Thank you for allowing me to assist you with your question.
First, let me give you some reassurance regarding his IRS debt. Here is information from the IRS:
You now have three possible ways to avoid paying taxes that should have been paid by your spouse:
- Innocent Spouse Rule. This is a new, improved version of the innocent spouse rules that appeared in prior law. If you qualify, you can obtain relief even if you're still married to, and living with, the spouse who failed to report taxes properly. Some of the more arbitrary provisions have been eliminated, but some people will find that they still don't qualify.
- Separate Liability Election. In addition to the innocent spouse rule, there's a new rule under which you can elect to have separate liability even though you signed a joint return. This form of relief is available only if you're divorced, widowed, or legally separated — or if you live in a separate household from your spouse for at least a year. If you meet that requirement you may be able to avoid liability in situations where the innocent spouse rule doesn't apply.
- Equitable Relief. There are bound to be situations where it's unfair to collect tax from a spouse who doesn't qualify for either of the first two rules. The new law permits the IRS to provide relief in these cases.
A recent report from the Government Accounting Office indicates the IRS has recently done a better job processing requests for relief than in the past, but it still takes roughly a year, on average, to get a final answer.
One thing is to make sure you no longer sign a joint return. Filing a joint return makes you jointly and severally liable.
One thing you need to think about is whether he is telling the truth about the taxes or if he is trying to scare you into a quick settlement of marital assets so that he can get out cheap. I would strongly encourage you to make sure you utilize discovery to dig into his records to see exactly what his true economic picture is and that he is not hiding assets to cheat you.
Now, on to your divorce. You can file unrepresented, but I would encourage you to hire an attorney to make sure you know what assets are there and what are gone.
Most family lawyers will take a smaller retainer if there is money available from the husband for to pay for your legal fees. Here is a link for Washington Bar Association for a referral:
I would not take his word for anything. Also, being married for 19 years entitles you to a portion of his social security and his pension and or retirement (401K). Along with your portion of the marital assets.
I would encourage you to make sure any joint accounts are cashed out by you as soon as possible if he has not already done so. If he has then get copies of the statements where he cleaned them out and take them with you to visit the attorney or if you decide to represent yourself, file a motion for emergency support and show that he is dissipating assets to starve you out!
Here is a link to the forms for Washington State:
and here is one that is more simple:
I wish you the very best and remember to remain calm and collected. Do not make decisions while you are upset or emotional. Think things through and if you cannot think clearly, wait to respond until you can.
Thank you again for trusting us with your problem. Good luck and Godspeed.
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