There are four primary financial parts in a divorce:
1. Property and debt division
2. Spousal maintenance (alimony)
3. Child support
4. Professional fees (transaction costs).
The components can be interdependent: the property division may affect spousal maintenance and child support; spousal maintenance may affect the property division and child support; and child support may affect spousal maintenance and even sometimes the property division.
In Washington, the law does not provide a formula for property division or spousal maintenance amount and duration; while there are worksheets for child support, but they only yield a presumptive amount from which there may be a “deviation.” Generally, the goal in a divorce is to ensure that the overall outcome will be as fair to everyone as circumstances will permit, including the obligation to support children.
In a Collaborative Divorce, a professional team will ordinarily spend some time working with the assets, debts, and budgets of both parties, to ensure that the financial future of both will be as secure as circumstances may allow.
Financial decisions that are made during a divorce may well have tax consequences now or later), and the tax rules can be complicated. Different types of property have different after-tax values.
The financial part of a divorce is vital to your future and your family's future. Get good financial and tax advice, and take your time to carefully consider your options and the various ways you can accomplish your financial goals before making any final decision. In a collaborative divorce, be sure that your team includes a neutral financial specialist, who can provide you and your spouse with careful financial analysis and education.
Divorce lawyers rarely pay attention to them. Nor does the law. Yet, divorce has a profound impact on them. Who are they? Family friends and extended family members.
You will likely continue to see family members and friends at graduations, weddings, holidays, and other events. What happens in your divorce will likely affect your relationships with these important people in your lives. It may impact the participation at or the quality of family and social events and gatherings. It may impact who is available to help you and your children in the future.
If, for example, you rely on grandparents or other family members to help care for (or carpool) your children, is that something you wish to maintain? Ending a marriage does not need to mean that important relationships will end. Often, they can be preserved.
While these concerns may not be at the forefront of what you might be thinking in your divorce, and likely won't be raised or considered by most divorce lawyers because the law is silent on such matters, you probably don’t want to underestimate the importance of these relationships during your divorce.
Decisions you make while going through a divorce will impact those relationships in the future. Regardless of how odd it may seem to some, maintaining a working relationship with in-laws, other family members, and family friends happens all the time in divorce, and will usually be beneficial for you in the future.
Because the law is generally not all that concerned about maintaining relationships, conventional divorce lawyers are generally not well equipped to help you work with these types of relationships. In fact, many if not most divorce lawyers self-limit their services to addressing what can be enforced in court.
Some of the most powerful resolutions may not be legally enforceable. Divorce law (and other law) serves a good purpose, but it is not designed to help you maintain relationships. If you are thinking about divorce, consider what you can do to help maintain those relationships. And, consider selecting a divorce process that will help you transition in a manner that tries to address your goals and values for the multitude of relationships that are important to you.