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Yakima Family Law Blog

In a Washington divorce, you're bound by community property law

In addition to being known for its beautiful hemlocks and rhododendrons, Washington state has another claim to fame. It is one of only nine community property states in the entire nation. If anyone reading this is preparing to divorce, that might raise a few concerns.

Community property law dictates that all marital property must be divided 50/50 in divorce. The 41 states that do not govern themselves by this law instead use an equitable division process, meaning the court determines how to divide marital property fairly, albeit not always equally. Those preparing for marriage in Washington often choose to use prenuptial agreements as means for retaining separate ownership of certain assets expressly so said items are not subject to community property division should divorce occur down the line.

Listing digital assets in a prenup may help if divorce occurs

When a married couple in Washington decides to get divorced, they may face several challenges as they navigate the process. For those with children, matters of custody, visitation and child support typically take precedence. Many people also run into complications where assets are concerned, and nowadays, digital property is often a central focus of discussion.

Any online account or data, including videos, files, email, photographs, etc., is considered digital property. While some digitally owned property is of a more personal nature, other property may be connected to business ownership, investment or other formal transactions. When a couple gets divorced and the court makes decisions regarding asset division, digital property may be considered marital property in certain circumstances; this is why many people choose to separate ownership before their weddings, by drafting prenuptial agreements.

Struggling to meet everyday expenses after divorce?

Ask any Washington parent whether raising children is expensive, and a resounding, "Yes!" is likely to be the answer. Some situations add to financial stress, such as participation in many extracurricular activities, post secondary education and even divorce. Especially if a custodial parent gave up a successful career to stay home and care for children, suddenly becoming a single parent with no income can be utterly frightening. Those in such situations often worry about food, clothing and other everyday expenses, wondering how they will make ends meet.

Such issues often lead to requests for child support. It's understandable that a parent in need would assume his or her former spouse would be willing to provide financial contribution to help raise children. It'd be nice to think that all a parent need do is ask for what's needed and it would be provided.

When the queen weighs in on a high asset divorce

Imagine what would happen if mothers-in-law in the United States were allowed to determine how marital assets should be divided in divorce. Such situations would likely lead to some highly contentious courtroom battles. Washington happens to be one of only nine community property states; this means that, even in a high asset divorce, all marital property is divided 50/50 between spouses, and a mother-in-law has no say.

That's not the way it was when Princess Diana divorced her husband Charles more than a decade ago, however. Many readers may recall the tragic news of Diana's sudden death in a car accident not long after. What most don't know, however, is that, before the accident occurred, it was Diana's former mother-in-law, the queen, who was given much say over which possessions Diana could keep and where she would live, etc.

What daughters, social media and college have to do with divorce

Washington readers may be interested to learn that there appear to be certain issues that can serve as warnings of serious marital problems. In fact, if one of more of these things exist in a marriage, it may be a sign that divorce is looming in the not-too-far-off distance. Some of these issues are not all that surprising, while others may come as a great surprise.

For instance, if a couple has a daughter, and there are marital problems at hand, divorce may occur because the mother in the situation may want to set an example for her child that women should be proactive and independent in the face of serious marriage trouble. In situations where infidelity has occurred, somehow it doesn't seem as surprising that the other spouse may want a divorce. A little more shocking, perhaps, is the fact that those without college degrees tend to divorce much more often than those who graduated from college.

Baseball, hotdogs, applie pie and... marital assets?

That's not quite how the age old jingle ends, but the two phrases do have something in common. The old Chevrolet commercial lyrics speak of spring time and one of America's greatest pastimes: baseball. The latter, however, refers to marital breakup and property division. In case Washington readers are still wondering what marital assets and baseball have in common, it's timing.

Baseball teams launch into gear in the springtime, when the season opens, and many people filing for divorce "launch" their plans in springtime as well. Who knows how many ball fans are sitting in their prime stadium seats worried whether their spouses are going to leave them financially ruined in divorce? Just as coaches often tell their players that focusing on the fundamentals and practicing basic skills helps build great baseball players, so too can many divorce problems be avoided by thinking and planning ahead.

Preserving financial stability in a high asset divorce

There's no telling how many Washington marriages will end in divorce this year. There's also no way to presume what types of settlements those involved will achieve. That's because no two situations are exactly the same, and, even in a high asset divorce, certain things are usually up for negotiation.

What leads to divorce in one marriage may be vastly different from another. Money issues are often high on the list when it comes to matters that cause disagreements. However, there are a few rules of thumb that make good sense in most situations, as far as preparing for an agreeable divorce settlement is concerned.

Child support issues upsetting Jesse Jackson, Jr.

It appears Jesse Jackson Jr.'s legal problems may have recently gotten worse. Even though he already overcame his previous trouble by pleading guilty to mismanaging campaign funds and spending time in prison for the crime, he continues to battle his former wife over child support issues. She also spent time in prison for the similar crimes as Jackson, and the two have since divorced. Some parents in Washington may relate to the contentious situation.

The main issue at hand seems to be how much child support Jackson should pay, although there is also a disagreement as to which state the child support situation should be resolved. As for the amount, Jackson's attorneys have filed a formal request asking the court to lower the amount since his two children are receiving Social Security benefits. Jackson himself reportedly receives approximately $138,000 a year in disability benefits for bipolar disorder and says he has been made to hand over more than $14,000 to his children, which he believes is too much.

When disagreements arise regarding best interests of the child

Washington parents who decide to divorce typically have a great number of issues to work through before a final settlement is reached. Although every situation is different, one thing is certain: Divorce is a life-changing experience for all involved. When it comes to parenting, challenges may arise regarding custody, visitation and/or child support. Most parents want to keep the best interests of the child at heart; however, if parents disagree about the interpretation of that, it can be a significant problem.

If a parent determines a need for child support, for instance, and the other parent does not think he or she should have to pay, or that the requested amount is too high, finding a middle ground might be easier said than done. Especially if there's been a communication breakdown between the parents, negotiating a fair and reasonable plan might prove near impossible if both parties can barely be in the same room together without arguing. In such situations, it often helps to enlist the aid of a third, neutral party.

Business assets: Planning ahead may be best protection

Not every marriage in Washington lasts a lifetime. Many couples wind up in divorce court. Such situations may be relatively amicable. Others, however, especially those involving business assets, contentious child custody situations or another complicated matter, much less so.

When it comes to protecting what has very likely taken years (even decades, perhaps) to earn, many say the best possible way to do so is to plan ahead. This why some couples choose to sign prenuptial agreements before they tie the knot. Some hesitate to investigate this option on grounds that it sounds unromantic; others, particularly business owners and those who plan to take in substantially high incomes, are more concerned about protecting their future financial stability.

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