15 Mar Everything You Need To Know About Property Division Lawyers
When you and your partner have concluded that your marriage is irretrievably broken and you initiate divorce proceedings, you’re faced with a cascade of additional important decisions. If you have children, their best interests are at the top of the list.
The next set of important decisions involves how you will split up your assets: your home, your cars, your bank accounts, and your debts. You’ll also need to decide who gets items of personal property, like artworks, furniture, jewelry, and other items that may carry profound sentimental value. Obtaining the services of an experienced property division attorney will help you protect your assets and navigate Washington divorce laws on property division.
Some couples are able to come to an amicable agreement about asset division on their own. However, securing the services of a knowledgeable asset division lawyer can ensure that your property division agreement is fair and equitable, which is the standard the court will apply . A property division attorney helps allocate your joint property from one basket into two.
There are several important questions you should ask before hiring your legal representative. Start your list by first reading everything you need to know about property division lawyers.
Property division in divorce is governed by state law, but judges retain some discretion in how to allocate property to each divorcing partner. An experienced property division attorney understands that Washington’s divorce laws aren’t static rules written in state statutes, but come to life as they are applied by the courts in real life situations.
Each divorce proceeding is different and unique. Experienced asset division lawyers know this, and have seen how different judges react to different petitions to divide property which may include requests to give a greater share of assets to one partner over the other.
Property Division Lawyers Can Help With Valuation
Washington is a community property state, which means that all the assets (and debts) you acquired during the marriage are assumed to belong to each of you equally. The only exceptions are inheritances and gifts.
Assets you owned prior to the marriage and kept separate for the duration of the marriage are counted separately. However, it’s important to understand that the courts in Washington can dip into your separate assets and hand them over to your spouse, if the circumstances warrant it, so the award results in a fair and equitable division of property.
Of course, in order to determine a fair and equitable division of property, the parties to the divorce action have to determine the value of the assets to be divided. For some assets, that’s harder to do than it sounds, and couples can disagree.
Property division lawyers understand this. They have access to a network of valuation experts and appraisers who can produce an impartial report assigning a value to artworks, jewelry, and even less tangible things like the value of an interest in a business, the future value of investments in stocks and bonds, a membership in a private club or professional organization, or the opportunity to spend a week in a shared vacation home.
When it comes to personal property, divorcing partners can make lists of which items they brought with them into the marriage, and which of the items acquired during the marriage they regard as belonging to them, personally. The best result would be to come to an amicable agreement about who gets what, but in the case of disagreements, the court will decide how to divide personal property equitably, based on an expert valuation.
Property Division Lawyers Shield Your Emotions
Divorce brings out powerful emotions. It’s hard to accept that because Washington is a “no-fault” state, the courts in Washington don’t consider why you’re getting a divorce, other than your declaration that the marriage is unsalvageable.
You can tell your lawyer all about your heartbreak and anger, but among the things you need to know about property division lawyers, it’s particularly important to understand that the good ones won’t take your emotions to court. Their job is to obtain, in a calm and professional way, the best possible settlement for you based on your current lifestyle and anticipated needs after the divorce. The divorce is not an opportunity to punish your spouse for bad behavior. Instead, it’s a mechanism to detach two people from a legal relationship in a way that an impartial observer would consider fair.
The only time a court might consider one spouse’s behavior during the marriage as a factor in the divorce settlement is if you can prove that your partner wasted “community assets” during the marriage. If your spouse drained your bank account because of a drug or gambling problem, or buying an unnecessary and wildly expensive vehicle, or by spending marital money on an affair when you and your children were in need, the judge may consider the depletion of assets when determining how to divide property in the divorce.
Dealing With Debt, Alimony, and Taxes
Most couples accumulate debt during their marriage. This may include a mortgage or mortgages, credit card debt, or auto loans. Usually the court splits the responsibility to repay these debts between the spouses. However, debts incurred by one or both parties prior to the marriage, like student loans, will be considered separate debts and remain with the individual who took on the debt before getting married.
Alimony, or spousal support paid by one spouse to the other after the marriage ends, has evolved, becoming more equitable over the years. Rather than establishing a permanent responsibility to pay, it’s now more likely that spousal support will be awarded on a temporary basis, to help a spouse who has been out of the workforce for years get the education and training they may need to become more self-sufficient.
In long term marriages where one spouse has provided most or all the income the couple has lived on for many years, the court may approve a longer term or permanent alimony arrangement based on the partner’s needs and ability to pay.
Even when your divorce is final, you’ll still have to file taxes for the previous year or years. It’s critical to consult with a property division lawyer to make sure you have access to the records you need, and that it’s clear who will be responsible for preparing and filing tax forms accurately and on time.
So, another thing you need to know about property division lawyers is their success rate in obtaining post marital financial support for their clients, if you anticipate needing that support. Before you select a property division lawyer, ask about their fees and who bears filing and other court costs. Determine how the property division attorney will communicate with you and how you can reach them in an emergency.
Also ask whether you can continue to communicate with your spouse if you hire the lawyer to represent you, and who else may be involved in representing you (associate attorneys, investigators, mental health professionals, appraisers, etc.). Although it’s difficult for a property division lawyer to give an estimate before learning more about your case, ask how much your case ultimately may cost and how long it may take to be resolved.
Read reviews and testimonials from former clients, check the state bar association’s list of lawyers in good standing, and above all, listen to your instincts about whether the asset division lawyers you’re interviewing are a good fit for you in terms of their style, communication, and personality.
Divorce can be a new beginning. Hiring a property division attorney can help you get off to the best new start with the assets you need to make a success of it.