Law Offices of Susan Millican O'Brian & Associates, P.S. Law Offices of Susan Millican O'Brian & Associates, P.S.

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Redmond Divorce Law Blog

The collaborative divorce process

Couples that are going through a divorce in Washington may be able to save time and money by using a collaborative approach to settle some or all of the key issues that arise. Because a collaborative divorce is less formal than one that is litigated, the process can also save both parties from a great deal of stress.

The first step in a collaborative divorce is for each spouse to select an attorney to represent them. Each party should make sure that the attorney who is chosen is familiar and comfortable with the collaborative divorce process. Before the first four-way meeting between the two spouses and their respective attorneys takes place, each spouse should meet with their own attorney privately to discuss the issues that are important to them. The attorney should know ahead of time what agreements a client would be willing to accept in terms of property division, child support and other matters.

Financial issues with divorcing in later years

Between 1990 and 2013, the number of couples who divorced after the age of 50 doubled. This may be cause for concern for some Washington couples in their later years, because research done by a Bowling Green State University professor indicates that financial issues may be common for those who are older when they get a divorce.

The researcher discovered that 4 percent of married couples who are over the age of 62 are at or below the poverty line. On the other hand, 16 percent of men who divorce after the age of 62 live in poverty, and 30 percent of women who are divorced at that age live in poverty.

Obtaining a domestic violence protection order

When a resident of Washington or their child has become a victim of domestic violence, it may be possible for that individual to file for a domestic violence order of protection. There are, however, certain legal requirements that must be met before such an order can be filed.

A victim who wants to obtain an order or protection must be age 16 or older. Orders can be issued against current and former spouses, parents of a filer's child, domestic partners, adults related by blood, adults who are or were residing with the filer, individuals the filer has or had a dating relationship with and individuals who have a legal parent-child relationship with the filer.

Pros and cons of collaborative divorce

Washington couples who are facing the end of their marriage may want to consider a collaborative divorce as an alternative to litigation. A collaborative divorce may lead to a better outcome for spouses and their children because it encourages the couple to work together toward the best outcome for everyone. A collaborative divorce may also be cheaper and quicker than a traditional divorce. Divorces that go to trial can drag on for years while a collaborative divorce may be resolved in three or four months. Privacy is another advantage of this alternative.

However, there may be disadvantages to this approach. In a collaborative divorce, spouses agree to share financial information and other documents, but there is no way to force a spouse to do so as in a court case. Furthermore, one spouse may tend to take advantage of the other spouse. For these reasons, it may be important to have an experienced attorney who can take steps to protect the client's interests if situations like these arise.

Determining paternity in Washington

A paternity test using blood or tissue taken from the child, the mother and the possible father is 90 to 99 percent effective. Ultimately, the test will rule out whether a particular man is the father of a child. In some cases, more than one man may be required to take a paternity test.

Blood tests have been used since the middle point of the 20th century. In 1970, a new test used antigens in white blood cells, or Human Leukocyte Antigens, to determine if a man was likely to be the father. However, a DNA test must typically be done in conjunction with a blood test to confirm who the father of a child may be.

New supplement to child visitation

As some Washington residents may know, virtual visitation has been added by family courts in some states as a way for children to keep in contact with a parent, especially if the parent lives too far away to participate in regular visitation. Some courts have not formally adopted virtual visitation but are incorporating this option into visitation plans during divorce proceedings. Virtual visitation using such methods as Skype and social media outlets can provide both a noncustodial parent and a child with more interaction. However, those parents who have not been granted regular visitation might not be allowed virtual visitation.

The potential benefits of virtual visitation may include sharing in special school projects, listening to a child display their musical ability and many other potential activities that might prove of benefit to both the child and parent. However, it has been suggested that some parents may attempt to use virtual visitation as a substitute for regular visitation, or that a court might allow relocation of a child in cases where it would not normally be considered.

Requesting to change a child's name after divorce

There are many reasons a Washington mother may wish to change their child's name after a divorce to match her maiden name. For example, she may be getting remarried and the stepparent may be preparing to adopt the child or if the father no longer plays a part in the child's life.

In many cases, a mother who is the custodial parent may not change the name of their child to match their maiden name. However, there are certain exceptions to this. For example, a court may order that the child's name change is justified if it can be shown that this request is in the best interest of the child. There are a number of factors that will be taken into consideration, including the relationship the father has with their child, how long the child has been using the father's name and how old the child is.

Strategies for protecting a company during divorce

Since Washington is a community property state, individuals who own a business there should take steps to protect that asset in case of a subsequent divorce. This is best done as early as possible.

A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is a good idea if a divorce is a possibility. A buy-sell agreement for the business details what happens if there is a change in the owner's status and can include rules that protect it from a spouse. A trust may mean that the business will not be considered a marital asset, or an individual who has a whole-life insurance policy may be able to cash it in and buy out a spouse.

How can divorce affect someone's 401k?

Getting a divorce in Washington state or in any other state could have an impact on an individual's 401K. As part of a divorce settlement, the court may order that a spouse or a dependent may be entitled to receive a portion of that 401K. This withdrawal of assets due to a divorce is known as a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). Money withdrawn from the 401K is generally used to cover alimony payments and other support orders.

One piece of good news for those who have assets withdrawn due to a divorce is that the withdrawal is typically not subject to a 10 percent early withdrawal fee. However, this is only the case if the QDRO is done correctly. To potentially save time and expense, it may be worthwhile to talk to the plan's administrator to determine if there is a QDRO model available.

How inheritance is handled in divorce

Some Washington couples may be wondering what happens to their inheritance if they get divorced. It is important to know that what the inheritor has done with the inheritance may have a very direct impact on the answer to that question. The biggest factor is commingling, or the mixture of personal and marital assets.

Most people will bring some of their outside wealth into a marriage. By definition, any premarital assets are considered to remain the property of the spouse unless they are somehow commingled with martial property. For example, if one spouse had a savings account before the marriage and transferred the money into a joint account after the marriage, then that money would be considered martial property. The same idea holds true for inheritance. So long as the inheritance document names one spouse only, then that inheritance is personal property unless it becomes commingled.

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