Picture of someone studying what he or she should know about a divorce decree.

What You Should Know AFTER Your Divorce, Part 1: The Decree

Photo of Samuel K. Darling, Divorce & Business Attorney at Genesis Law Firm's headquarters in Everett, WA

by Samuel K. Darling, Divorce Lawyer at Genesis Law Firm

Video series on “What You Should Know AFTER Your Divorce in Washington State“. This first video focuses on the divorce decree; the second two videos pertain to parenting plan issues and child support.

[Enhanced Video Transcript:]

This is the first video of a three video series on “What You Should Know AFTER Your Divorce in Washington State.” If your divorce was in a state other than Washington, these rules may not apply to you. The topic for today’s video is “The Divorce Decree.” The next two videos will be on parenting plan and child support issues. If you don’t have kids you can obviously skip videos two and three. We’ve noticed most divorcees do not know some of the information in this video, so stay tuned to the end.

1: Look at Your Life Insurance Policy

You want to revisit your life insurance beneficiaries. Chances are you don’t want your ex receiving your life insurance proceeds.

2: Probably Don’t Need to Revise Your Will

The second thing you should know, you probably don’t need to go back and revise your will even if your spouse was listed as your primary beneficiary. Washington has a law called “Automatic Spousal Revocation” and, just like it sounds, it automatically removes your spouse from your will when he or she becomes your ex. You may, however, still want to go back and revisit your will if your will is now ambiguous, if it’s unclear who your beneficiaries are, or if you want to add beneficiaries.

3: Calling the Police Usually Won’t Do Any Good

The third thing you should know, if the opposing party violates one of the orders in your divorce–let’s say the person violates something that is required in your decree–don’t call the police. Calling the police probably won’t get you anywhere. Instead, you should file a motion for contempt–that’s the proper remedy.

4: Don’t Worry Whether Your Attorney Withdrew

Number four, don’t be offended if your attorney issues an official notice of withdrawal at the end of your divorce case. That’s customary and it doesn’t mean that your attorney dislikes you. Similarly, it’s not necessary that your attorney withdraw so don’t worry if your attorney didn’t.

5: Property Distribution Is Un-Modifiable

Number five, you can’t modify the property and debt distribution in your decree. So even if your income goes way down and the opposing party’s income goes way up. Or let’s say that the assets you were awarded in the decree aren’t worth as much as the court really anticipated you still can’t go back and modify that property distribution, it’s pretty much set in stone.

6: Don’t Wait to Modify Maintenance

Number six, you can modify maintenance if the parties’ financial positions change fairly substantially. So let’s say your income goes way down or the opposing party’s income goes way up you might want to ask for a maintenance modification. But something to keep in mind. You can only modify maintenance so long as there’s an existing maintenance obligation. So don’t wait to tell your attorney that you want an increase in maintenance. If you wait too long it may be that the maintenance obligation ends and you won’t be able to get any more maintenance.

7: What to Do If You Find Proof of Your Ex’s Lies

Number seven, tell your attorney immediately if you discover that the opposing party had defrauded the court in some material respect. So let’s say you come across some documents that show that the opposing party was lying to the court in some substantial way about assets and debts. In that situation, your attorney can actually go back and have the divorce decree set aside and you can get divorced again on terms that might be more favorable to you. In that situation, as I mentioned, you should tell your attorney immediately. If you procrastinate after discovering this information it’s less likely that the court will grant your motion to vacate.

8: Correcting Typos

Number eight, do tell your attorney if you notice that there is a typographical or clerical error in your decree that impacts you in a negative way. So, for example, if you were awarded property and the legal description is incorrect. Tell your attorney about that so that your attorney can go back and make a correction. We can use what’s called a CR 60 Motion to fairly quickly and easily correct these type of typographical and clerical mistakes.

9: Decree = Deed

Number nine, a properly drafted divorce decree can actually act as a deed for purposes of real estate conveyance. So even if you don’t have a deed–maybe there never was a deed because the court didn’t bother having one drafted through your divorce process–you can use your decree to prove you received the former family home or vacation property or what have you. You don’t need a deed; you can use the decree instead.

10: Buying a House While Your Name Is Still On Your Ex’s Mortgage

Number 10, if your name is on the opposing party’s mortgage, it may prevent you from making large purchases on credit. So it may mean that you can’t go and buy a home of your own until you’re off the other side’s mortgage. Now, there is a way around this that applies in some situations. In some situations if the decree specifically says that the other side is supposed to pay upon that mortgage and the opposing party does pay on that mortgage for two to three years some lenders will overlook the fact that your name is still on the mortgage. So if it’s been a couple years and you want to buy a home of your own shop around for a lender who will overlook the fact that your name is still on the mortgage.

11: Get a Certified Copy If You Changed Your Name

The 11th and last item for this video: you can get a certified copy of your decree at the courthouse. It’s fairly inexpensive and you don’t need an attorney to help you do it. Chances are you don’t need a certified copy of your decree; just a regular copy will suffice for most situations. But if you changed your name through the divorce process, you’ll want a certified copy. You’ll need a certified copy to prove to various government agencies that your name has changed. For example, you’ll want to change your name on your driver’s license, social security card, and passport.

That’s it! Our firm believes in making quality legal information available for free online. For more, click the resources tab in the upper right corner of this page. From all of us at Genesis, we wish you the best with your family law matter.

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1 thought on “What You Should Know AFTER Your Divorce, Part 1: The Decree”

  1. Your writings on this subject are clear and complete. You are to be commended. I have one question for your comments or opinion. Why is there no statutes of limitations on diviorces in Washington State ? I feel I was violated by the judge, my attorney and her attorney. Because of what occurred I lost my home, my car, and numerous financials because of all those involved.

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