Be Vigilant

There are many reasons for spouses wishing to end a relationship. A “financial component” is not uncommon. This can be related to a concern that at a spouse does not pull his/her “weight” in the relationship, or (much more commonly) creating debts. In most situations, my clients have a good idea of what, if any, financial problems there are in the relationship. In some cases these problems diminish after the parties separate, but sometimes the financial problems continue, or get worse. In this blog article I would like to talk a bit about what to watch for after the parties separate.

I titled this blog article “Be Vigilant” because even though you think things will get better, financially, after you separate, this may not happen. One needs to keep aware of what is happening, with the financial affairs of the other party, as best as possible. Hopefully the full extent of what has happened, up to the date of separation, is well documented – giving the parties a “snap shot” of what the situation was at that time. It is also likely that this “snap shot” will be addressed in temporary orders, spelling out who will pay what during the pendency of the divorce or legal separation.

In many cases the parties will follow the temporary orders, regarding payment of current debts and creation of any new debts. But not always. It is important for each spouse to keep track, as best as possible, as to what is happening with any community debts that are in existence. While not really common, there are people that have no control over their spending habits and, as one might suspect, this can affect the other party even after the parties separate. The main issue tends to be credit card debts. Ideally it would be wise to freeze any community accounts so neither party can use the card anymore – this would then limit the issue(s) to how to divide up what was incurred during the marriage. Depending on the circumstances, it can be very helpful to “catch” any problems while they are manageable. With joint accounts, either party should be able to contact the lender/creditor and keep tabs on what is happening, month to month. This would include making sure that any minimum monthly payments are being made but also if any new debt is being incurred.

Generally I have not seen (at least over the last few years) any issues with home payments being made, but this can happen as well. For piece of mind, it can be wise to keep track of the monthly payments on a family home, as well as cars, etc. A large monthly car payment is one situation that a spouse may view as a way to cut back on monthly expenses – and it can be fairly easy to replace with a lower cost option.

Sometimes I have clients ask me why is it important to keep track of expenses, etc. I tell them that while that spouse may have to assume responsibility for any new debt they incur, it can affect how things (both debt and property) gets divided up in the relationship. In most cases it can be very helpful to have no new debts going into discussions on how things should be divided. It gives you a bit more flexibility in how to handle things, and that can be important.

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This blog article is not intended to convey legal advice, but only address some of the general rules. Most legal issues, in family law cases, depend on the specific facts. Should you wish to discuss your particular situation with the Law Office of Thomas A. Chillquist, please call or email my office. I am a family law lawyer (divorce attorney) and I represent parties in family law, and divorce, matters in King and Pierce County, Washington, including Kent, Federal Way, Covington, Renton, SeaTac, Des Moines, Fife, Auburn, Seattle, Bellevue, Puyallup, Orting, Tacoma and Mercer Island. Copyright Thomas A. Chillquist