Articles Tagged with divorce

For some divorcing couples, the dissolution process can be relatively short. If the parties agree on the disposition of their property, where the children should reside, child support, and other details, a decree of dissolution can be entered in as little as ninety days after the filing of the petition for dissolution. However, if things are not this simple (and they usually are not) people often wonder what happens to their kids, property, child support, spousal maintenance (commonly known as alimony) and financial accounts in the time between the petition and decree. The answer is often temporary orders. (Temporary orders may also be requested and entered in other non-dissolution family law cases.)

Temporary orders are orders entered by the court that provide how issues are to be handled prior to the entry of the decree. They can limit the spouses’ rights to spend money from certain accounts, order which spouse should pay debts, order child support, order spousal maintenance, provide the parties with a temporary parenting plan, and much more. These orders can be especially helpful in situations where communication and cooperation between spouses has strained or ceased.

While temporary orders are replaced by the final orders at the time of the decree, their importance should not be underestimated. The schedule in the temporary parenting plan can have effects on the final parenting plan. The temporary maintenance and child support can have huge ramifications on the standard of living for the economically disadvantaged spouse and the children (and the paying spouse too). Court orders requiring debts be paid can save both parties’ credit.

Email between spouses (or former spouses), and even text messages, often serve as valuable evidence in family law cases. This form of communication can be used to bolster either spouse’s case. We have been on both sides of this situation, and have learned a few things along the way. Below, please find our four tips for people who communicate with their spouse electronically and may be facing litigation in the future:

  1. Abide By the 24-Hour Rule – We all know the cathartic feeling we get after writing a particularly scathing email to a deserving recipient. It feels good to type out exactly what you think the recipient did wrong and how incredibly right you were. That said, after typing a cathartic email, wait 24 hours. After the wait, read the email and see if it will serve your best interests should the email appear before the court, or opposing counsel. If not, don’t send it.
  2. Assume the Judge Will See All Electronic Communication – When you do decide to send an email to your (former) spouse, assume that the judge or opposing counsel will see everything you write.
  3. Leave Out the Pejoratives – While your spouse might deserve to be called a mean name, it is likely that using this form of communication will hurt you more than your spouse, should your case go to court. The court will not look kindly on you calling your former spouse bad names.
  4. Confirm it in Writing – While our other suggestions encourage you to limit your online communication, this suggestion encourages you to increase your electronic communication in certain circumstances. Those circumstances include times that a spouse does something that s/he will later deny, but that you will want the court to have evidence of (for example, if a spouse admits that they quit their job because they think not working will reduce their child support obligation, or if they are late picking up the children from school or for a visit, or if they recklessly waste community assets). In any of these cases (and others) it is often wise to type an email of the facts (again no pejoratives – see suggestion three) and send it to the offending spouse. With luck, the spouse may respond in a fashion that provides an admission that they did act inappropriately.

If you have questions about your electronic communication with your spouse and how it can be used for or against you in your family law case, please contact a family law attorney for legal advice.

As if packing your entire home into cardboard boxes, finding a new place to live and work, and saying goodbye to local friends and family aren’t enough, we have one more thing you may need to consider before moving. If you have children that you intend to also relocate, with someone whom you are not moving with, you may need to provide your kids’ other parent (and/or anyone else with legal rights to residential time with your children) with notice of your intent to relocate. (This may not be true if there is no court order providing the other person(s) with legal rights to time with the children, but there are other laws that may still affect your ability to move with your kids.)

The content and type of notice required varies based on where you intend to relocate to and whether there is a court order requiring notice.

If, based on your circumstances, notice is required pursuant to RCW 26.09.430, it should be provided no less than sixty days prior to your move. (As with most rules, there are exceptions to this rule.) If the general rule applies and sixty days’ notice is to be provided, the opposing party must file their objection within thirty days of receiving notice of your intent to relocate. If they do object, the court (unless you can settle the issue before hand) will decide whether or not you may move with your children.

In Washington, instead of filing for dissolution of marriage, a spouse may request what is called a legal separation. People, are often confused about what this means. This is probably partially because the term “legal separation” or “separated” is used in different ways in family law. First, the term is used to define the period of time between when the marriage becomes defunct, and when the parties are finally divorced. Second, there is the legal process to obtain what is called a legal separation. This blog post intends to speak about the latter meaning of the term. Below please find a list of things you may want to know about legal separation:

  1. Legal Separation as defined by RCW 26.09.030 is not a necessary part of the dissolution process (though it can be part of the process). Instead, it is a separate process that can be used to achieve somewhat different (though overlapping) relief.
  2. With a legal separation spouses can obtain a parenting plan, a division of debts and liabilities, spousal maintenance, a child support order, and more.
  3. If a spouse files a petition for legal separation, and changes their mind and wants a divorce, that person may have to file a second petition (this time for dissolution of marriage) requesting that the court dissolve their marriage.
  4. Six months after a decree of legal separation has been filed, the decree may be converted to a decree of dissolution by either party (without the other party’s consent).
  5. Unless a spouse takes further action (see above), the marriage will not be dissolved at the end of the legal separation process.

If you have questions about legal separation, please schedule an appointment with a Seattle family lawyer.

Recently, in the family law community a discussion was had regarding how strictly parenting plans are followed by our clients. While the question was batted around for a while with anecdotal stories of perfect compliance and/or utter disregard of the plans, the answer was less than conclusive. That is: it depends. The level of compliance with a parenting plan seems to vary as much as the families they are drafted for.

While the question couldn’t be answered conclusively, some generalizations could be drawn from the anecdotes. From this (entirely unscientific) exercise, it became clear that what we have seen from parents is similar to what other family law practitioners are seeing. Some families follow their parenting plan to a T, while others toss it in a drawer and all but forget it ever existed. One commonality that seems to exist is that if parents got along well regarding parenting during the marriage they are more likely to be flexible and understanding with each other regarding the parenting after the divorce. Another similar observation is that parties who experienced long, contentious litigation were often less likely to be flexible regarding aspects of their parenting plans. Another shared experience, is having clients who begin as a flexible agreeable partnership, and then change to a less-agreeable, more rigid pair of individuals.

Whether you anticipate strict compliance or a laissez-faire attitude toward your plan, it is important that it be drafted in a way that you would be satisfied if strict compliance was required. Even in dissolutions where both parties anticipate flexibility and friendliness, a well drafted and reasonably specific plan is an absolute necessity (this plan can even explicitly permit flexibility). Sometimes, having a specific framework helps people maintain order and efficiency. It’s not that they won’t stray from the plan occasionally, just that when they do, they’ll have a framework to return to. Also, sometimes relationships sour (those who have been divorced know this all too well). Even if things seem copacetic during drafting, plan for the worst. Have a plan in place that you and your kids will be happy sticking too if your flexible relationship fails to remain so.

Washington is a no-fault-divorce state. This means that assigning blame, and/or proving that one spouse or the other is at fault for the marriage failing, is not necessary. This comes as a surprise to some people who come into our office to consult regarding the end of their marriage. Some are disappointed to learn that their spouse is not going to be punished by the court for his or her marriage-ending behavior. While we empathize with the hurt and sense of injustice our clients feel, we maintain our focus on the issues that will matter most in our clients’ cases.

Instead of requiring that one party be ordered at fault, in our state it is only required that one spouse state that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and ask the court to dissolve the union.

There are limited circumstances when the court will want to know about the behavior of one or both of the spouses that led to the failure of the marriage. For example, if the failure was due to domestic violence the court will do what it can to protect the victim and/or any children involved. Or, if the failure was due to a wasting of financial resources by one spouse, the court may want to consider this when determining whether to enter temporary orders restricting use of community financial resources. In other words, behavior during marriage is not irrelevant to the divorce process, but it is also not necessarily determinative of the outcome.

The current RCW 26.09.030 requires that parties wait until ninety days after the filing of a petition before a decree of dissolution can be entered. There is a  bill currently under consideration in the state Senate, seeking to change the waiting period from ninety days to one year. According to this  Seattle Times article, the bill was heard by the Senate on Friday. Another provision of the bill would require that court-issued divorce handbooks be modified to include the benefits of reconciliation. Supporters, according to the Times article, believe that extending the waiting period could result in more reconciliations and thus less divorces. Opponents, again according to the Times, claim that the law is paternalistic.

In our experience, by the time people are ready to file for divorce their minds and hearts have been through a thoughtful and lengthy decision making process. While it is difficult, they have decided that ending their marriage is the best next step. Requiring that it take longer to take the next step is unduly stalling their lives, and the lives of their children.

As part of most divorce property distributions, at least one piece of real property has to be distributed. For many people, dissolving their marriage is the first time, in a long time, that they have had to think about their real estate holdings as more than a place they call home. As such, many people feel unprepared to navigate the valuation, refinancing, and/or sale, of their real property. It is our belief that the more you know about your property, the better equipped you will be to make the best decision regarding its disbursal.

As part of his series, Divorce Dollars and Sense, meant to help people navigate the financial aspects of divorce, Jeff Landers provides a list of seven things he says women (and we say all people) need to think about when dealing with real estate as part of their divorce.

For many of our clients, their real property is their greatest asset – or in this market, their greatest liability. With so much on the line, it is important that you have the best team of professionals on your side. In addition to strong legal advocacy, this may include the use of our network of respected real estate professionals. We are ready to help you navigate the real property issues in your divorce.

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