Divorce in Washington: An Overview


Divorce is the legal termination of a marriage, and it involves the distribution of assets, debts, and child-related responsibilities. In Washington, divorce laws are guided by the concept of “fair and equitable” distribution rather than a strict 50/50 split. The process can be daunting, especially when children are involved. This article will provide an overview of the key steps and considerations in a divorce with children in Washington.

3 Basic Steps of Divorce with Children in Washington

Reviewing Assets and Debts

In a divorce, all marital property and debts must be carefully evaluated and categorized as community property or separate property. Washington follows the community property principle, which means that assets acquired during the marriage belong to both spouses equally. However, equitable distribution doesn’t always mean equal division. Factors like each spouse’s financial situation and contribution to the marriage are considered.

When there are retirement assets to divide, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) attorney may be necessary to prepare the specific forms for the transfer of funds.

Crafting a Detailed Co-Parenting Plan

For couples with children, creating a comprehensive co-parenting plan is essential. The plan serves as a court order and covers various aspects, including the residential schedule, holidays, transportation arrangements, decision-making rights, and more. The primary focus of the plan should always be the best interest of the child, ensuring stability and predictability.

Determining Child Support

In Washington, child support is the right of the child, and each parent has the responsibility to financially support their children. The basic support payment is determined by examining the income of each parent and following the state’s child support schedule.

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Apart from basic support, parents may share “extraordinary” expenses, such as medical and educational costs, based on their incomes. These costs can be agreed upon between the parents or determined by the court.

Marital Property and Debts

Dividing marital property and debts can be complex. It’s crucial to identify each asset and debt and decide how they will be distributed fairly and equitably. Real estate is often a significant consideration in divorce cases.

Community Property in Washington

As a community property state, Washington considers all property and debts accumulated during the marriage as joint assets and liabilities. However, the division is not strictly equal; it aims to be fair considering various factors.

Division of Real Estate

For couples who own real estate together, determining the equity value of the home is vital. Decisions must be made about whether to sell the property or if one spouse will continue living in it. If one spouse remains, refinancing and removing the other party from the property title may be necessary.

Managing Debts

Debts accrued during the marriage can pose challenges in a divorce. Clearly identifying each debt and determining which spouse is responsible for each is essential. In cases where the marital home is being sold, community debts may be paid from the proceeds.

Residential Schedule for the Children

When children are involved, the residential schedule, commonly known as the parenting plan, plays a crucial role. The plan must be in the best interest of the child and should ensure stability and predictability in their lives.

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Importance of a Parenting Plan

A well-crafted parenting plan serves as a court order, providing guidance on custody, visitation, and decision-making rights. While a 50/50 plan may seem ideal, it may not always be suitable depending on the children’s age and circumstances.

Considerations for Infants and Young Children

For infants and very young children, shorter and more frequent visits may be appropriate. Factors like breastfeeding and parental coordination play a significant role in determining the right schedule.

Child Support in Washington

Child support is an essential aspect of divorce cases involving children.

Understanding Basic Support

Basic support is the regular monthly transfer payment from one parent to the other to cover the children’s basic expenses like housing and food. It is determined based on the income of each parent and the state’s child support schedule.

Extraordinary Expenses

Beyond basic support, extraordinary child-related expenses, such as medical costs, educational fees, and extracurricular activities, may arise. These expenses are usually shared by the parents based on their incomes.

Shared Child-Related Costs

Expenses like daycare and medical out-of-pocket costs are divided proportionally based on each parent’s income unless both parents agree otherwise.

Navigating the Divorce Process

Divorce can be emotionally challenging, and seeking professional guidance can be beneficial.

Specific Forms and Court Proceedings

Completing the appropriate forms and navigating court proceedings are crucial steps in the divorce process. While some cases may require a court appearance, many divorces can be resolved without one.

Seeking Professional Guidance

Navigating the legal complexities of divorce is best done with the help of professionals. Collaborative law, mediation, and legal technicians can offer valuable assistance throughout the process.

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Divorce in Washington involves several essential steps, especially when children are part of the equation. Careful evaluation of assets, crafting a detailed parenting plan, and determining child support are key aspects of the process. It’s important to remember that every divorce case is unique, and seeking personalized legal advice is crucial for a favorable outcome.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Q: Is Washington a community property state? A: Yes, Washington follows the community property principle, which means that assets acquired during the marriage belong to both spouses.
  2. Q: How is child support calculated in Washington? A: Child support is determined based on the income of each parent and follows the state’s child support schedule.
  3. Q: What are extraordinary expenses in child support? A: Extraordinary expenses include medical and educational costs that go beyond basic support and are typically shared by the parents based on their incomes.
  4. Q: Do parents have to follow a 50/50 parenting plan? A: Not necessarily. The parenting plan should be based on the best interest of the child and may vary depending on various factors.
  5. Q: Can I handle my divorce without going to court? A: In many cases, divorce can be resolved without a court appearance, especially when both parties can reach agreements through mediation or collaborative law.

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