Marriage is hard. It is not something that many people think about when writing their vows, but the truth is that many relationships end in divorce. ‘Til death do us part’ does not always work out that way. According to data provided by the Washington State Department of Health, there were nearly 25,000 divorces in the state in the year 2016 alone.
Getting divorced can be stressful, frustrating, but once the process is over, it can also be a tremendous relief. No matter your feelings towards the end of your marriage, there is one thing that every divorce has in common: divorce is complicated.
With divorce, there are many complex emotional, financial, logistical, and legal issues that must be resolved. If you are separating from your spouse, it is crucial that have access to all of the information that you need to protect your rights. In this guide, the experienced Tacoma, Washington divorce attorneys at Alliance Law Group offer an overview of the most important things that you need to know about divorce in Washington.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Most Important Contributing Factors of Divorce
2. Different Types of Divorce in Washington
3. Understanding Spousal & Child Support
4. Factors that Influence Spousal & Child Support
5. How Division of Property Works in a Washington Divorce
6. Different Types of Child Custody
7. The Emotional/Psychological Impact of Divorce on Children
8. The Physical Effects of Divorce on Children
9. The Intellectual Effects of Divorce on Children
10. Being a Stay-at-Home Mother After a Divorce
11. How Health Insurance and Medicaid is Calculated after Divorce
12. When & Why to Consult an Attorney for a Divorce
13. How to Pay for and Afford Attorney’s Fees in a Divorce
14. The Approach and Process of a Divorce Attorney in Washington
15. Interesting Celebrity Divorce Facts
Most Important Contributing Factors of Divorce
While always challenging, getting a divorce with the help of a Tacoma, Washington divorce lawyer is the right choice for many married couples in Washington. Before you make the plunge and initiate a marital separation, it is crucial that you know that you are making the best decision for yourself and your family.
Married couples split up for a wide variety of reasons. While there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ reason to get divorced, it is important that you have carefully considered your decision and you have weighed all of your available options. Though you technically have the legal right to get married to the same person a second time, very few relationships come back from divorce. It is usually a final decision. Here are the five key factors we have seen that contribute to divorce.
1. Lack of Commitment
The single leading cause cited as a reason for divorce in the United States is a lack of commitment. According to a study published in the United States National Library of Medicine, nearly 85 percent of divorcing couples cited ‘lack of commitment’ as one of the main reasons for the end of their marriage.
What is considered a ‘lack of commitment’? When asked to explain it, couples cite many different specific things, but the overriding theme the encompasses a lack of commitment is that one or both partners feel that they or their spouse is simply no longer interested in continuing the relationship. The desire is gone.
2. Communication Problems
Another leading factor cited by divorcing couples is poor communication. Communication problems take many different forms, such as fighting, arguing, senseless bickering, a general loss of an emotional connection, or even dead silence. In any case, lack of communication is a major problem. It is always bad news. Sometimes poor communication can be fixed. Other times, it is more of a symptom, and ultimately a sign that the relationship is over.
3. Marital Infidelity
As many people know, marital infidelity is also a major cause of divorce. Even if everything else is going well, very few marriages can survive an unfaithful partner. Similar to poor communication, marital infidelity can be both a core cause of relationship problems and can be a symptom of even deeper problems.
4. Loss of Passion
Many divorcing couples cite loss of passion as a major reason for the end of their marriage. Of course, it is normal for a relationship to lose some of that early passion, but if loss of passion is the main problem in your marriage, it is almost always worth exploring ways to get the passion back, if possible, before deciding to move on.
Finally, the stress of life can take a toll on many couples. Stressful situations, whether related to family, to money, to career goals, to health, or to any other issue can cause married couples to drift apart. When people take out their stress on their spouse, it leads to serious problems.
Every Marriage is Different
Ultimately, every relationship has its own characteristics. The factors that are contributing to your divorce (or your potential divorce) may be issues that are wholly unique to your marriage. Keep in mind that divorce is a huge, life-changing decision. It is not bad, it is just something that you need to be sure you have considered from every angle. You need to carefully analyze your problems, your life, and your future. You may see a path forward with your spouse, or you may realize that you are truly ready to move on.
Different Types of Divorce in Washington
Not every divorce proceeds in exactly the same manner. In some cases, divorces are relatively smooth. Though challenges can always arise, a couple may agree on the need for a split and may also be able to work collaboratively to facilitate an efficient and fair settlement.
On the other hand, divorces can be fiercely contested. While a big fight is not ideal, you do need to be ready to protect your rights. No matter your specific circumstances, you need an experienced Tacoma, Washington divorce lawyer by your side. It is crucial that you understand the different types of divorces that are available in Washington.
Understanding the Difference
If you are considering divorce in Washington, you may have heard two different terms used: the dissolution of marriage and legal separation. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they do not refer to the same thing. Though, it is understandable that you may be confused. Dissolution and legal separation are very similar: they are brought under the same statute, they use the same filing forms, and they are handled in pretty much the same manner.
So what is the difference? A dissolution of marriage is essentially Washington’s term for divorce. When you hear ‘dissolution’, you can think ‘divorce’. A legal separation is slightly different. It is probably best to think of it as an ‘almost divorce’. It is not the same thing as putting your divorce on ‘hold’, because legal separation can be a permanent status. In practice, there are three main things that separate a separation from a traditional divorce.
- Separation has a different name. Obviously. But why does this matter? Some people are uncomfortable with the entire concept of divorce along with its perceived finality of a divorce. They may prefer a legal separation for spiritual, religious, or personal reasons. If this applies to you, separation is an option that is available.
- Ability to get remarried: You cannot get remarried if you only obtain a legal separation. You cannot be married to two people at once, and technically a separation is not a divorce. If you are only separated, you cannot yet get remarried. You will have to convert your separation to a divorce (this can be done at any time).
- Insurance issues: In some cases, there may be financial benefits to choosing a legal separation over a divorce. As an example, one partner may be able to remain on an employer-backed health insurance plan if they get separated instead of divorced.
Washington is a No-Fault Divorce State
Under Washington state law (Chapter 26.04 RCW), neither spouse needs to prove ‘fault’ to obtain a divorce. Washington is a ‘no-fault’ jurisdiction. You can obtain a divorce on the grounds that your marriage has suffered an ‘irretrievable breakdown’. What if your spouse doesn’t agree that your relationship is broken? It does not matter. At least for the purpose of your eligibility for divorce. The testimony of just one of the partners is sufficient to establish this element under Washington law. If one spouse wants a divorce, they can make it happen. The only things that need to be proven are that:
- Their marriage was legitimate;
- They meet the state’s basic residency requirement; and
- They have followed the required legal procedures.
This is not to say that divorce is a simple process. It is anything but that. While it is not difficult to prove you are eligible to get a divorce, it is often very hard to resolve all of the underlying issues, from property division and spousal support to child custody and child visitation. Before your divorce can be finalized, you and your former partner need to work out every issue.
Understanding Spousal & Child Support
Even when a divorce is finalized, there may still be an ongoing financial relationship between the two partners. This is because one partner may be required to pay either spousal support or child support to the other.
Whether spousal or child support will be owed in your case will depend on many different factors. Here, the compassionate Tacoma, Washington divorce attorneys at Alliance Law Group offer an overview of spousal support and child support in Washington.
Washington Spousal Support Laws: The Basics
Spousal support (also referred to as alimony or spousal maintenance) is financial assistance that is paid by the financially advantaged spouse to their financially disadvantaged partner. It is designed to both recognize the contributions of the disadvantaged partner to the marriage (while it lasted) and to help the disadvantaged partner move towards financial independence.
Contrary to what some people believe, both women and men can be awarded spousal support, though it did not always use to be that way. In the 1979 case of Orr v. Orr, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down an Alabama law that only required husbands to pay alimony. In its ruling, the Supreme Court made it clear that the family law code in every state must be gender-neutral.
Washington has a spousal support statute (RCW 26.09.090) that controls these cases. If you read the statute, you will probably be left with little to no understanding of your rights. The reason for this is that the language is vague. In practice, spousal support standards have been established under years of case law. One of the most important things that you need to know is that spousal support awards will vary based on a number of different factors. The two most important factors include the duration of the marriage and the financial prospects of each partner.
Washington Child Support Laws: The Basics
Following a divorce, children need to be financially supported. Every parent has a duty to support their children. If you are getting divorced in Washington, and you have children who are under the age of 18, child support is going to be an issue in your case. So who owes what and how much do they owe?
It is not always a simple question. In Washington, the custodial parent is entitled to receive child support from their former partner. The custodial parent is defined as the parent who spends more than 50 percent of the time in ‘possession’ of the children. From there, child support will be calculated based on the financial resources of each party. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services offers a free child support estimator. The calculator should give you a decent idea of how child support will impact your case. The most important factors here include:
- The monthly income of each parent; and
- The number of children the divorcing couple has together.
However, the child support guidelines are not appropriate for every single case. There are many situations in which it is proper to award child support that is either more or less than would be owed based solely on those two factors. If you think that the application of the general Washington child support guidelines would produce an unjust result in your specific case, you should contact an experienced Tacoma child support attorney immediately.
Factors that Influence Spousal & Child Support
Some divorcing couples can make a clean break. They might never see each other again until their 20th high school reunion. But other couples will be financially entangled even after divorce.
In Washington, a person who has children often has to pay child support. And sometimes a judge might award spousal support, which is payments from one spouse to the other.
Factors for Spousal Support
A divorcing couple can agree to spousal support payments with the help of a Tacoma, Washington divorce attorney, including the amount and length of payment. A couple can also agree that no support payments will be made. Any agreement should appear in a signed divorce agreement.
But if the couple cannot agree, a judge will need to look at the following:
- Duration of marriage
- The couple’s standard of living
- Each spouse’s age
- Physical and emotional health of each spouse
- Separate resources
- Ability of a spouse to be self-supporting
There is no “right” to spousal support, but a judge might award it in some circumstances. For example, in a long marriage in which one spouse did not have a chance to get an education and gain work experience, alimony might be appropriate. It is probably also appropriate when a spouse is disabled and will need to go on government assistance after divorce.
Judges have the discretion when deciding how long to award spousal support and how to structure it, such as in monthly payments or in a lump sum.
Factors for Child Support
Unlike spousal support, a divorcing couple cannot agree to forego child support. Instead, a judge will award child support based on a formula that considers each parent’s incomes, including:
Washington has a free calculator you can use to estimate your child support payment. Read the disclaimer and then plug in your information to come up with an amount. If your spouse is intentionally earning a low amount of money, a judge can impute an amount that fairly represents what he or she could earn if your ex-spouse was really trying.
Couples will also divide extraordinary expenses, such as daycare, tuition, transportation, and health care costs. Other extraordinary expenses include musical lessons, summer camp expenses, etc. These expenses will be divided based on the proportional share of each parent’s income.
Judges have the discretion to adopt a figure that departs from the formula amount and might do so in certain situations. For example, a judge can deviate downward if the non-primary parent has more than 90 overnights a year. If the parents have almost equal amounts of time with the child, then child support might be almost entirely eliminated. This is only fair since the parent is supporting the child while it is visiting him.
Likewise, a judge might deviate upwards if the non-primary parent has very little visitation. This is also fair, since the primary parent has the child more often than they normally would. However, the courts have come to differing interpretations on whether an upwards deviation is allowed under the law.
Lastly, a judge can also deviate downward depending on how many children a parent is also supporting.
How Division of Property Works in a Washington Divorce
Many couples acquire considerable assets while married—homes, cars, investment accounts only being some of the most common. In a divorce, the couple must divide the property between them. Although you may or may not be interested in thinking about money at this moment, read on for more information.
What is Community Property?
Washington is a community property state. Generally, any assets obtained during your marriage count as community property, regardless of who paid for it or whose name is on the title. For example, your husband can take out the mortgage in only his name and make all payments, but the home is still community property if you acquired it while married.
Assets that are not community property are considered separate property and include anything you acquired before getting married or after separation.
What Assets Count as Community Property?
As we stated above, in general, anything the State considers an asset is also “community property” if it was acquired during marriage. Some of the following may be included in community property assets that are divided during a divorce:
- Income earned
- Vacation homes
- Investment accounts
- Retirement accounts
How Does a Judge Divide Community Property?
Some community property states require that community assets be divided equally, 50/50. In Washington, assets must be divided “equitably,” which basically means fairly. That provides some wiggle room for a judge to deviate from a 50/50 split.
A judge will look at a variety of factors to determine how to divide your property:
- Each spouse’s age
- The length of the marriage
- Income and income potential for each spouse
- Each spouse’s educational levels
- Financial need
- Medical conditions
- Whether either spouse has non-marital resources
- Whether one spouse wasted assets, e.g., because of a gambling addiction
Realize that judges do not consider marital misconduct, such as adultery. It does not matter that your spouse cheated on you for purposes of dividing property, even if it is the reason you are getting divorced.
Consider the following situation: a wife decides to forego a career to stay home and raise the couple’s children. When the children reach high school, the couple divorces and the wife faces the prospect of trying to support herself without any post-secondary education or work experience. If this situation, it might be fairer to give her more marital property in the divorce to even things out.
Can Separate Property be Included?
Yes. It is an interesting feature of Washington law that judges might also award some of your separate property to your spouse to make things fairer. You should certainly talk with a Tacoma, Washington divorce attorney if you think your spouse will request your separate property.
Are Marital Debts Divided?
Yes. Any debt either spouse incurred will probably be considered a community debt—regardless of whose name is on the loan document. In addition to dividing property, a judge will also divide debts.
Remember the following, though, because it is key: even if your spouse is responsible for a debt, your creditor can still come after you for non-payment if your name remains on the loan. For example, the judge might assign your credit card bill to your ex-husband. If he chooses not to pay, then your creditor can sue you and a negative mark can appear on your credit report.
To help protect yourself, you should get your ex to transfer any debts into his or her name only. In the credit card example, your ex should transfer the balances onto his own card so that the debts now are in his name.
Different Types of Child Custody
Washington law does not use the terms “custody” or “visitation” for some reason. Instead, the state instructs parents to create a “parenting plan” which will determine all key issues involving your children—issues like custody and visitation, among others.
In particular, a thorough plan should determine who the children will live with and when, as well as who can make decisions for your children. Washington’s policy is that both parents stay involved. But what if you can’t agree? In that case, a judge has to step in and make these decisions for you.
Who the Child will Live With (Physical Custody)
In theory, parents could split physical possession of the child 50/50. But to be honest, that rarely works, especially as children grow older. Once your children are in school, they will probably need to live with only one parent during the school week unless the parents live very close together. It isn’t realistic for a child to travel hundreds of miles every day to get to and from school.
Parents are free to come up with their own schedules and may choose to do so with the help of their Tacoma, Washington divorce attorneys. For example, some parenting plans will have the children visit the non-custodial parent a couple weekends during the month as well as for a long stretch in the summer. Parents will also need to divide school vacations and important holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
A solid parenting plan will also be very detailed. It should explain when and where parents will drop off and pick up their children. The plan should also explain what happens if the child gets sick and cannot make a visit. The more detail the better.
Who Makes Decisions (Legal Custody)
Raising children requires that parents make important decisions involving such as issues as medical care, schooling, and religious upbringing. Parents will need to decide which decisions one parent alone can make and which ones require input from both parents.
If parents can’t agree, then they also need some way to resolve their dispute. The parenting plan should include this information, such as an agreement from both parents to attend mediation.
The Best Interests of the Child
Judges base their child custody decisions on what is in your child’s “best interests,” but what the heck does that mean? It’s a really vague concept, but it essentially involves taking a 360-degree view of your child’s situation and considering factors such as:
- Your child’s current relationship with each parent
- Your child’s relationship with other family members, such as half-siblings
- Each parent’s ability to raise their child
- The financial stability of each parent
- Where your child currently lives
- How involved your child is with community activities
- The child’s preference (depending on the child’s maturity)
Judges tend to show a strong preference for maintaining the status quo unless it is obviously failing your child, so parents need to stay involved with their children during the divorce process.
For example, Dad can’t disappear for a couple months and then suddenly show up in divorce court asking that his kids live with him most of the time. During a divorce, either parent might need time to move, set up a new home, and possibly look for a job. It’s vital to maintain continuing contact with your children so that you can show the judge that you have a strong relationship.
The Emotional/Psychological Impact of Divorce on Children
Divorce isn’t easy on children. It’s not easy on adults, either, but today we’ll focus on the kids. And despite what you might have heard, not all kids are “resilient.” The fact is that some children will respond very negatively to divorce, even one handled by a Tacoma, Washington divorce attorney. Each child is different, of course, and it is hard to generalize how your particular children will respond. But research has shed some light on how to help your child through the divorce process.
Young Children Respond Differently than Older Children
If your child is under age 9, then you might see more regressive tendencies. Your child might become clingier and more dependent, crying when it is time to go to school and not wanting to be alone on the weekend. This regression is driven by the instability divorce has introduced into your children’s lives. By acting more childish, your child is trying to obtain more attention and care.
Parents should strive to create predictable routines that can re-establish a sense of security. If you are awarded visitation on weekends, you should do everything possible to stick to the plan, even if you have competing work obligations. Often, children need at least a year before they can feel safe again, so chin up and stick to the schedule.
Older children often respond in the opposite manner. They often become more independent and, honestly, aggressive. Older children can explode with anger. Older children can become more distant from family members and might behave more defiantly. Adolescents might use drugs or alcohol or engage in promiscuous sex.
Parents need to focus on creating and enforcing rules to keep their child in bounds. Keep an eye on your child’s social media accounts and do not hesitate to seek professional help if your child is at risk of harm.
Boys and Girls Respond Differently
Research has shown that both boys and girls can struggle when there is conflict after the divorce. However, boys and girls often act out differently.
Boys, for example, tend to externalize their anger. They can become violent and engage in risk-taking behavior. Girls, by contrast, tend to internalize their emotions. Girls can become depressed and develop changes in their sleep and eating habits. Of course, these are generalities, and boys can internalize their anger just as girls can externalize their emotions. Parents should be on the lookout for any changes in behavior and seek out appropriate help.
Adult Children Can be Affected
For many adults, their parents’ marriage serves as a model for how their own relationships should work. Your adult children can also suffer serious setbacks when they see their parents divorce. Suddenly, your adult children might be full of self-doubt: Will their marriage falter? How can they stay together when their parents can’t even stay together?
With older children, you can be more frank about why you are divorcing. Remind your child that every marriage is different, and the fact that your marriage faltered does not mean that your child’s will.
The Loss of a Parent Affects Children Even More
Not all divorces are alike. Children who lose a mother or father have a much harder time adjusting to the divorce, even if a step-parent comes into their lives. We encourage parents to do everything possible to maintain strong relationships with their children.
If you choose to remarry, prepare yourself for the reality of blended families. It isn’t all sunny skies. Therapists advise clients that step-families can be successful but are not automatically happy. Instead, parents need to have appropriate expectations and must work continually on making the relationships succeed.
The Physical Effects of Divorce on Children
When parents file for divorce in Washington State, one of the first issues they worry about is how the divorce will impact their children. Many different studies have been conducted on the general effects of divorce on children, while some researchers have focused specifically on the physical effects that divorce can have on kids. While it may seem unlikely that two parents making the decision to get divorced could affect their children’s physical health, it is important to remember that the stress of divorce can impact physical well-being. Our Tacoma, Washington divorce attorneys will say more about the physical effect of divorce on children at different ages and at varying stages of development.
Physical Effects on Preschool and Young Children’s Behaviors
When parents of toddlers or preschoolers get divorced, the parents may notice that the children are regressing in terms of their behavioral patterns, according to an article in Divorce Magazine. For example, as the article explains, “the child may want a security blanket again, or they may have problems using the toilet.”
In addition, young children often act out physically, meaning that they “may cry, cling, or disobey.” Parents may notice that their child fights physically with other children or family members. An article in HealthDay emphasizes that aggression among children after a divorce, while physical, often is tied to emotional or psychological issues. To help younger children through a divorce, it is important for the parents to emphasize that both of them will continue to provide care for the child, and it is important to spend time with the child. In addition, parents should avoid displaying any anger—and especially aggression—toward one another around the child since it can exacerbate the physical effects the divorce is having on the child.
Most of these physical effects tend to be short-term ones. To be sure, eventually the child will come to terms emotionally with the divorce, which in turn will result in a shift in the physical effects of the divorce.
Prone to Experience Physical Health Problems
While many physical effects of divorce are short-term, other studies have suggested that there may be long-term physical effects of divorce on children into adulthood. Back in 1991, a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggested that children who experience their parents’ divorce are more likely to have physical health problems—both at the time of the divorce and in the future.
More recent research has come to similar conclusions. For example, in 2017 a study published in the European Journal of Education and Psychology revealed that children from divorced homes were twice as likely as kids from homes with both parents to develop short-term and long-term disease. For example, “genital, urinary, stomach and intestinal infections, skin diseases, and brain disorders were all about twice as likely.” Another study led by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University concluded that “people whose parents were not on speaking terms growing up were three times more likely to catch a cold when exposed to the virus than those who parents were together.”
Similar to aggression and patterns of returning to old physical behaviors, illness likely is caused by the stress of the divorce. In other words, most physical effects of divorce on children tend to result from the psychological or emotional effects of the divorce.
The Intellectual Effects of Divorce on Children
Parents in Washington State who get divorced want to do everything they can to ensure that the divorce has as few harmful effects on their children as possible. Many parents seek out family counselors or individual therapists to help their kids through the divorce, hoping that finding new methods for handling the psychological effects of divorce will prevent harm in other areas of the child’s life. In other cases, parents do not see clear signs of emotional or behavioral problems after the divorce and assume that the child is adjusting properly. It is extremely important for parents to know that divorce can have intellectual effects on their children, which can result in difficulties at school and problems thinking critically and engaging academically.
According to a study conducted at Bridgewater State University, parental divorce can impact a child’s intellectual growth and, accordingly, the child’s education.
Child’s Intellectual Growth Can Suffer
A report from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) highlights the importance of understanding what psychologists and educators mean when they refer to a child’s “intellectual ability,” “intellectual growth,” and “intellectual assessment” mechanisms. As that report explains, a person’s intellectual ability usually “refers to one’s global or overall level of intelligence.” The term points to a person’s ability to think and to read critically, to solve complex problems, to learn and use complex vocabulary, to develop abstract thinking ability and fluid reasoning skills, and to use one’s cognitive abilities more generally.
When parents get divorced and engage in a particularly contentious divorce process, the child’s intellectual growth can suffer. Children who are especially young—in preschool or elementary school—can have difficulty developing a range of intellectual abilities and cognitive abilities. A variety of tests administered in the K-12 setting shows that a child’s social and cultural experiences largely determine his or her intellectual growth. When parents are not cooperating with one another to ensure that the child maintains a close parent-child relationship, and when parents are constantly in disputes with one another, the child’s ability to grow intellectually can be slowed.
Academic Difficulties for Students from Divorced Homes
Given that divorce can affect a child’s intellectual growth, it stands to reason that divorce can also impact a child’s ability to perform well academically. The Bridgewater State University study highlights how “students whose parents go through a divorce are likely to experience some type of disturbance in their academic careers.”
First, in the short term, kids whose parents are going through a divorce tend to have lower grades and worse on tests than their peers from intact households. In the longer term, children of divorced parents are less likely than their peers in similar socioeconomic classes to attain a higher education.
There are many reasons for the intellectual and academic effects of divorce on children. In some cases, the parents are less present in their kids’ lives and thus do not ensure that their kids are learning and growing intellectually as they should be. In other situations, the stress of a contentious divorce impacts a child’s psychological or emotional well-being, which in turn impacts the child’s intellectual and academic performance. Hiring a Tacoma, Washington divorce lawyer can help relieve the stresses of divorce and help spare your kids any unneeded intellectual effects.
Being a Stay at Home Mother after a Divorce
When you’re a stay-at-home mom, making a huge life-changing decision, such as leaving your spouse, can feel both intimidating and impossible. Indeed, stay at-home mothers may feel as though they are limited in their options by the fact that their primary job is at home, potentially precluding them from having the financial resources to act independently to pursue divorce with the help of a Tacoma, Washington divorce attorney. What’s more, stay-at-home mothers may also feel as though they don’t have the knowledge and information necessary to navigate a divorce on their own, or may feel unable to support themselves post-divorce.
An Attorney Can Help
Stay-at-home moms who are thinking about a divorce do not have to take on the process on their own; working with an experienced divorce lawyer can make a world of difference. Partnering with a divorce lawyer is the first step to answering questions about how you’ll afford a divorce, how the divorce process unfolds, and what your rights during a divorce are – an attorney can answer all of these and more.
Things to Consider About Divorce
Stay-at-home mothers typically are faced with some unique considerations in a divorce case. These include:
- Who will get custody of any children?
- What will a child support order look like?
- Who will get to keep the family home?
- How will property be divided?
These are just a handful of the issues that will likely come up in a divorce settlement. Stay-at-home mothers are encouraged to retain legal counsel to help them to secure the most positive outcome in their favor as possible.
Life after Divorce – What’s Next?
During the divorce process, and likely after as well, a stay-at-home mom who is separating from her spouse will need to start thinking about life after divorce and how she will manage when she is no longer married. The earlier that a woman starts thinking about and planning for these things, the better. Things that a stay-at-home mom may encounter during or after divorce include:
- Seeking employment – In order to support oneself, employment may be necessary. This may also require that a stay-at-home mom go back to school or otherwise acquire additional training and skills.
- Securing childcare – If a former stay-at-home mother’s children are still school-aged, and the mother plans on returning to the workplace in order to earn an income, childcare may become a necessity.
- Finding housing – Finally, unless the stay-at-home mother is going to keep the family home in the divorce, then she will need to find housing of her own, too. Finding housing that is big enough to provide space for the kids–and, hopefully, close enough to the father’s home for the purpose of ease of visitation–is important as well.
In addition to the above, stay-at-home mothers may also be tasked with building new social networks and learning how to live independently. Divorce is always hard, but making a huge lifestyle transition can be even more difficult. Attending counseling or group therapy sessions can be helpful.
Of course, some stay-at-home moms want to continue as such, and do not want to reenter the workplace. This requires a whole separate discussion, and may only be possible based on a large spousal support award.
How Health Insurance and Medicaid is Calculated after a Divorce
Getting divorced is a complicated endeavor, even with the help of a Tacoma, Washington divorce attorney, and not just because it can be an emotional rollercoaster for divorcing parties, but also because there are various legal elements and financial questions that must be addressed. For divorcing couples, one of the most important things is determining how healthcare amongst the couple will be shared post-divorce, as well as the effects of divorce on programs such as Medicaid. Here’s a brief overview of what you should know:
Healthcare and Divorce – Options for Coverage When You’re Separating from Your Spouse
Most married couples will have health coverage under the same plan, whether this is private insurance that has been purchased out-of-pocket through the healthcare exchange, or is provided by one of the spouse’s employers. Especially when the latter is true, when the couple divorces, they may have questions about how each will maintain their health coverage.
- Separate health insurance. One option for spouses is to stay on the same healthcare coverage plan until open enrollment, at which time one spouse will be dropped from the plan, and can re-enroll in the healthcare option of their choice. This is a great option for individuals who can pay their premiums without the assistance of the other spouse; of course, this may not work for everyone.
- COBRA. If you are divorced and no longer eligible for health coverage through your spouse’s employer’s healthcare plan, you can apply for COBRA, which is coverage for employees who lose coverage.
- Health insurance through your own employer. Even if you are eligible for COBRA coverage, if your employer offers healthcare benefits, talk to them about your options. Getting coverage through your employer’s healthcare plan may be a more affordable choice.
- Short-term health insurance. Short-term health insurance is a type of temporary insurance, and it may be worth purchasing if you find yourself without insurance for a period of time, but expect to gain coverage in the near future (such as through your employer).
Medicaid and Divorce
In addition to the four options listed above, another option that may be available is applying for Medicaid benefits. Medicaid is available for eligible low-income adults and children; for those who are recently divorced, their financial circumstances may qualify them for Medicaid benefits/Washington Apple Health Coverage. For a single person, the current income limit for adults ages 19 through 64 is $1,397 per month. Keep in mind that because Medicaid eligibility is based on income and resources, equitable distribution in a divorce may affect Medicaid eligibility. For those who do not qualify for Medicaid, the benefit types listed above may be available.
Do Your Research Before Divorce
Being left without healthcare post-divorce is the last thing that you want. If you and your spouse are separating, it is best to explore your options and put a plan in place as soon as possible. If you are overwhelmed by the various coverage options and are unsure what will be most affordable for you–especially after a divorce when you are not benefiting from joint income–consulting with a professional is advised.
When & Why to Consult an Attorney for a Divorce
The process of getting a divorce is one that raises many questions, ranging from whether or not divorce is right for you to you to how you’ll support yourself after the divorce, and from how issues of divorce will be decided to where shared children will live and more. As you navigate the divorce, you may be asking yourself many things, including whether or not you need to consult with a divorce attorney. While hiring an attorney is a very personal decision, our lawyers at the Alliance Law Group know that the counsel of an attorney can make a big difference in the outcome of your divorce case. Here’s a look into when and why consulting an attorney may be a good idea–
Why Consult an Attorney?
There are dozens of reasons to meet with an attorney to discuss your divorce, even if your divorce is uncontested (which means that you and your spouse are in agreement about the terms of your divorce). Some top reasons to consult an attorney include:
- Your divorce is contested. If your divorce is contested, which means that you and your spouse are not able to reach an agreement about how issues in your force should be decided, you absolutely need an attorney. Your lawyer will help you to understand your rights and can negotiate your settlement on your behalf.
- You have children. If you have children, working with a divorce lawyer who can ensure that any child custody, visitation, and support orders that are issued are just and within your child’s best interests can be important, both short- and long-term.
- You have a high-asset divorce. Is either you or your spouse a high-asset individual? If so, your divorce, and reaching decisions about property division and spousal maintenance, may be more complex. An attorney can guide you through your options, help you to identify hidden assets, and represent your best interests.
- You have a specific issue that may affect the divorce. Finally, if there are any unique circumstances that exist that make your divorce atypical, for example, if this is a “grey divorce,” if you are a stay-at-home parent, if you are a victim of domestic abuse, etc., you should consult with an attorney.
When to Meet with a Tacoma Divorce Attorney
It is best to meet with an attorney as early on in the process as possible before you even pick up the paperwork to begin filing for divorce. Having a strategy in place for how you will approach your divorce can provide comfort and peace of mind. However, it is never too late to call an attorney; at the very least, an attorney should review all documents and divorce settlement papers before you sign.
Situations Requiring an Attorney
Again, if you have an uncontested divorce, having an attorney on your side who can, at the very least, review a divorce settlement is a good idea. When in doubt about whether or not you need a lawyer, choosing to meet with one for a consultation is always recommended.
How to Pay for and Afford Attorney’s Fees in a Divorce
For many couples who wish to end their marriage, one of the barriers to divorce can be the financial costs of legally dissolving a union To be sure, just the process of filing for divorce alone costs over $200 in Washington State, a number that, of course, does not account for things like loss of income, moving expenses, etc.
Where the real costs come in, though, is in regard to court fees (if the divorce is litigated) and attorney’s fees. Here’s a look into how to pay for and afford an attorney when you’re getting divorced–
Ask About a Lawyer’s Fees
The first step to being able to afford the representation of a lawyer during your divorce is to ask your divorce attorney what and how they charge. Different divorce lawyers charge differently; it’s important to choose an attorney whose services you can afford. Make sure you get a fee agreement in writing so there are no surprises later on. If you’re worried about being able to afford legal services, ask your attorney what things you can do yourself, such as filing your divorce forms, in order to reduce overall fees.
After you know how much a divorce is going to cost you, approximately, you should start setting aside money immediately. Divorces can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars; it’s best to develop a budget and savings plan now and stick to it. Evening setting aside a little bit of money every week or month can add up, helping you to be able to afford the services of a qualified attorney.
Make an Uncontested Divorce the Goal
Everyone who is getting a divorce should be represented by an attorney, even if it’s just to have the attorney review a final agreement to ensure it’s legally sound and that it is aligned with your best interests. That being said, you can mitigate excessive attorney’s fees by making an uncontested divorce the priority. If your divorce is contested, it will require litigation – this means that court fees and attorney’s fees for both you and your spouse will skyrocket. If you’re able to reach an agreement with your spouse through mediation and negotiation, do so – you’ll save time, money, and heartache.
Get Your Spouse to Pay
You will definitely be held liable for your attorney’s fees, and your spouse for their attorney’s fees. However, you may be able to obtain a court judgment that orders your spouse to reimburse you for some or all of your legal costs. In determining whether or not a court should issue such an order, the court will consider whether or not you actually need help paying your legal fees, and if so, whether or not your spouse has the economic means to offer such help. A court will not look favorably on a situation where one spouse is able to afford a highly-skilled attorney while the other one is forced into self-representation because of a lack of financial means.
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