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Common Questions About Divorce In Washington

Divorce is a major life transition as well as a legal one. There are numerous considerations that go into ending a marriage. At Cogdill Nichols Rein Wartelle Andrews in Everett, we have more than five decades of experience helping clients navigate its intricacies. Our attorneys provide knowledgeable, competent family law guidance.

Read on for answers to common questions we hear about divorce.

How long does the divorce process take?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to accurately predict how long a divorce may take. Washington law imposes a 90-day waiting period after filing before a divorce can be finalized. Beyond that, the timeframe depends on numerous factors, including:

  • The value and complexity of your assets
  • Whether you have minor children
  • Whether both parties are in agreement on major issues

With complex high asset marital estates, there is more to fight over, which can mean a lengthier process. However, even divorces that start out amicable sometimes end up in lengthy court battles.

How is property divided?

Washington is a community property state, which means that assets acquired during the marriage are deemed to belong equally to both parties. Courts do have the discretion to award assets in a fair and just manner that isn’t equal when the circumstances warrant it. Divorcing couples are also free to agree to their own asset distribution.

Assets acquired before the marriage, or via gift or inheritance, might not be subject to division. Much depends on the nature of the property and whether it was kept separate from marital property. Keep in mind that prenuptial agreements often address property division.

What about 401(k)s?

Retirement assets like pensions and 401(k)s require a technical document called a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). This document can effectively create a new account in the beneficiary’s name without incurring tax penalties for early withdrawal. Valuing and dividing retirement accounts can quickly become complicated, however. Legal counsel is essential for navigating this important issue.

Who qualifies for alimony?

Alimony (spousal support) can be a hotly contested issue in Washington divorce cases. Absent a prenuptial agreement, alimony isn’t mandatory. However, courts may award it based on factors such as:

  • Each spouse’s income, financial resources and earning capacity
  • Each spouse’s employment history
  • The length of the marriage
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • Any special needs or medical conditions of either spouse

Generally, the longer the marriage and the greater the discrepancy of income between the spouses – as in the case of a homemaker who gave up her career to raise the kids – the stronger a case for alimony.

How is child custody determined?

Washington, like other states, determines custody based on the best interests of the children. This is a complex determination that takes into account a number of factors.

There are two aspects of custody: legal (decision-making authority) and physical custody. Both must be addressed within the “best interests” framework.

Can custody be changed?

Modifications to existing child custody arrangements arise when changes in life circumstances – such as a new job opportunity, proposed parental relocation, remarriage or new medical issues – make the existing arrangement unworkable or no longer in the children’s best interests. Depending on the impact of the proposed modification, and whether the other parent agrees to it, you may need to adhere to strict legal standards to successfully pursue a modification.

Have More Divorce Questions? Get Answers.

Our lawyers can address your questions and provide answers specific to your situation. We are deeply familiar with the nuances of Washington divorce and family law. To learn more, contact us online or call 425-247-3984.