Virginia A. Leen Law & Mediation Offices is a family law practice serving Kirkland, Eastside and the greater Seattle area. When assisting clients through the divorce process, we emphasize an open, cooperative approach, utilizing methods of dispute resolution and collaborative practice to effect strong, amicable out-of-court settlements that meet our clients’ needs and goals. In many cases, we have found that frequently litigated issues, such as property division, support, and custody, can be resolved through rational and calm communication.
Washington State is a community property state, which generally means that property acquired by a couple during their marriage is owned equally by each spouse. On the other hand, property acquired by either spouse before the marriage or after separation, or by gift to only one spouse, is considered separate property. Upon divorce, community property must be shared between the ex-spouses. A court may order a 50/50 split of community property if the circumstances of the spouses are relatively equal; however, many situations may cause a 50/50 split to be unfair. In this case, a court has discretion to determine a fair division of property.
While it may seem like there are a range of possible outcomes when it comes to the division of property, in reality, the process of dividing assets and debts is fairly predictable, regardless of tactics used during litigation. Usually, the spouse with lower earnings is likely to get a higher percentage of the assets and a lower percentage of the debts.
Because courts handle property division in a fairly straightforward manner, it is often a waste of time and money to litigate this issue, and often fighting over property makes one spouse feel cheated when he or she is denied a certain percentage of assets. We have helped many divorcing couples work together to allocate their assets and debts, enabling each party to feel in control of how financial details are resolved.
Like property division, determinations of child and spousal support are usually quite predictable. Washington State uses a Child Support Schedule, which must be used in all calculations of child support, and spousal support is determined using factors that are provided by statute, such as length of the marriage and the health, age, and employment status of both parties. To estimate the amount of child support that you or the other parent will be required to pay, you can even use the Washington Child Support Calculator.
Even though child and spousal support amounts are calculable with a high degree of accuracy, these issues are frequently litigated in courts around the state. When separating couples agree, however, to look at these issues clearly and rationally, they can often come to terms with the amounts they will be paying or receiving, and put this matter behind them.
When determining custody and parenting issues, Washington courts follow the “primary parent” model. This means there is a presumption that children should reside with the parent who primarily cared for them during the marriage, and the other parent will have visitation privileges, unless other factors show otherwise. Therefore, while you always have the option of arranging a residential schedule that best suits your family, in court the result will be fairly standard.
Except in cases where parents have demonstrated a high degree of cooperation, Washington State does not favor shared custody arrangements. Rather, courts favor leaving the children in one primary residence for the sake of stability and continuity. The result is that the non-custodial parent will likely end up with an every-other-weekend visitation schedule. Fighting for more time in court essentially demonstrates that you do not have a high level of cooperation, and virtually guarantees that the court will order a standard visitation schedule.
At the Virginia A. Leen Law & Mediation Offices, we have extensive experience helping parents work through custody and parenting issues, enabling many families to enjoy an arrangement that meets the needs of children and parents alike.
To learn how dispute resolution, mediation, and the collaborative process can help you through divorce, please contact Virginia Leen Law & Mediation Office, P.S. in Kirkland. If you are interested in our services, we may provide a preliminary evaluation of your case during a complimentary phone consultation.