Articles Posted in Divorce

Under Washington law, courts may order postsecondary support for children in some circumstances, but as a recent case reminds us, it is not automatic. Parents must be sure they understand the child support order and follow any deadlines for filing the petition for postsecondary support.  It is important that parents consult with their attorneys before the child turns 18 or graduates from high school.  The child support order may require the parent to petition for postsecondary educational support before the child’s high school graduation.

In this case, the child support order stated that support would continue until each child reached the age of 18 or graduated from high school, whichever was later, but not after a child reached the age of 19, except as provided in the paragraph on postsecondary educational support.  That paragraph provided that the right to petition for postsecondary support was reserved as long as it was exercised before the child turned 18.

The child had already turned 18 at the time the father filed for postsecondary educational support, but they were still in high school.  The court dismissed the petition as untimely, and the father appealed.

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Divorces can be very complicated when a valuable business is part of the community property.  The party who keeps the business may be unable to pay their spouse’s share immediately, resulting in long-term property distribution payments and interest.

A Washington appeals court recently addressed these issues in the unpublished case of In Re: Marriage of Cheng.  The wife had graduated from Harvard Business School in 2002 but had not really been employed since.  The husband had a consulting and distance learning company that the court valued at $3.6 million.  The trial court awarded the wife $640,000 in maintenance to be paid over 44 months and a judgment of $1.455 million with 6% interest over 15 years as property distribution. The court also awarded child support greater than the standard calculation.  The husband appealed.

The husband argued that the wife was receiving an improper double recovery.  Trial courts are to consider “all relevant factors including but not limited to” those listed in RCW 26.09.090(1) when considering how much maintenance should be awarded.  The maintenance award must be just, but the trial court otherwise has broad discretion.  One of the listed factors is the division of community property.    If the maintenance and property award are paid from the same asset in a way that unfairly burdens the spouse that is paying, the maintenance may duplicate the property division.

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Emotions run high during divorce, and sometimes unfortunately the parties will try to hurt each other.  When a party to a divorce intentionally damages property or wastes the couple’s assets, the other party may seek a remedy through the court. In the recent case of In re Marriage of Fellows, a Washington appeals court reviewed an order for contempt of court against a wife who allegedly damaged the couple’s home.

The wife, Michaela, appealed the order finding her in contempt of court for violating the dissolution decree.  The trial court found that she had intentionally violated its order by damaging the couple’s home.

The decree awarded the home to the husband, Charles, but allowed the wife to remain there for another 60 days.  At the request of the husband’s counsel, the court ruled the home was to be maintained in the condition it was in.  When presenting its written ruling, the court also instructed the wife not to damage the home in any way, and it noted that if damage did occur, the court would consider contempt and address the damage.

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High-asset divorces are very complex and difficult matters.  It is not uncommon for one party to allege the other has either wasted or hidden assets.  Additionally, the standard calculation may not be an equitable way to determine the appropriate amount of support, so the court has some discretion to deviate from the standard if it considers the appropriate factors and makes findings of fact.

A Washington appeals court recently considered waste, separate property, and a possible deviation from the standard distribution calculation in In re Marriage of Hansen. The couple married in 2001, and the decree was issued in 2015.  The couple had two children.  The husband owned and operated a bail bond company, which was the couple’s primary source of income.  The wife did not work outside the home and had been financially dependent on her husband well before the marriage.

In 2013, the husband purchased another bail bond company, for which he paid partially with funds from shared retirement accounts.  The couple incurred early withdrawal fees and taxes of more than $120,000.

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Everyone can relate to the experience of walking into the grocery store without a shopping list and leaving the store without what you went in for, having spent lots of money on things you didn’t need.  Notes aren’t only important for grocery shopping.  They can help keep meetings on task, organized, and efficient.  That is why we recommend that people bring notes into their first meeting with a family law attorney.  One sheet of paper is probably enough for your first meeting.  The paper should include the following: Continue reading

Myth 1:

You don’t have to pay child support if you have a 50/50 parenting plan.

Fact:  While it is true that in some cases with 50/50 parenting plans there will be no transfer payment of child support from one parent to the other, in many 50/50 cases, especially those where the parents’ incomes are very different, one parent may still have to pay money to the other parent for the support of the child.

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Washington family law clients and attorneys alike should know that there are changes coming to the Washington State Family Law Forms.  The revised forms will become required on May 1, 2016, but they are available now on the Washington Courts Website for review and preparation for adoption.

The forms are called “Plain Language” forms and are meant to be easier to read and understated.  From our review, many of the forms are easier to read and understand.  This will benefit pro se litigants (those people that are not being assisted by a family law attorney).  It will also benefit people that have attorneys, because they won’t have to waste their valuable time having the complicated forms explained, and, instead, will be able to spend their time telling their family law attorney about the facts of their case and giving the attorney time to discuss strategy and the best way to move forward.  It will also benefit people that are represented by an attorney, but are opposing a party that is pro se.  These pro se opposing parties sometimes make claims that they did not understand the online forms and as such should not be held to what they agreed to therein.  The Plain Language forms will be easier to understand and thus, if someone signs these documents the courts will probably be less likely to believe that a party did not understand what they were signing.   Continue reading

Dissolving a marriage can be difficult even in relatively simple, straight-forward circumstances.  Things can become much more difficult in divorces that involve a business owned by one or both spouses.  The end of a marriage can also mean the end of the business.  Ending the business is not always in the best interest of the divorcing parties.  Below are a few issues for consideration by parties seeking to dissolve their marriage in Washington, when one or both spouses own a business. Continue reading

For many families the spring is an exciting time.   During spring, the weather gets warmer, the flowers bloom, the baseball season begins, and families plan for their summer vacations.  For families whose children’s residential time is split between two unmarried parents, it is also often a time that the parenting plan requires parents to swap summer schedules.  In many plans both parents submit their desired summer schedules and one parent has the prevailing preference for each year.  Here are a few ideas that some families have found helpful when addressing notice for summer vacation schedules: Continue reading

As many parents of adult children know, most children do not stop needing support (financial, mental, and emotional) when they turn eighteen or graduate from high school.  Providing continued emotional or mental support is usually not a point of contention between parents.  Whether to provide financial support can be a different story.  When the parents of adult children are still married at the time the child reaches the age of majority, the parents usually decide together how much longer they will offer housing, pay for college, and otherwise financially support the child.  When the parents are not married at the time the child turns eighteen or graduates (and the current child support order ends), there are often questions about whether to provide support (and how much support) for the adult child.  There is also the question of who should contribute to the support.

Sometimes, unmarried parents request that the court determine whether and how much postsecondary support should be provided to the child.  A parent must request postsecondary education contribution from the other parent prior to the current child support order ending (usually eighteen or when the child graduates from high school).  If a request is made through court action, the court may decide to award post-secondary support, but it is not mandatory.

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