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Family Law. Breakup of marriage, property and custody. What is Family Law?. An area of law dealing with family and domestic issues, like: Marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships Domestic violence and abuse Adoption, surrogacy, legitimacy

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family law

Family Law

Breakup of marriage, property and custody

what is family law
What is Family Law?
  • An area of law dealing with family and domestic issues, like:
    • Marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships
    • Domestic violence and abuse
    • Adoption, surrogacy, legitimacy
    • Termination of family relationships (divorce, annulment, property settlements, alimony, child support, custody, visitation rights)
dissolution of marriage
Dissolution of Marriage
  • In Washington, divorce is called dissolution of marriage
  • The governing law is RCW 26.09
  • Washington is a no-fault divorce state
    • This means you do not have to show anything more than irreconcilable differences
ending the marriage
Ending the marriage
  • File dissolution petition with the court
  • Wait 90 days
  • Get a final dissolution decree (3 ways):
    • Both parties agree to it
    • Both argue in front of the judge, who enters a judgment
    • Default decree entered (no one argues)
dissolution decree
Dissolution Decree
  • Ends the marriage
  • Decides the following matters:
    • marital property and debt allocation
    • Custody rights
    • Child support
    • Spousal maintenance
    • Restraining orders
the property
The Property
  • Dividing up the marital property, (i.e. who gets what)
what is marital property
What is marital property?
  • Marital Property is property of the marriage, often it includes:
    • Real property: houses and land
    • Personal property: boats, cars, art
    • Financial assets: cash, stocks, bonds
    • Future interests: pensions, retirement funds
    • Contractual rights
  • Question: Who does this belong to when the marriage ends?
  • Answer: It depends
community property
Community Property
  • In WA, most of the assets are Community Property
  • Each spouse is regarded as contributing to the wellbeing of the community and equally shares in the financial wellbeing of the marriage
  • Each spouse has a ½ interest in any property acquired by the marital community
  • 9 community property states:
    • Washington
    • California
    • Texas
    • Louisiana
    • New Mexico
    • Wisconsin
    • Idaho
    • Arizona
    • Nevada
    • Alaska (can choose community property)
community property9
Community Property
  • Most money coming into the marriage is community property, this includes:
    • salaries and compensation
    • Windfalls
    • Sale of community property
    • Interest and rent income
slide10

Marital

Community

Wife’s

Salary

Husband’s

Salary

Wife’s

Labor

Husband’s

Labor

community and separate property
Community and Separate Property
  • Strong presumption that property acquired during marriage is community property
  • However, some property is SEPARATE property
    • This is property that belongs to a spouse individually
separate property
Separate Property
  • Property held by a person before the marriage
  • Property received as a gift or inheritance by a person
  • Rents and profits from separate property remain separate property
mixed property
Mixed Property
  • Of course, property will get mixed together, and this becomes mixed property
    • For example, a person may buy a house, then get married, and the make payments after the marriage using income from their salary (which is now community property).
  • Usually a court will proportion this property
    • Basically divide it up according to whether the money used to pay for it was community or separate
mixed property14
Mixed Property
  • Mixed property can cause funny things to happen
  • For example, a husband is injured in car accident and wins an award of 200,000 dollars (100,000 for lost wages, and 100,000 for pain and suffering)
    • The 100,000 for lost wages is community property
    • The 100,000 for pain and suffering is the separate property of the husband
property and dissolution
Property and Dissolution
  • When the marriage ends, each spouse gets:
    • Separate property
    • ½ community property
  • However, judges have DISCRETION, and can equitably distribute property, giving one spouse more or less than ½ community property
    • For example, if one spouse never worked and gambled away all the money, the court may award that spouse less than ½ community property
community property and unmarried couples
Community Property and Unmarried Couples

In WA, we allow for committed intimate relationships

    • Relationship must be stable and marital-like, court will look at:
      • Duration of relationship
      • Cohabitation
      • Pooling of resources
      • Intent of parties
      • Purpose of the relationship
  • Court will use equitable powers to distribute property based on community property principles
unmarried couples
Unmarried couples:
  • However, Washington does not recognize common law marriages,
    • (unmarried couple living together like a married couple, same as a committed intimate relationship)
  • So when distributing property at the end of the relationship, the court will use of the community property principles
    • BUT, parties do not get any other marital rights (like rights to retirement funds, pensions or health care)
    • This is to promote public policy of encouraging people to marry
the kids
The Kids
  • What happens to the kids?
custody
Custody
  • “In any proceeding between parents… the best interests of the child shall be the standard by which the court determines and allocates the parties' parental responsibilities.” RCW 26.09.002
    • This means that a court will consider the best interests of the child in deciding custody rights
what are best interests
What are best interests?
  • The best interests of the child are served by a parenting arrangement that best maintains the child’s:
    • Emotional growth
    • Health
    • Stability
    • Physical care
what are best interests21
What are best interests?
  • The best interest also means maintaining the existing interaction between parent and child as much as possible
  • The parent child relationship is altered only:
    • to extent necessitated by the changed relationship of the parents
    • or to protect the child from physical, mental, or emotional harm
  • RCW 26.09.002
who are the parents
Who are the parents?
  • Only legal parents have custody rights
  • Legal parents are:
    • Natural parents
    • Adoptive parents