Are There Financial Benefits to Divorce?

Most of the time, people associate divorce with expenses. You are not only dividing assets and income but also covering the cost of the legal procedure itself. And for cases with prolonged custody disputes or cases with complex estate history, divorce costs can be high. However, many people do not realize that divorce can also provide some financial benefits to both partners after their case has been settled.

After the divorce is final, those benefits can help you regain your personal financial security. Your lawyer can help you get a better idea of what your financial situation will be following your divorce and help you protect yourself during proceedings.

Here are some financial benefits you could see as a result of your divorce, especially if you carefully work through each situation with your attorney.

Sole Control

The most obvious benefit from divorce is the fact that each person will gain sole control over their own financial well-being. You will have your own bank accounts, and after everything is divided, you’ll also have control over your own investment accounts and retirement savings.

If money and spending was a major marital conflict, you’ll enjoy having the ability to budget without a need to account for the actions of a spouse who does not handle money the same way you do. For many divorcés, the extra control over the budget allows them to build savings and reduce expenses without facing any opposition.

Access to Retirement Savings

Splitting retirement accounts is one of the complex and challenging parts of creating a divorce settlement. If you have savings, it’s essential that you do not try to divide those savings on your own. If you remove the money from your accounts without legal help, you pay full tax penalties on the accounts, which results in the loss of thousands of dollars.

When you work with your divorce or estate planning attorney, you can divide and even access the money without paying the severe penalties of removing it early. To protect both parties financially, you file a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) for an employer-sponsored 401K plan.

If you also have IRA retirement plans, your lawyer can protect those with a transfer incident to divorce. This divides the assets and the tax responsibility between the two parties, with each person and account independent of the other. Going forward, you will not have pay any penalties for how your spouse manages that money because it’s no longer tied to you.

Using these methods to divide assets is important because you may be able to access the money right away. For some people, cashing out on retirement is not wise, but for others, the immediate cash flow is important to help regain financial footing.

Remember, do not try to access these funds before your divorce or without the guidance of a lawyer. You want to keep as much of your money as possible.

College Funding

If you do not have savings accounts for your children who may need tuition support for college, divorce can actually help them get larger grants from the government to pay for some schooling. When applying for federal financial aid, the applicant must provide the incomes of their parents.

In a two-parent home with parents working, the income is much higher. However, with one main custodial parent, the reported income is lower, and therefore your student will qualify for more financial aid. For some students, this extra funding is essential to make higher education possible.

If you are hoping that your child will have access to this support, speak with a lawyer about how to best draw up living agreements so that your children can get increased financial aid after the divorce is finalized. The custodial parent on the federal financial aid applications is the one who has provided the primary living support for a child during the past 12 months.

Reduced Expenses

Finally, you can also enjoy the financial benefit of having reduced expenses. For some people, the idea of moving from two incomes to one income is daunting, but the other side of the coin is that life after marriage can be significantly less expensive.

For example, medical insurance plans are often based on family or individual. Even if you are just a married couple without children, you would still pay for a family plan. Individual plans can be much less expensive.

You also have the option to downsize your living situation, you can remove one driver from your car insurance plan, and you move from having multiple vehicles to one. These reduced expenses can make it easier to live on your own salary.

Finances during a divorce can be one of the most stressful aspects of the entire situations. However, if you proceed carefully and cautiously, you can enjoy greater financial freedom and plan effectively for future. For more information, contact us at Madison Law Firm PLLC.

Postnuptial Agreements: What Married Couples Need to Know

Prenuptial agreements are a common legal way for individuals to protect their personal financial security and interests before entering into a marriage. However, while many couples get married without getting a prenup, they might later wish for a way to seek individual protections. You can craft and sign a postnuptial agreement with your spouse to fill this legal gap.

A postnuptial agreement can be tailored to the specific needs of your marriage, but it does need to be executed correctly in order to be legally enforceable should the agreement ever need to be used. Learn more about postnuptial agreements and what protections they can offer to married individuals.

Willing Participants

First, both spouses signing the agreement must be willing to do so. Prenuptial agreements are legally binding in court because either party has the opportunity to walk away from the contract of marriage.

After you are married, you already have commingled interests and assets, and it’s easier for one person to feel forced into signing an agreement because they are at a disadvantage in the relationship. For example, a stay-at-home spouse might feel like they need to sign an agreement in order to maintain support from a spouse who is working full time.

At the time when the postnuptial agreement is needed, it can be found unenforeable if one spouse can prove that it was not signed with full and knowing willingness.

Spousal Responsibilities

Postnuptial agreements are not just for protecting financial interests in the event of divorce. They can also help to determine spousal responsibilities or expectations for the marriage relationship.

One spouse, for instance, might have a vested interest in continuing education. One provision of the agreement might be that their partner support their spouse in educational pursuits. Other couples might find comfort in having specific financial responsibilities spelled out that eliminate arguments about spending or investing differences.

A postnuptial agreement might also function to provide instructions for special circumstances. For example, it might outline expectations for what a spouse might do if their partner becomes severely disabled.

You might decide that separation in the event of a tragedy is acceptable to both of you, as long as medical care is still provided. Knowing what each person expects ahead of time can eliminate feelings of guilt or pressure if such tragic situations should occur and allow healthy spouses to move on to other fulfilling relationships.

Individuals in marriage can find some peace in having specific interests protected by the contract of a postnuptial agreement, especially if those interests might have been a source of conflict in the past.

Community Property

One of the most important features of a postnuptial agreement (and something that sets it apart from a prenuptial agreement) is protecting community property. Washington is a community property state, which means that all property or assets acquired after the marriage date are held jointly between the husband and wife.

Postnuptial agreements can help to distinguish items that would otherwise be considered community property, and this can be important for some situations.

For example, if one person inherits a house from a family member, that house might be joint property in the marriage. To keep ownership of the house contained to one spouse, the postnuptial agreement will protect that property from being commingled.

Setting some assets apart from community property can protect both spouses. In the case with the inherited house, one spouse has the title, but the other spouse is protected from the property expenses, taxes, and liability that can come from owning that property.

Provisions for Death and Assets

Finally, postnuptial agreements can be essential for diverting assets away from the surviving spouse in the event of untimely death. Normally, all assets that belonged to the marriage transfer to the living individual.

However, some couples might want specific assets to be transferred to children, other relatives, or friends. For example, an inherited property from a parent might be given to a surviving sibling instead of a surviving spouse. Without the agreement, all the property held in common in the marriage will likely be dispersed at the discretion of the surviving partner.

A postnuptial agreement can be a benefit for marriage. Contact us at Madison Law Firm, PLLC, for more information.

 

 

 

How Marriage Counseling Contributes to the Emotional Process of Divorce

Marriage counseling alone isn’t a fix, and sometimes a marriage can’t be fixed despite the efforts you and your spouse put into trying to save it. In some cases, divorce seems like the most practical solution. But even if marriage counseling can’t restore your marital relationship, it can help prepare you for life after divorce.

 

 

To Counsel or Not to Counsel

While fewer than 5 percent of couples whose marriages end in divorce even try marriage counseling before taking that final step, it can be helpful, even if you and your spouse get a divorce in the end.

Marriage counseling gives you and your spouse the opportunity to express your feelings in a structured yet safe environment. An unbiased third party (the marriage counselor) is present to provide direction during the sessions.

With the guidance of a professional therapist, marriage counseling will help you develop communication skills that can also strengthen your relationships with others—not just your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

What You Can Learn from Marriage Counseling

Along with helping you to identify the problems in your marriage, marriage counseling helps you develop skills that you can use in all your interpersonal relationships, including your relationship with your spouse after divorce. Counseling can help you see the value in:

Not Placing Guilt and Blame 

No matter what problems exist between you and your spouse, it’s important for each of you to take responsibility for your parts in contributing to the difficulties in your marriage. Divorce isn’t necessarily the fault of one spouse or the other, and in many states, assignment of fault doesn’t affect whether a divorce is granted.

Since the state of Washington is a no-fault divorce state, proving that one spouse or the other is at fault for the divorce generally does not impact the court’s decision. As long as one spouse declares that the marriage can’t be saved, the court grants a decree of divorce.

Listening 

When major conflict erupts in a marriage, communication is a crucial aspect of finding solutions to problems so that you and your spouse can resolve difficult issues that arise. Listening is an effective skill of conflict resolution because it shows that you respect and want to understand what the other person is thinking and feeling. It’s a skill you can practice in all your relationships with others.

Sharing Your Feelings

While in counseling, you must be willing to talk openly about the problems in your marriage even if you are getting a divorce. Honesty about what went wrong can help you leave the marriage with less anger, emotional pain, and hostility, especially if you have children. Talk therapy allows you to get your feelings out, which can help you, your spouse, and your children deal better emotionally with the changes in your lives.

Coping With Challenging Issues

Counseling helps you develop the skills to talk things through, particularly the issues that caused problems in your marriage. If you leave the marriage without addressing the sources of conflict in your relationship, you may experience a more painful divorce and higher levels of frustration and anxiety afterward.

Your Ability to Co-Parent

Successful co-parenting following divorce requires the ability to cooperate and deal with parenting issues by working together rather than against each other. You must be ready to rationally and realistically discuss with your former spouse any family-related issues that concern both of you.

Making a Change

Look to yourself rather than expecting other people to change. If you are getting divorced, your life is about to change in a big way. The thought of change alone can be stressful, so you don’t want to continue making the same mistakes. Counseling throughout the divorce process can help you prepare for this major life transition.

It’s important to know who you are and what you want in life. Marriage counseling when preparing for divorce can help you see changes you need to make in your feelings and behavior so that you can move on with your life as an emotionally healthy individual.

Overlapping Roles of Marriage Counselors and Divorce Attorneys

Divorce is a complicated legal and emotional process—a process that often involves help from multiple professionals in order for a marriage to end on healthy terms for all concerned. Attorneys gain insight from marriage and family therapists and other mental health professionals that helps them develop a better understanding of the psychological effects of divorce on a family.

Marriage counselors learn through working with attorneys in court-ordered mediation processes more about the legal problems that can impact the emotional states of a divorcing couple and their children. Consequently, both professions can help each other help their clients.

When it comes to the area of divorce, the family law attorneys at Madison Law Firm, PLLC can make recommendations to help you navigate this difficult process with the least amount of emotional stress as possible.

Abused or Neglected Children: What Close Relatives Can Do to Help

If you learn that a child in your extended family has been abused or neglected by his or her parents, you may have a long road ahead of you. Your first concern will be for the current safety and security of the child. Your next concern will be to ensure that the child will be cared for properly in the future.

Most people have no idea where to begin when it comes to protected and gaining custody of a relative. It’s a situation no one wants to experience, but sometimes it is necessary to provide a safe home for children. Here’s what you need to know about responding to poor parenting situations and what you can do to gain custody of a child who is in your extended family.

Defining Neglect and Abuse

Many parenting methods are perfectly safe and valid, and the state cannot interfere based on matters of opinion. If you simply disagree with how your relatives raise their children and there is no evidence of harm, your reports will not get very far.

Washington sees abuse, abandonment, or neglect of a child as a criminal offense. Violators can be subject to prison time and heavy fines. Generally, these actions constitute abuse or neglect under the law:

  • Sexual exploitation. This includes but is not limited to acting upon a child, taking inappropriate photographs, or making a child witness inappropriate or violent sexual actions.
  • Using too much force to discipline or stop a child. Physical harm would be evidence of this type of treatment.
  • Leaving a child unattended in a parked car. This provision is in place to prevent accidental death due to brake failure or heat stroke.
  • Giving a minor drugs or alcohol.
  • Driving a vehicle while impaired with children present. Generally, this is action is charged under “child endangerment.”
  • Knowingly leaving children in the care of a sexual offender.
  • Failing to provide the necessities of life, including food, water, clothing, and shelter.
  • Leaving young children unattended for long periods of time, especially when they don’t have access to basic necessities.

Any combination of the above actions may result in the termination of parental rights. This is when family members can step in to offer homes for children in these situations.

Knowing the Signs

Sometimes, it is difficult to see the signs of neglect, abandonment, or abuse. Many children do not say anything about what they experience at home, and it can be challenging to know for certain if you are right about your suspicions.

Family members usually see children more often or have an insider’s view into living conditions and family dynamics. They may have more ability than “mandatory reporters” like doctors, teachers, and counselors to see what is going on at home.

Warning signs of abuse, neglect, or abandonment include:

  • Lack of medical attention. For example, if you notice that your niece or nephew has a large cut that should have been seen by a doctor for stitches, but was not, this is a warning sign.
  • Reduced enthusiasm for normal childhood activities.
  • Weight loss, reduced personal hygiene, or a ragged appearance.
  • Poor school performance.
  • Increased anxiety, agitation, or fear over getting into trouble for ordinary childhood mistakes.
  • Apathy toward adults and reduced affection toward those who show love and concern.

If you see these warning signs, your first step should be to contact child protective services. Following that phone call, it’s best to also contact a family law attorney as soon as you can. You will need legal assistance in cases where clear-cut evidence is difficult to pinpoint.

Gaining Custody

After you have contacted CPS, there will be an investigation into the claims of abuse. The police will direct the investigation on criminal activity. CPS begins evaluating the family and looking for possible temporary care situations. When the case of abuse is clear, parental rights are often terminated based on the seriousness of the circumstances.

Terminating rights can be a lengthy process, and so first you must be appointed as a guardian. Then you can work toward making the situation permanent, especially if there is little chance the parents will improve. Fortunately, Washington gives legal preference to worthy relatives to adopt children before looking to the public for foster care or adoptive parents.

If you are fighting for custody of these children, your lawyer can help compile the history of abuse and unfit parenting evidence. Your lawyer will also help you complete the necessary steps to make yourself available and suitable for adoption. You will need to prove that your home is safe and ready for children and that you can support the added expense.

You will be given even more preferential status in court if you can show a history of a relationship with the child in question. You will be required under Washington law to undergo a criminal record check before the placement, even though you are a family member.

For more information on adopting a relative out of a bad home situation, contact us at Madison Law Firm PLLC. We can provide the information you need to get started on this big step.

Equitable Doesn’t Always Mean Equal: Four Things You Need to Know About Asset Division in Washington

When you get divorced in Washington, what property do you get to keep? Washington is a community property state, so all of the assets—and debts—acquired by either you or your spouse during the marriage are divided up in a just and equitable manner. It’s important to understand, though, that just and equitable doesn’t always mean equal—otherwise, you could be in for quite a shock when the final division of property comes about.

Here are four things that you need to know about asset division and Washington law that might surprise you.

  1. Separate Property Is Only Separate if You Kept It That Way All Along

One of the first things that the court will do is look at all of the assets that you and your spouse have and determine what is community property and what is separate property. Separate property could include things like cars and houses that were yours alone before you got married or an inheritance that you received in your name only. Community property is generally subject to division between you and your spouse, usually (but not always) the court will award each party his/her separate property.

Of course, the law is full of exceptions to the rules, including this one. If you gave your spouse equal control over the property during your marriage or comingled an inheritance with marital funds, that once-separate property likely became part of the household’s community property. It can be difficult to assert that the property is still separate unless you treated it that way all along. The court may consider it unfair to suddenly let that property revert to one spouse alone. In some cases, even commingled property can be characterized as separate by using a forensic account procedure known as “tracing”.

  1. Marital Infidelity Has Nothing to Do With How Property Is Divided

A lot of people think that the courts will punish someone over their marital infidelity by awarding the faithful (or “injured”) spouse a greater share of the assets. It doesn’t happen that way in Washington. The only time your spouse’s marital infidelity might come into play is if he or she spent an exorbitant amount of money on the person he or she was unfaithful with.

For example, the court isn’t going to consider dinners in a fancy restaurant to be exorbitant. Even the occasional piece of jewelry or birthday gift isn’t likely to be a problem, as long as it keeps with the general budget of the household.

However, if your spouse set his or her paramour up with an apartment, a gym membership, and put a lot of expensive food, clothing, and accessory items on a joint credit card, that’s a significant expense to have come out of the household funds (or debt to have to divide).

You could probably convince a judge that you deserve a bigger distribution of the remaining assets or a smaller share of the family debt because your spouse had dissipated marital assets or created marital assets solely for his or her own pleasure and without your consent or knowledge.

  1. Waste of Marital Funds Can Sometimes Lead to an Inequitable Division of the Remainder

Waste and dissipation of marital funds are two topics that are closely tied together, but they’re slightly different. Think of dissipation as spending household money on things that don’t benefit you but at least you know where the money went. Waste is just what it sounds like—a spouse may purposefully waste marital funds rather than divide them with his or her spouse.

For example, your spouse may take a sudden pre-divorce trip to Las Vegas and proceed to gamble away the savings account without your knowledge or consent. That information could be enough to get a judge to award you a larger share of any remaining assets, like the equity in your home.

Keep in mind, however, that waste is often hard to prove and long-term habits can be seen as mere entertainment, not purposeful waste. For example, if your spouse routinely went gambling with your full knowledge (even if you didn’t particularly care for the habit), the court may view the occurrences as mere entertainment—so long they weren’t an abuse of his or her discretion to use some of the household money that way.

  1. The Duration of Your Marriage May Factor Into the Division of Assets and Debts

There are no hard-and-fast rules regarding a marriage’s length and the division of assets, but judges are inclined to approach short marriages differently than long-term marriages. If your marriage was fairly short, the judge may be inclined to restore both you and your spouse to your financial position pre-marriage, unless you and your spouse signed a prenuptial agreement.

If your marriage was fairly lengthy, the judge may look more carefully at each of your situations and try to divide assets and debts so that you each have approximately the same financial outlook for the future.

Asset division can be complicated, even when you think it should be simple. Contact Madison Law Firm and let one of our attorneys guide you through this confusing and difficult time.

The Newcomer’s Guide to Domestic Partnerships and Same-Sex Marriages in Washington State

Laws in Washington provide a clear framework that allows two adults, regardless of gender, the right to enjoy the benefits of partnership or marriage throughout the state. In statutes, rules and laws relating to same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships in Washington, the words “husband” and “wife” are considered to be gender-neutral terms.

If you’ve recently moved to Washington from another state and have questions about domestic partnerships and same-sex marriage laws, this guide is a good place to find basic answers:

Your Out-of-State Marriage or Partnership 

Generally, as long as your domestic partnership or same-sex marriage was made legitimate by the laws of another state, it’s recognized as valid in Washington. As a member of a partnership or marriage formed in another state, you and your spouse or partner are entitled to all of the benefits offered to heterosexual couples in partnerships and marriages in this state. You are also allowed to marry each other again in Washington.

There are exceptions to this recognition. If you and/or your spouse were not at least 17 years of age, and you did not have a court order allowing the marriage, it will not be recognized as valid. If your marriage would be void in Washington for any other reason, such as a kin relationship or an existing marriage to another person, your marriage will not be recognized.

It’s a good idea to officially marry your spouse within a year of becoming a resident of Washington to maintain your out-of-state union’s status as a legally recognized marriage. Alternately, enter a state-recognized domestic partnership within that time frame to secure all of the legal benefits of partnership. Madison Law Firm, PPLC, can answer any questions you have about these and other civil contracts.

It’s Easy to Wed in Washington

The state of Washington recognizes a marriage as a civil contract between two people. In order to meet the qualifications to be married, both of these people must be at least 18 years of age, and both must be capable of entering into a civil contract.

The two people cannot be related by blood any closer than second cousins. Neither of the people can be a child, sibling, aunt, uncle, grandchild, niece, or nephew of the other person.

You don’t have to recite any specific vows to each other in order to make your marriage official in Washington. All you must do is stand before two witnesses and a religious or judicial official and declare that you take each other to be spouses.

Religious Freedom Laws Limit Same-Sex Participation

While the state recognizes and establishes same-sex unions, Washington also recognizes that religious institutions and organizations have the right to disagree with same-sex civil contracts. Whether or not you agree with a given church’s or faith-based organization’s opinions on same-sex marriage, the state gives these entities the right to deny you services and privileges.

A religious organization may turn you away from marriage counseling services, marriage workshops, religious retreats, and educational courses. They can deny you the right to hold your wedding in their facilities, and they can refuse to perform your marriage ceremony.

You have no cause of action against a religious official or institution if they deny you access to accommodations, goods, and services. No state or local agency can penalize a religious organization for refusing to serve same-sex couples.

If you or your partner are 62 years of age or older, there is a special domestic partnership allowed in Washington. This partnership addresses the problems older couples face with social security and other retirement issues.

To find out more about this special category of civil contracts, or to get help with a same-sex marriage, adoption, divorce or other action, contact our office to schedule a consultation. We stay on top of family and marriage laws in Washington state and do all we can to protect and assert your rights.

4 Tips for Handling Custody of Your Dog During a Divorce

When families expand with the joyful additions of children and pets, few couples consider whether they will one day part ways. Breaking up the family unit is likely the last thing on their minds. The rush to build their lives together can blind two people to the reality that a large percentage of marriages end in divorce, and the harsh realities of a divorce can hit all members of the family very hard.

If you find yourself not only facing a divorce, but also a potential custody battle for your dog, follow these tips for the best ways to handle the fight for custody of your canine companion.

  1. Maintain Physical Possession of the Dog

If your custody case winds up before a judge, you may find that possession plays a huge part in who gets custody of your dog. Since an animal is typically viewed as property, having the dog in your care indicates your ownership over your pet. If you allow your soon-to-be ex-spouse to take possession of the dog, he or she may attain rightful ownership in court.

No matter how much your ex may try to convince you to give him or her possession of an animal, stick to what you want. When you retain possession of the dog, you are not required to justify that decision to your ex-partner. Be consistent, or it may work against you in court.

  1. Prioritize the Preferences of the Children

If one parent gets primary custody of the children, it may seem unfair that they are also granted custody of the dog. However, that is often how dog custody is decided when families split up. When looking at what is in the best interests of the kids, it is undeniable that allowing things to stay as stable as possible should be a priority.

Keeping a beloved dog by their side can be helpful for children as they cope with the “new normal” after a divorce. While you should never fight over custody of the pet in front of your kids, including them in discussions about where the dog should live can be helpful, especially if you know your ex is willing to listen to what the children want.

Letting the kids decide custody of a dog improves their confidence, but you and your ex will need to cooperate with each other.

  1. Document Any Problematic Behavior Towards Your Dog

Although nearly every divorcing pair has high hopes of maintaining a friendly relationship, most people find that they never fully knew their former spouses until they knew what it was like to divorce them. If you suspect that your soon-to-be ex-partner is mistreating your dog out of anger or spite for you, take action to protect your pet.

Taking photos of your dog after a suspected incident is one way that you can protect your canine companion and ensue that your former partner does not end up with custody.  If you have any evidence of animal abuse, it’s okay to report your ex. Unfortunately, divorce can change people, so don’t hesitate to do what you must to protect you, your kids, or your dog. On the other side of that, you may also choose to document all the positive things that you and your kids do with your dog.

  1. Call a Family Law Attorney for Help

Don’t take a tough situation lying down. If you are not sure what your next move should be to ultimately get custody of your canine companion, contact a family law attorney. After you retain the services of a family law lawyer, you can ensure that you are doing the most you can to increase your odds of retaining custody of your dog.

Finally, if you have any questions about pet or child custody, contact Roger Madison at the Madison Law Firm PLLC. Your initial consultation is free, and it is offered without pressure or obligations.

3 Tips for Making Your Divorce Amicable

The moment your spouse asks for a divorce is one you will never forget. If things haven’t been working well for some time, you may feel a sense of relief. Or, you may feel surprised, and therefore, deeply angry and depressed. Some people experience these seemingly conflicting emotions—relief, anger, and sadness—at once.

Depending on your temperament, you might be ready and willing to fight your soon-to-be-ex for every cent. You might not care if you remain friends or treat each other well.

However, for many people, an ex-partner is someone you will continue to interact with after the divorce. You’ll see them at the grocery store, at your kids’ soccer games, and at major family outings, like weddings and college graduations. Therefore, it’s necessary to make your legal uncoupling as peaceful as possible. Below, we’ve provided three tips to help you keep your divorce amicable.

  1. Decide Not to Place Blame for the Divorce

Couples have a myriad of reasons for getting divorced. Rarely, if ever, is it solely one party’s fault. Despite this reality, the divorcing couple’s emotions often flare up, and fingers get pointed. They bring up events from the past and relive old, negative emotions. They place blame, and, in doing so, fail to recognize their own part in how the marriage turned out.

Now, instead of having calm, civil discussions about their upcoming divorce, one (or both) parties are trying to make things more difficult than they need to be.

You can choose to avoid this by consciously deciding not to blame your partner for the divorce and kindly asking your partner to do the same. If your soon-to-be ex-spouse disagrees, you will need to hold firm about not blaming and stay diplomatic in your exchanges with him or her.

  1. See a Therapist or Another Mental Health Professional to Learn Coping Techniques

As we’ve mentioned above, divorces stir up a lot of emotions. They can be truly life-changing, even traumatic, experiences. As this process begins, you may feel like you’re in mourning. You also may experience a distracting amount of resentment.

Don’t allow these powerful emotions to unsettle you. Be proactive, and find a therapist or another mental health professional that specializes in helping people through divorces. Mental health professionals can teach you critical coping techniques that will help you sort through and let go of your emotions surrounding the divorce.

  1. Let an Experienced Divorce Lawyer Handle the Division of Assets

We’ve all heard this story before. A friend of a friend tried to handle their divorce without a lawyer. They tried to negotiate with their ex, and the former couple couldn’t agree on the division of assets. They wanted to maintain a good relationship with one another, and they chose to use a professional mediator. Still, they couldn’t agree on who should get what. By the time they realized mediation wasn’t working, these once-amicable ex-spouses were no longer treating each other kindly or respectfully.

Avoid this situation by hiring an experienced attorney to negotiate on your behalf. It’s a divorce lawyer’s job to achieve the best possible settlement for the client and to understand the divorce laws in your state. The Madison Law Firm team knows the ins and outs of divorce in Washington State. A divorce attorney also looks at your divorce objectively and counsels you about what you can expect. He or she can handle negotiations calmly when things get heated.

If you’ve filed for divorce recently, you may be experiencing some of the challenges we’ve discussed. Review our well-researched list of tips on keeping your divorce proceedings amicable, and prevent your relationship with your ex from unraveling into anger and blame. It’s important, during these challenging times, to have a reliable lawyer to walk you through your divorce. To meet with an experienced divorce lawyer, contact Madison Law Firm in Olympia, WA, today.

Should You Opt for an Agency Adoption or a Private Adoption?

When it comes to adoption, your highest priority is making the process simple and beneficial for all involved-especially for your future child. However, it’s not always clear whether an adoption performed with the help of an agency or an independent private adoption offers the better path.

While each situation is different, understanding how these two options compare can give you a starting place. In this blog, we summarize the process of each.

Agency Adoption

When you adopt through an agency, that agency serves as the connection between you and prospective birth mothers. The agency provides birth mothers with counseling and the profiles of interested families. The agency provides you with a guide through the process.

You have the option to choose between a private agency or a public agency. Private agencies often handle both domestic and international adoptions, while your public agency may only work with local children.

Advantages

Generally, an agency adoption provides more oversight and structure than a private adoption. This type of adoption has the following advantages:

  • Extensive parent training-When you work with an adoption agency, you typically receive 10 or more hours of training about the adoption process. This training is intended to prepare you to raise a child of a different race than yours, identify and address any health issues caused by unhealthy pregnancies, and so on.
  • High safety standards-Agencies work hard to protect the rights, interests, and safety of all involved parties. As an adoptive family, you will likely need to be fingerprinted, have a background check performed, and be approved before you can take custody of your adopted child.
  • Option to close the adoption-If you choose to do so, you can close your adoption. This option means that you do not have to disclose your name or meet the birth family.

If you’re ready to be matched directly to a child, find an agency that fits your needs to get started.

Private Adoption

During a private adoption, your attorney works directly with birth mothers or birth families to find the right fit. When allowed by state law, your attorney advertises to birth families and may use networking to match you with a child. Your attorney can also guide you through the process of finding a birth mother on your own.

In addition to your attorney, you may also work with a social worker of your choosing or a facilitator.
Private adoptions tend to be local, but they are can also include children in other states.

Advantages

Where an agency adoption gives you more structure, a private adoption gives you more control. Private adoption has the following advantages:

  • Fewer rigid requirements-In a private adoption, the requirements depend on your desires and your attorney’s recommendations. For example, a basic background check is required, but an extensive background check is not. You may choose to provide the birth family with more information at your discretion and your attorney’s advisement.
  • Less time spent waiting-Unlike agency adoptions, private adoptions do not generally involve waiting lists. Instead, your profile can be shown to families as soon as it’s fully prepared.
  • Possibility of relationship with birth mother-In a private adoption, you decide how much of a relationship you want to have with your child’s birth mother and, by extension, how much of a relationship your child will have with her.

If you want to pursue a private adoption, start by finding an experienced attorney.

 

Whether you choose an agency adoption or a private one, it’s wise to retain an attorney to help with the process. Your attorney can navigate the agency’s process or facilitate meetings with prospective birth mothers. Additionally, your attorney helps ensure that your adoption complies with all local, state, and federal laws so there aren’t any complications later on.

Use this comparison to decide how you can best connect with your future child.

What Happens If My Ex-Spouse Won’t Pay Child Support?

You rely on your ex-spouse to help you support your children financially. So when your ex-spouse suddenly stops paying child support, it’s a serious blow for your entire family.

You might assume your ex-spouse is delinquent and simply doesn’t want to pay. But this isn’t the only reason to shirk on payments.

Here are four reasons why your ex-spouse may have stopped paying child support and how you can legally overcome these challenges.

1. Your Ex-Spouse Moved

If your ex-spouse moved to another state, he or she might think he or she is no longer required to pay child support. Fortunately, this belief is incorrect. According to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, the court can force your ex-spouse to pay child support, even if he or she lives in another state.

Determine whether your state’s court still has jurisdiction over your ex-spouse. If it doesn’t, it can forward the child support order to the court in your ex-spouse’s new state.

If you don’t know where your ex-spouse moved, state agencies can help you locate him or her.

2. Your Ex-Spouse Lost His or Her Job

If your ex-spouse is unemployed, he or she doesn’t currently have the resources to pay child support payments. But he or she can’t just quit paying without informing the court. Your ex-spouse may petition the court to either reduce the child support payment amount or put a hold on the payments.

Petitioning right away is in your ex-spouse’s best interest. He or she must continue to pay child support payments until he or she petitions the court. Plus, your ex-spouse is still responsible to pay overdue child support payments.

Unfortunately, this situation leaves your family without a child support payment temporarily. But you may be entitled to certain government benefits.

3. Your Ex-Spouse Confuses Visitation Rights With Child Support Payments

Maybe your ex-spouse thinks that because his or her visitation rights were suspended, he or she no longer needs to pay child support. But visitation rights are completely separate from child support. Even if your ex-spouse cannot see his or her children, he or she is still required to pay child support.

Your ex-spouse can petition the court to restore his or her visitation rights, but must continue to pay child support regardless of the court’s decision on visitation.

4. Your Ex-Spouse Refuses to Pay

Sometimes, an ex-spouse shirks his or her responsibilities and refuses to pay child support. In this case, talk to the court about enforcing the child support order. A prosecuting attorney or a private attorney can impose consequences on your ex-spouse. These consequences may include:

  • Garnishing wages (requiring your ex-spouse’s employer to withhold a portion of his or her earnings)
  • Withholding federal tax returns
  • Seizing your ex-spouse’s property
  • Suspending your ex-spouse’s business or occupational license
  • Canceling your ex-spouse’s driver’s license
  • Incarceration

Whether you use the prosecuting attorney or a private attorney, the court uses the money obtained from garnishing wages, withholding federal tax returns, or seizing property to pay child support costs.

If your ex-spouse still fails to pay, the court can send him or her to jail, but this is a last resort. After all, if your ex-spouse is in jail, he or she isn’t able to earn money for child support payments. However, even if your ex-spouse is in jail, he or she usually qualify for work release during work days.

 

Your children rely on child support payments for their food, housing, and education. If your ex-spouse isn’t paying what he or she owes, you’ll benefit from the support a family law lawyer can offer. We can look at your specific case and provide legal counsel and solutions. We can also work with the court to enforce your ex-spouse’s child support order.

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