Family Law FAQs
When you are faced with a divorce or another type of family law matter, you will undoubtedly have many questions. While everyone's situation is different, the following are some of the more common types of questions many people may have. For answers that are specific to your situation, speak with a skilled family law attorney at Alpine Family Law.
My husband cheated on me, does that help my divorce case? In general, no. Washington is a "no-fault" divorce state. In other words, a party only needs to allege that the marriage is broken beyond repair in order to be granted a divorce. Judges are prohibited from considering adultery as a factor when making determinations regarding the division of property or alimony payments. The only time when adultery may be a factor is in child custody matters, but that would only be relevant if the behavior calls into question the spouse's fitness as a parent.
My children are used to a certain lifestyle. How do I afford to keep them in the same home, schools and activities? Assuming you wish to have primary custody of your children, child support payments can help you maintain the lifestyle that your children have grown accustomed to. The court will weigh a variety of different factors when making child support determinations and in some cases the amount that is settled upon may not be enough to make up the difference between dual incomes and a single household income. That is why it is important to have an experienced lawyer serve as your staunch advocate.
I have a job opportunity out-of-state. How does this affect the custody/parenting plan agreement? Custody/parenting plan agreements are one of the few parts of a final divorce decree that can be modified. For a modification, you will have to show that you have experienced a substantial change in your life's circumstances and get court approval for the modification. If you and your ex are able to agree on modified terms, the process will be much smoother. If you intend to move with the children, there are specific steps and guidelines to be followed, and then you are actually operating within the "relocation" and not "modification" laws. There are exceptions to this statement, and an experienced attorney at Alpine Family Law can help you distinguish your options and your approach.
My spouse has a lot of stock invested in his/her employer stock plan. Am I able to claim any of that? It depends. Washington is one of nine states that follow the rule of community property. Basically, any assets that were acquired prior to the marriage are considered separate property. Assets acquired after the marriage are considered community property and are subject to division. However, separate property can become community property if it is commingled, and the Washington courts have jurisdiction to award a party's separate property to the other party if doing so creates a just and equitable division of the property.
The first step is to determine whether the stocks are separate or community property. The next step is to try to determine the value of the stocks, which is not an easy task given market fluctuations and rules regarding when options are fully vested. In addition, some companies may restrict the transfer of stock options. Our attorneys can help guide you through this process to help ensure an equitable division of marital assets.
How can I keep the house? Similar to stock options, a determination must be made as to whether the home is considered separate property or community property. In most cases, spouses usually buy a home together, which means that the house will be considered community property and is subject to division. If you are the primary residential parent, courts often award the house to that spouse so as to maintain the security and continuity for the children. There are many creative agreements which can be reached in fashioning an agreement about the house and other property. Numerous issues can arise when it comes to determining a proper home valuation and distribution, which is why legal guidance is essential.
How do we plan for college expenses for the children? In general, there is no legal requirement that a parent pay for his or her child's college tuition. Child support obligations typically end once a child has graduated from high school. However, it is possible to include college expense obligations as part of your divorce agreement. We can help you develop a solution that best suits the needs of your family.
How long will it take to finalize the divorce? At least 90 days. The clock starts running when the divorce petition has been filed with the court and the other spouse has been served with divorce papers. Of course, many divorce cases can last much longer, especially if the divorce is contested or if the couple has numerous assets that must be identified and divided.
My spouse is living with his or her lover who makes a very good income. Do I have to continue making alimony payments? The answer to this question depends upon the terms of your Dissolution Decree. Alimony payments can be "modifiable" or "non-modifiable". This is one of the areas where you need specific guidance on how best to protect yourself. Once the Dissolution Decree has been entered, your options may be limited. If your ex finds himself or herself in a situation where he or she is enjoying a better lifestyle due to a lover's income, it may be possible to petition the court for a modification to an alimony order, but, again, that depends upon the exact terms of your Decree and the situation. However, you cannot simply decide to stop making payments. You must have court approval.
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Family Law FAQs