Life is unpredictable and often deviates from the plans that people initially set for themselves. Whether you ended up going to a different college than planned or settled on a surprising career path, chances are your life has taken some twists and turns. Now that you are going through a divorce, you may need to prepare yourself for a few more unexpected events.

There are several processes that most people in Washington will proceed through during a divorce. Property division, alimony and child custody are all fairly standard issues for divorcing couples. However, there are some issues that can prove to be a bit more challenging to address.

What happens to your pet?

Even if you consider your dog, cat or other four-legged friend to be a member of the family, Washington state law considers pets to be property. This means that pets typically get lumped into the property division process alongside things like furniture and kitchen appliances. If you and your ex feel strongly about your pet being family rather than property, you may want to consider working out an agreement on your own.

Depending on your situation, you might choose for you or your ex to maintain ownership of your pet. If you have multiple pets, you could keep one while your spouse keeps the other. You might also choose to have pets travel back and forth with children according to the child custody agreement.

How are frozen embryos handled?

Deciding what to do with frozen embryos during a divorce can be emotionally charged. Some people consider their frozen embryos as their only option for having a biological child, while others may prefer that they not be used. Depending on the situation, there may already be an agreement that dictates what will happen in the event of a divorce. Resolutions addressed in these agreements often include:

  • Donation to medical research
  • Donation to a third party
  • Destruction

These agreements can be a point of contention though, especially if couples did not realize that they were legally binding at the time of signing. Circumstances may have also changed between the time that it was signed and when you filed for divorce. What you agreed on when you were part of a happily married couple might no longer reflect how you and your soon-to-be ex feel.

What is legal custody?

If you have children, you already know that you will need a child custody agreement. But did you know that there is a difference between physical and legal custody? While physical custody is most often used interchangeably with child custody, it only refers to who the child physically resides with and when. Legal custody involves a parent’s right to make important decisions on behalf of a child. Legal custody is separate from physical custody, so you can maintain joint decision-making rights even without physical custody of your child.

No two couples are alike, and no two divorces are the same. You will have your own unique challenges to face during divorce. Being prepared to meet those challenges head on is important but can feel understandably overwhelming if you are not familiar with the ins and outs of family law. You can help address some of those feelings of uncertainty by taking the time to learn more about the divorce process in Washington.