Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Family Law

Q:    Should the division of assets and liabilities be equal?

A:    The divorce law requires an equitable, or fair, division of assets and liabilities. There are several factors involved with determining what is a fair division of assets. For example, the longer a marriage, and the greater differences in the spouses’ earning power, the more an unequal division becomes a fair division of assets. As is often stated, the greatest concern to the courts and to the parties is the relative economic circumstances of the parties as they exit the marriage. A fair division of assets should reflect upon that comparison of need.

Q:    How are assets valued in the dissolution process?

A:    Fair market value of assets is determined through the use of experts. That may be a real estate appraiser for real estate, or an accountant to provide a business valuation. Although such expenses for experts can be sometimes be shared, it is often best to secure your own appraiser and/or business valuation expert so that the subjective nature of any such value can be fully explored.

Q:    How long does a divorce take?

A:    In King County, a divorce can take up to approximately eleven months to be granted if the parties must go to trial. At filing of the Petition for Dissolution, the clerk of the court provides the parties with a trial date approximately eleven months from the date of filing. This does not mean the divorce must take that long. Most cases resolve long before eleven months. At a minimum, the divorce cannot be granted in the first ninety days, but any time after the ninetieth day, a divorce can be granted so long as all of the issues have been resolved. Those issues would include the division of assets and liabilities, the determination of a Parenting Plan, the calculation of child support, determining the amount and duration of any maintenance awards and the possible recovery of attorney fees and costs.

Q:    How can I be protected immediately?

A:    The court offers solutions for immediate protections. They have several court commissioners available to determine immediate issues such as temporary restraining orders, occupation of the family home, a temporary Parenting Plan or support issues. This can all be resolved through a motion process before a commissioner, wherein the commissioner will grant the relief on a temporary basis. That relief often will last until entry of the final decree.

Q:    What is a Parenting Plan?

A:    A Parenting Plan is an approximately eleven page document which has replaced the older concept of custody and reasonable visitation. A Parenting Plan will generally have four parts. There will be a residential schedule, there will be provisions for major decisions regarding the children and a provision for minor decisions regarding the children. Finally, there will be a methodology set forth in the Parenting Plan for alternative dispute resolution. This is a circumstance employed to resolve any outstanding disputes through either counseling, mediation or the court process.

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