Dealing with a long term marriage (25 years or more) in a divorce can be a tricky subject. After years of comingling of funds and perhaps a major disparity in education and employment, what is "fair" in Washington may be wholly different than the end result in a different state. Over the last decade, Washington Courts have focused Family Law matters and divorces on equality. Not necessarily giving 50-50 shares equally to both spouses. Rather, the Courts will do its best to put both spouses on equal footing. The pivotal case in this regard was In re Marriage of Rockwell, 141 Wn. App. 235 (2007). The end result was providing an unequal 60/40 split of the assets including retirement toward the wife.
In that matter, the household income was driven primarily by the husband's income. After a divorce, the wife was - clearly - no longer able to provide for herself in the way she had become accustomed. Instead of halving the property, the Court determined that the wife required a larger piece of the pie to ensure an equitable division of assets both now and into the future. This case has been used by courts and attorneys since published to address cases where one spouse is the primary breadwinner. Although Rockwell has been appealed twice, the case findings have been upheld.
My advice regarding divorces: remove all expectations you may have had regarding retirement. Unless it was discussed prior to any divorce proceedings, the likelihood is that you could see a large cut into what you thought you would earn. On the contrary, if you are not the primary earner in the household, a court may go out of its way to ensure a fair retirement setting. These Family Law matters can be complex and confusing. At Magnuson Lowell, we are here to help settle these matters fairly and efficiently.