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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Do I Need a Prenuptial Agreement?
Prenuptial agreements are not just for the super-rich and the super-famous. If you would like to protect your property, assets, or your children from a previous marriage – or if you would like to protect yourself from a spouse’s debt – signing a prenup may be a wise move before you say “I do”.
You should especially consider a prenuptial agreement if you are entering the marriage with significantly more assets than your spouse, if you own a business, if you expect to significantly increase your assets after your marriage, if you have children from a previous relationship, or if you have a nest egg.
Instead of thinking of a prenuptial agreement as a way of barring your spouse from the assets that he or she may be legally entitled to during a divorce, it is best to think of a prenup as a document that clarifies the financial rights of each spouse. It’s a chance to discuss the distribution of property in the event of a divorce before things go sour.
Do you have a question about a prenuptial agreement, a divorce, or the division of property? Contact our prenuptial agreement attorneys at Molly B. Kenny today.
Does it Matter Who Initiates a Washington State Divorce?
If you are expecting a relatively simple and low-conflict divorce, it probably does not matter whether you or your spouse initially file for divorce. However, if you believe that your divorce may involve a contentious court case or custody battle, it could be slightly advantageous to file for divorce.
What are the advantages of filing for divorce? Being the petitioner (the person who files for divorce) instead of the respondent allows you to better set the pace for the coming divorce, especially when it comes to temporary orders regarding child support, alimony, and protection orders. The petitioner also gets to cite the reason for divorce, which the respondent may or may not agree with. Finally, a petitioner may simply feel empowered by being the one to file for divorce – especially if the person filing for divorce has felt a lack of control in the final years of marriage.
None of these advantages are likely to change the outcome of the divorce significantly. To learn more about your own divorce case and whether there may be a good reason to file your Washington State divorce first, contact a Bellevue divorce attorney at our law offices today to discuss your case.
How Will Washington Divorce Mediation Help Protect My Privacy?
One of the advantages of Washington State divorce mediation is that mediation sessions are confidential and that many of the personal matters and financial information that could become public information during a court case may be kept private. It is law in Washington State that mediation sessions are confidential and private.
How can a confidential mediation session help the divorce process? It is much easier to openly discuss a divorce settlement and child custody if everyone feels free to safely discuss their fears, concerns, wishes, and histories. With confidential mediation, you may speak candidly with the mediator without fearing that the information you share will be shared with your spouse. You may also share private events, emotions, or other information that would be considered unimportant in court, but which are very important to you and your ex.
Are you interested in exploring the option of mediation for your Washington State divorce? Speak with a Bellevue divorce attorney today to learn more about the process and find out if confidential mediation would be the right choice for you.
If my spouse is in violation of the parenting plan, am I still required to pay child support?
Yes. In Washington state, one is still required to pay child support, even if the other parent has failed to comply with the parenting plan. You should contact a Bellevue attorney to assist you in holding the other party in contempt for violation of the parenting plan though.
Could My Depression Affect My Child Custody Case?
Depression is the most common mental illness in America, and millions of people suffer from bouts of depression, especially after a traumatic experience like a divorce, a job loss, a death in the family or financial stress. Did you know that one out of ten Americans will suffer from clinical depression at some time in their lives? Recently, you may have read news stories about more and more spouses citing an ex’s depression in child custody cases.
A judge will only make custody decisions based on the best interests of a child. When it comes to considering a history of depression in one of the child’s parents, a judge will likely consider how long or how often depression has affected the parent, whether the parent has received treatment for the depression, and how the depression might affect a child’s home life. It is important to note that there is a significant difference between suffering from depression during a hard time in your life and suffering from lifelong major depression or manic depression.
What Should I do if I'm Worried My History of Depression Will Affect My Custody Case?
- Get an accurate diagnosis from a doctor. If you are depressed, don’t attempt to hide it because of a child custody case. Go to a doctor and get an accurate evaluation of the situation. There is a big difference between suffering a bout of depression, suffering from major depression, being manic depressive, and being suicidal. Make certain that what you are suffering from is made clear to the judge.
- Get the appropriate treatment. Most doctors recommend a combination of medication and counseling for those with depression. It is vital that you treat your depression, both to manage your illness and to show that you know how to recognize and confront difficult issues in your life.
- Ask yourself if your depression is affecting your children. If you are too depressed to give your children a loving home life or to fulfill their basic needs, you may not be the best parent for them at this time. As difficult as it is, be honest about your own ability to care for children and about what is in the best interest of your kids.
- Get an experienced Seattle child custody attorney. It is possible to get custody of your children despite a history of depression, but it is important to understand that the subject must be handled quickly and correctly. To speak with an experienced Bellevue family law attorney today, call Molly Kenny to make an appointment.
Unfortunately, although depression is a relatively common health issue, those suffering from depression are often stigmatized or unfairly treated. For example, it is more and more common for a parent to cite a history of depression in their ex in an attempt to gain child custody. While some people are indeed too affected by major depression to care for their children, others may be managing their depression and perfectly capable of providing their children with the stable environment and care that they need.
If you are involved in a Washington State child custody case and worry that your history of depression may hurt your chances of gaining custody of your children, it is critical to speak with a Seattle child custody attorney about your case. Call Molly Kenny today for more information.
Could My History of Mental Illness Affect My Child Custody Case?
If your mental illness affects your ability to raise your children and provide them with a stable, loving environment, it may well affect the outcome of your Washington State child custody case. However, if you are being successfully treated for your mental illness or if your illness is mild in nature, it may not be a significant issue in your case.
Child custody decisions are always made in the best interest of the child, and many judges agree that it is ideal for a child to have healthy relationships with both of his or her parents. If you suffer from a manageable mental illness, such as anxiety or depression, your health issue should not greatly affect your chances of custody. However, if you suffer from a severe mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, a judge may choose a healthier and more stable environment for your children.
All Washington child custody cases are different. If you are facing a child custody dispute and worry that a mental illness might be a factor in your case, it is important that you discuss the details with a Bellevue family law attorney who can help. Call Molly Kenny today to schedule a private, no-obligation meeting.
How long must I have lived in Washington in order to file for divorce in the state?
There is no minimum length of time of residency required to file for divorce in Washington state. Any person who is currently a resident of Washington, who is in the armed forces and is station in Washington, or who is married to a resident of the state may file for divorce in a Washington state court.
If you live in King or Snohomish county and are ready to file for divorce, contact The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny at 425-460-0550 or through our online contact form.
What Are the Consequences of Not Paying Child Support in Washington State?
Washington State realizes how important it is that children receive the financial support that they need – and that often both parents should be responsible for contributing to that effort. However, one-fourth of those who have been ordered to pay child support in Washington don’t pay the full amount owed, while another one-fourth pay nothing at all.
So What Could Happen If I Don't Pay Child Support?
- Your wages, unemployment, or other income could be garnished.
- A lien could be filed on your personal property.
- Your personal property could be seized, such as your vehicle.
- Your credit score could be damaged.
- You may not be able to apply for or renew a passport.
- You may not be able to receive your tax refund.
- Your name could be placed on the Washington Division of Child Support Most Wanted list.
- Your driver’s license could become suspended.
- You could be held in contempt of court.
If you cannot pay child support due to a change in your income or other circumstance, it is important to inform the court immediately.
Our legal library, blog and FAQ's are full of helpful information about child support laws and address different issues you may be experiencing. If you need legal assistance with a child support payment issue, you can also speak with a Seattle child custody attorney today by calling (425) 460-0550.
How Often Does Separation Lead to Divorce?
According to the Gottman Institute in Seattle, which studies marriage, relationships, and divorce, about three out of four separations eventually lead to divorce. About 25 percent of separations are temporary.
Why do some couples separate before they divorce?
In some cases, a couple needs to feel the consequences and ramifications of a divorce before making a permanent choice. Some separate to give themselves time to sort out personal matters and talk through future property division. In still other cases, some couples may simply need the extra step in the divorce process to get used to the idea of being apart and starting a new chapter. In tough economic times, some couples may choose separation to keep sharing finances or to keep family health care plans.
In short, while some couples use separation as a trial to see if divorce is the right choice for them, others use it as a stepping stone in the divorce process.Are you considering a legal separation or a Washington State divorce? Seattle divorce attorney Molly Kenny may be able to help you with your legal needs. Contact our law offices today get your questions answered by a knowledgeable professional.
How Will A Washington Divorce Affect My Health Insurance?
A Washington State divorce will only affect your health insurance plan if you receive health insurance through your spouse. Family health insurance plans are valid for dependents only, and once a divorce is finalized, you are no longer considered a dependent of your spouse. Therefore, it is vital that you form a plan for continuing your health insurance coverage immediately after your divorce is final.
There are a number of health insurance options available to you after a divorce, though many come with significant expense:
- Sign on to your own employer's health insurance plan.
- Sign up for COBRA benefits.
- Sign up for a private individual insurance plan.
- Ask your ex to pay for your health insurance costs as part of the divorce settlement.
It is important to realize that any gap in your health insurance coverage could result in higher payments and other complications. It is also important to note that applying for COBRA benefits is a temporary solution that may last for no longer than three years.
How Will Divorce Affect My Children's Health Insurance Plan?
How divorce will affect your children’s health insurance coverage depends on what type of coverage they have currently. However, in all divorces in which children are involved, it is vital that the issues of who is responsible for this expense and how this coverage will continue in the future are discussed and settled during the divorce process.
If one spouse provides health insurance benefits for the rest of the family and the other spouse does not have independent coverage, it is advisable that a provision is included in the divorce that the children will continue to have coverage or that the other spouse will be reimbursed for the expense of coverage.
The worst-case scenario is if your spouse agrees to cover your children’s health insurance expenses but then does not follow through with that agreement. In these cases, you may need to sue your ex for contempt of court.
Are you worried about the continuing health care for you or your children after a divorce, or are you having difficulty with an ex-spouse who is not complying with his or her agreement to provide health insurance coverage to your kids? You may need the assistance of a Seattle family law attorney. Contact Bellevue divorce attorney Molly Kenny today at (425) 460-0550.
What is Community Property in Washington State Divorce?
Washington State has community property laws in place to help couples more easily and fairly divide their property during the divorce process. Community property is basically defined as any property that is shared between husband and wife. This usually includes:
- All money earned by both the husband and the wife after the marriage.
- All property bought by the married couple with community funds.
- All gifts given to both the husband and wife.
- Property or funds brought into the marriage that are then mixed with community funds.
Other types of funds and property are considered separate property:
- Gift that are specifically meant for either the husband or wife.
- Inheritance that is intended only for the husband or only for the wife.
- Property acquired before the marriage that is not clearly intended by both spouses to be part of community property.
- Funds acquired before the marriage that is kept in an unshared bank account and never intended to be community property.
It can be difficult to understand Washington State community property laws. To learn more about who is entitled to the funds and property in your own divorce proceedings, speak with a Bellevue divorce attorney today for more information.
Learn More About Washington State Community Property Laws +
Can a Divorce Adversely Affect My Health?
A number of studies have linked divorce with higher rates of chronic diseases, health problems, and mobility issues later in life - not great news for someone who is considering divorce or in the process of divorce. Those who have been divorced or widowed are significantly more likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and those without partners may suffer from issues such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and even hair loss.
However, it is very important to understand that these health issues absolutely do not spontaneously happen when you divorce and that a troubled, stressful, or abusive marriage very well may be more harmful than a divorce. You can take preventative measures against many if not all of the health issues associated with divorce.
During and after a divorce, it is important to keep your health as a priority. Knowing that divorce can come with health issues can help you prevent these problems from becoming a part of your life. Eating right, exercising, and controlling your stress levels are more likely to affect your health than your marital status - as can regular visits with your doctor.
If you are in the process of a Seattle divorce and need legal guidance, contact Washington family law attorney Molly Kenny today to schedule a private meeting.
Does adultery matter in a divorce in Washington State?
Adultery has no bearing on a divorce in Washington State. Cheating doesn't matter because Washington State is a "no-fault" state, which means that either party can file for divorce without providing proof of a particular cause, such as adultery.
Instead, the filing party only has to state that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." Because adultery doesn't matter in a Washington State divorce, it does not impact the parenting plan or divorce settlement.
Grounds for Divorce in Washington
Some states require that the spouse filing for divorce has a legal reason or “grounds” for divorce. In these “fault states,” the filing spouse tells the judge why she wants a divorce and explains the marital misconduct (such as adultery) of the other party. The grounds will be a matter of record and may impact the child custody, alimony, and the divorce settlement.
Washington State, on the other hand, is a no-fault state. Because Washington subscribes to a no-fault philosophy, the courts don’t give any consideration to the reasons you want a divorce. In fact, Washington judges won’t hear couples’ nitty gritty qualms or their dirty laundry. All the filing party must specify is that the marriage is unfixable and irreconcilable.
Factors the Judge Considers in a Divorce
The law makes it very clear that judges are not to consider fault when determining divorce arrangements. As such, adultery does not come into play in decisions about custody or property division, nor does it impact spousal support, a common concern amongst couples.
Many wronged spouses want to use the adultery as the reason to convince the judge that they deserve alimony, but this won’t impact the judge’s decision.
The only kinds of factors that Washington courts consider when determining alimony include the following:
- The income and financial resources of the spouse requesting alimony (obligee)
- How much time the obligee needs to obtain adequate education/training to find suitable employment
- The duration of the marriage
- The couple’s standard of living prior to the divorce
- The age, physical health, and financial obligations of each spouse
- The paying spouses (obligor’s) income, assets, and ability to pay spousal support until the obligee can earn an adequate living
Does Infidelity Affect the Settlement?
Since Washington is a no-fault divorce state, you cannot cite the infidelity of your spouse, or cheating as the reason for divorce. The courts are not interested in why your marriage fell apart. Does that mean that cheating has absolutely no impact on the divorce, or that your spouse’s adulterous behavior has absolutely no influence on the financial settlement that you received? Not exactly.
How Infidelity Can Affect the Divorce Settlement
While you cannot name your spouse’s adultery or cheating as the basis for the divorce, you can use his or her behavior to influence the financial terms of the divorce settlement.
Say, for example, during the adulterous relationship, your spouse rented a luxury apartment for his girlfriend. In a settlement, your divorce attorney could argue that you deserve the cost of the apartment on top of a standard dissolution of marriage amount. However, for this, you must prove these expenses with documented evidence
That doesn't mean that you undertake illegal activities, like hacking into your spouse’s social media or email accounts. While commonplace, logging on to someone's account is illegal without permission.
Any evidence that you procure through such activities is probably not admissible in court. If you suspect that your spouse is cheating on you, use legal means to obtain evidence. This means hiring an investigator, usually, so verify to yourself first that the cost is worth it.
Egregious Adulterous Behavior
If you were mistreated during the marriage in other ways, like having your spouse openly flaunt his/her affair, then your settlement could ostensibly be higher. Higher settlement amounts very often are determined by hiring a competent divorce lawyer.
If the adulterous relationship was also accompanied by violence or abuse in your marriage, then a court may consider this an extenuating circumstance. It is possible you could be awarded additional funds as the abused spouse if your divorce goes to court.
It is possible to fully answer questions about adultery and divorce only on a case-by-case basis. Discuss your case with a divorce lawyer, and find out if you can obtain an increased settlement amount based on adultery in your marriage.
Reaching for a Divorce Resolution in Washington
You will also want to have an attorney review your case to assist with negotiations, offer tips on how to achieve an amicable divorce, and protect your interests. For a divorce lawyer in Washington, call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today at 425-460-0550 for a consultation.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Divorce in Washington State?
Just as every marriage is different, every divorce is also different. However, there are some common reasons that couples often site when splitting ways after a long-term relationship. Some of the reasons listed for divorce are specific, such as issues with money or infidelity. Others are much broader, such as "growing apart" or "irreconcilable differences." It is also important to understand that some reasons for divorce, such as arguments about how to raise the children, cover up more underlying reasons, such as difficulty with communication.
Here are some of the more common reasons for divorce in Washington State:
- Growing apart or becoming different people
- Irreconcilable differences
- Arguments and poor communication
- Failed expectations
- Lack of commitment
- Boredom, need for life change, or "mid-life crisis"
- Substance abuse and addiction issues
- Domestic abuse issues
- Money, spending, and finances
- Infidelity and cheating
Most divorces don't happen because of a single issue listed above, and no divorce is simple or clear-cut. The bottom line is that in some cases, two people simply cannot continue a healthy relationship for a variety of reasons, and it is better for everyone to move on and make a fresh start.
If you are in need of legal help regarding your Washington State divorce, contact Seattle divorce attorney Molly B. Kenny today.
How Can I Help Prevent Domestic Violence In Seattle?
Domestic violence is an extremely damaging social issue in Washington State that not only tears families apart but also results in a significant number of assaults, rapes, and murders. While stopping domestic violence should be a priority in Seattle, it can be difficult to know what any one individual can do to stop the cycle of violence. However, there are a few small steps that we can all take to fight back against abusers:
• Call the police if you hear a violent domestic dispute or other domestic violence crime.
• Donate a few hours of your time to a local domestic violence prevention program.
• Educate your children to respect their future partners and peacefully resolve conflicts.
• Educate your children on the issues of domestic violence and domestic abuse.
• Make a donation of supplies or money to a local women’s shelter.
• Familiarize yourself with Washington State domestic violence legal issues and current events.
• Try to live your own life without violence, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and controlling behavior.
If you are being directly affected by domestic violence or domestic abuse, understand that there are a number of resources in Seattle and Washington State that can assist you. If you need legal assistance, speak with a Seattle domestic abuse attorney today.
Does Domestic Violence Occur Between Same-Sex Couples or in LGBT Relationships?
Domestic violence absolutely does occur in gay and lesbian relationships; in fact, researchers believe that same-sex domestic abuse takes place at the same rate as it does for heterosexual couples. Physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and psychological abuse have nothing to do with gender. Relationships can become violent and harmful in all situations, including in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered partnerships.
Sadly, gay and lesbian abuse victims may be even less likely to report their abuse or to ask for help than heterosexual abuse victims. Some homosexual abuse victims may not tell anyone that they are being abused because they are not yet out to friends and family, while others may feel embarrassed or ashamed. Some gay abuse victims are told by their partners that domestic violence is "normal" for LGBT relationships, while others are told that violence between two people of the same sex is "fair" or "mutual." Neither of these statements is true.
Domestic abuse is never acceptable - no matter your sexual orientation. If you are in a violent relationship in Washington State and need help, please see our list of local resources. If you need the assistance of a Seattle domestic violence attorney, contact Molly B. Kenny today.
What If I Cant Afford My Child Support Payments?
If you suffer a change in your life, such as a job loss, lowered income, or medical emergency, you could suddenly find yourself struggling to make your child support payments. When this takes place, it is vital for you to immediately contact the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services child support division and let them know about your situation. From there, you will likely make a motion to have your child support payments modified to reflect your current situation.
To request a child support payment modification, you must prove that your circumstances have changed since the initial agreement through paystubs, bills, doctor’s notes, and any other pertinent information. If your circumstances have not changed and you still cannot pay your child support, you may need to analyze your budget, spending, and lifestyle.
If you stop paying child support and do not attempt to modify your payments, you could be found to be in contempt of court – and you could face serious consequences.
Are you having difficulty with your child support payments because of a changed circumstance? Speak with a Mercer Island divorce attorney today and resolve your situation.
What Should I Do If My Ex Isnt Paying Court-Assigned Debts?
During property division in a Washington divorce, joint debts are either paid or assigned. In cases in which joint debts cannot be transferred to one person’s name, one ex-spouse’s credit will suffer if the other does not follow through with regular payments. Some might stop payments because they don’t have to money to do so, some may not be acting responsibly, and some may be stopping payments out of spite.
If joint debt payments stop, request a free credit report to find out exactly what the issue is. Next, attempt to communicate with your ex about the issue and determine why the debts are not being paid – in writing and perhaps with the guidance of a family law attorney. Finally, attempt to have your ex move the debt into an account in their name only or enforce the terms of the divorce in court.
Generally, it is not a good idea to keep any joint debts in both spouses’ names after a divorce. During the assignment of debts, try to make certain that debts are only under the name of the person assigned to pay the debt.
Are you struggling with debt assignments from your divorce? Speak with a Seattle divorce attorney today.
What Happens To Our Debt In A Divorce?
Married couples share everything – including debt. During a marriage, you may rack up joint debt through credit card debt, car loans, a mortgage, and home equity loans. It is vital that during the divorce process, all of these loans are either assigned or paid for with assets.
Debts should be assigned to one spouse or the other according to the nature of that debt. If the debt is a car loan, the person getting the car in the divorce should often take responsibility for that debt. If the debt is a credit card debt, the debt should often be assigned to whomever made the charges. In cases in which debt assignment isn’t as clear, divorcing couples may consider assigning the debt to the more financially responsible person or the person with an income that allows then to pay the debt.
Remember: just because a debt is not assigned to you in a divorce decree doesn’t mean that your name is no longer connected with it. An ex-spouse who doesn’t pay off assigned debts could harm your credit. Be sure to dissolve all joint accounts involving and move them to just one name.
Perhaps the simplest way to handle joint debt during a divorce is to use joint assets to pay the debts; however, this is not an option for many couples.
How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost?
How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost in Washington?
The cost of divorce mediation in Washington State depends on a number of factors, including:
• Whether or not you have children and need to discuss child custody and visitation.
• How long you have been married.
• How complex your finances are.
• How well your communication skills are.
• How willing you are to compromise and work together.
• How many sessions you will require to work out the details of your divorce.
Ways Mediation Payment Should NOT Be Handled
Many people seeking a divorce through mediation have never before been through the process and do not know what to expect. This is especially true when it comes to mediation fees, payment, and compensation. Below, we’ve listed some common red flags regarding mediation and payment. If your mediator does anything discussed below, be sure to question your choice and consider working with someone else to settle your divorce.
- Your mediator doesn’t discuss the details of fees and payment before beginning your sessions.
- Your mediator does not put his or her payment policies in writing as part of your official mediation agreement.
- Your mediator asks for payment in exchange for a referral.
- Your mediator bases his or her payment on the outcome of your mediation or on your final settlement.
- Your mediator does not return partial payment if your mediation sessions are not successful or are not completed.
- Mediation can be an excellent choice for some couples seeking a divorce or a workable parenting plan for their children. However, a mediator who does not follow the standards of practice can harm the settlement process and even cost you money.
Contact a Seattle Family Law Attorney
As long as both parties are willing to work with a mediator, the cost of divorce mediation is almost always lower than the cost of going to court for your divorce. In addition to a lower cost, mediation also often gives families more privacy during the divorce process and allows couples to take legal decisions out of the hands of a judge. To learn more about your own Seattle divorce mediation, contact the Washington State family law attorneys at our Bellevue law office today.