in the same way: no matter which spouse acquires the debt, both husband and wife are equally responsible for paying it. The philosophy behind the community property division is that both husband and wife are part of a single family unit and both presumably make different but equally important contributions to the relationship.
There are two major exceptions to community property jurisdiction: gifts to one particular spouse and when one particular spouse inherits money or property from someone else.
Do you have a question about how your property, assets, and debts will be divided during the divorce process? Speak to a Seattle divorce lawyer at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today to schedule a private consultation: 425-460-0550.