Commonly Held Myths Regarding Divorce

Mackenzie O. Bretz Edmonds Lawyer

When you start the divorce process, you’ll soon realize that many people have advice or horror stories to share with you. While some of their experiences can be helpful, people often spread myths about the divorce process. So, let’s look at some of the most commonly held myths about getting a divorce.

MYTH 1: Inheritance is ALWAYS Separate Property

Washington state law holds that inheritance is separate property. However, the following actions can lead to your inheritance being up for division in the divorce process.

Intentional Gifting: If you purposely gift your spouse a share of your inheritance, it could lose its separate property status.

Commingling: As previously mentioned, commingling inheritance funds with community property can transform it into community property.

Mixed Use: Establishing the separate portion can be difficult if you utilize your inheritance for both separate and marital purposes.

Co-Mingled Investments: If you invest your inheritance funds together with marital assets, sorting out the separate portions can become complicated.

MYTH 2: Spousal Support or Alimony is Usually for Life

If you have been married for over 25 years and are seeking spousal support, the court may consider awarding support for the rest of your life or until you reach retirement age. However, the court will not base its decision solely on the length of the marriage. Instead, it will also take into account factors such as the standard of living during the marriage, the age and health of the spouse seeking support, and the other spouse’s financial ability to pay.

The case, In re Marriage of Rockwell, 141 Wash. App. 235, 243, 170 P.3d 572 (2007) first held that parties shall be put in relatively equal financial positions for the rest of their lives in long-term marriages. However, in the case of In Marriage of Doneen, 197 Wash. App. 941, 950, 391 P.3d 594, 599 (2017), the court held that this standard was permissive and not mandatory in nature. Meaning that the court has the discretion to award lifetime maintenance based on the totality of the circumstances. 

MYTH 3: Children Can Decide Which Parent They Want to Live With

Many people believe that children can decide which parent they want to live with when they reach a certain age. This is only the case once a child turns 18.

In a child custody case, the court may consider the child’s opinion about which parent they wish to live with. However, this is usually done through a neutral third-party evaluator, rather than the child’s testimony. If a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is appointed, they will investigate the case, including interviewing the children, and then provide a report outlining their findings and recommendations. The GAL investigation will involve a range of factors, and the child’s preferences regarding their living arrangements may or may not be taken into consideration when deciding custody or visitation, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

MYTH 4: An Account in Only Your Name is Separate Property

Absent a prenuptial, postnuptial agreement, or a separation contract stating otherwise, the title or the name under which it is property is held does not control whether the property (or debt) is community or separate. The date of acquisition is the controlling factor. If the account was acquired during the marriage, it likely has community property value. This is because, in community property states such as Washington, anything acquired during the marriage, including income used to fund those separate accounts, can be considered community property.

MYTH 5: I Have Evidence That my Spouse Cheated on me During Our Marriage, This Will Give me a Leg up in Our Divorce

Washington state is a no-fault divorce state, which means proving the wrongdoings of the other spouse is not necessary to obtain a divorce. If you can prove your spouse was “wasting” money on this ex-marital affair in excessive amounts, this may be a consideration taken by the court when dividing assets. If the adulterous relationship was also accompanied by violence or abuse in your marriage, then a court may consider this an extenuating circumstance. It is possible you could be awarded additional funds as the abused spouse if your divorce goes to court. The process of divorce can be plagued with misconceptions and misinformation. Get real answers to your questions by speaking with a Beresford Booth Family Law Attorney today.

To learn more about Commonly Held Myths Regarding Divorce, please contact Beresford Booth at or by phone at (425) 776-4100.

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