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A trial court in a Washington divorce case has broad discretion to justly and equitably distribute the property.  The court must analysis the relevant factors as set forth in RCW 26.09.080. The court may distribute both community and separate property and does not need to find exceptional circumstance to support awarding part of one spouse’s separate property to the other. Additionally, it may be fair and equitable for the court to award one spouse’s separate property to the other spouse who has less earning capacity. A former husband recently challenged a division that awarded the former wife a share of his retirement and pension, including his premarital retirement assets.

According to the appeals court’s unpublished opinion, the parties were married for about ten years when they separated in 2019.  In March 2021, the wife petitioned for legal separation, and that petition subsequently became a petition for dissolution. The trial focused on the property distribution.  Although there was a prenuptial agreement, the trial court found it was unenforceable.

The wife had worked as a flight attendant and later became a stay-at-home mother after the children were born.  She worked as an Amazon courier when the trial occurred.  She had about $85,000 in her retirement account.

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Allegations of domestic violence can affect a Washington custody case.  A Washington appeals court recently considered whether a child could pursue a Domestic Violence Protection Order (“DVPO”) against his mother after another court denied his father’s petition to modify custody based on the same domestic violence allegations.

Walla Walla County Proceedings

When the parents divorced in 2016 or 2017, the parenting plan named the mother as primary parent and gave the father visitation.

According to the unpublished opinion of the appeals court, the father petitioned for an immediate restraining order protecting him and the child from the mother in Walla Walla County in June 2022.  At the same time, he petitioned for modification of the parenting plan, alleging the mother had been verbally and physically abusive toward the child and that the child refused to go back to her home.  He attached a large number of text messages between the mother and the child. The trial ultimately found there was “no substantial change of circumstances” and denied the father’s modification petition and awarded the mother attorney’s fees.

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To convict a defendant of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, the state must prove the defendant possessed the controlled substance and had an intent to deliver it to someone else.  Whether the defendant actually possessed the controlled substances is often an issue.  A defendant recently appealed his convictions for possession with intent to deliver because the drugs were found in his wife’s purse.

According to the unpublished opinion of the appeals court, the police saw the defendant put a backpack in a vehicle registered to his father-in-law and his wife put a purse in the area of the front passenger seat.  The defendant drove.  The police subsequently conducted a traffic stop.

The officers observed a purse in the front floorboard.  The zipper was open and they could “clearly see a plastic bag containing what they believed to be methamphetamine.  They also saw a glass pipe. They got a warrant to search both the car and the purse.  They found methamphetamine, heroin, scales, baggies, and $195 cash. There were two phones mounted on the driver’s side and the wife was carrying another.

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The Department of Education has finally released the final rule on Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance (“Final Rule”).  The Final Rule makes significant changes to the Title IX regulations that were previously amended under the Trump administration in 2020.

The Final Rule specifically provides that sex-based discrimination includes discrimination based on “sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”  A number of lawsuits have already been filed challenging protections related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Final Rule includes a new definition of “sex-based harassment” and removes the current definition of “sexual harassment.”  The definition identifies and defines three types of sex-based harassment: quid pro quo harassment, hostile environment harassment, and specific offenses.  The specific offenses include sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking.

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In 2023, the legislature amended RCW 9.94A.535(1)(b) to prohibit the inclusion of most prior juvenile adjudications in an offender score.  A defendant recently challenged a sentence imposed in October 2022 because the court had included juvenile adjudications in his offender score.

Following an incident in May 2022, the defendant was found guilty of third degree theft and residential burglary.  According to the appeals court’s opinion, the court included six juvenile adjudications in calculating the defendant’s offender score.  He was sentenced in October 2022 to 364 days of confinement, which was suspended, for the theft conviction and 45 months of confinement for the residential burglary.

The defendant appealed, arguing that his offender score should be calculated without the previous juvenile adjudications based on RCW 9.94A.535(1)(b).

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Pursuant to RCW 26.09.191(5), a court in a Washington custody case may not draw presumptions from the provisions of the temporary parenting plan when it enters a permanent parenting plan.  The court must instead base the permanent residential custody on the child’s best interest as determined at trial.  The court generally must consider the factors set forth in RCW 26.09.187(3)(a), which relate to the child’s relationship with each parent, knowing and voluntary agreements between the parties, each parent’s performance of parenting functions, the child’s developmental level and emotional needs, the child’s relationship with significant people and involvement in activities and with the physical surroundings, the wishes of the parents and the child if mature enough, and each parent’s employment schedule.  A mother recently challenged a parenting plan, arguing the trial court had improperly drawn presumptions from the temporary plan and had improperly applied the factors.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the original parenting plan in Arizona granted substantially equal parenting time.  The father had moved to Spokane by the time it was entered.

The father petitioned for modification in Spokane County, alleging the mother had moved to Virginia.  A temporary parenting plan gave him primary placement and allowed the mother visitation in Spokane. Three factors were at issue in the appeal.

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The Washington Supreme Court has recently decided a case involving school discipline.  A Washington public school student filed suit after being suspended and not allowed to return to in-person school after the suspension was over.

The Court noted that students facing suspension are entitled to due process because they have a property interest in their educational benefits.  Students also have statutory protections in Washington.

RCW 28A.600.015 requires the superintendent of public instruction to adopt rules regarding the substantive and procedural due process rights of students.  The rules may allow a district to use informal due process procedures for short-term suspensions, if the superintendent determines that the students’ interests are adequately protected.  The law prohibits a suspension or expulsion from being indefinite.  Short-term suspension procedures apply for suspensions up to 10 consecutive school days.  Emergency removal must be converted to another form of corrective action within 10 school days if they do not end within that timeframe.  The law also prohibits schools from using long-term suspension or expulsion as discretionary discipline.

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Washington felony violation of a court order occurs when a person, who has at least two previous convictions for violating a court order, knows a no-contact order exists and knowing violates a provision of it.  Willful violation of a court order occurs when a person has willful contact with another that is prohibited by a valid court order and the person has knowledge of the order.  Accidental contact is not willful.  A person must both know of the no-contact order and intend the contact. Washington case law has held that proof that the defendant acted knowingly constitutes proof they acted willfully. Previous Washington cases have held that the defendant does not have to have specific knowledge of the terms of a no-contact order, but instead must have knowledge of the no-contact order and know that the willful contact violated it.

A defendant recently appealed his conviction, arguing the prosecution had misstated the law regarding the meaning of “knowingly.”  He was charged with two counts of violation of a court order – domestic violence.  According to the appeals court’s published opinion, the protected party under the no-contact order testified that she heard knocking on her bedroom window and saw the defendant outside. She called the police.  She also testified that she received two text messages that she translated and summarized as saying “he hates me for everything I’ve done to him, for not letting him see the kids.” She further stated that he hoped the kids started hating her for not letting them see their father.

The state’s closing arguments included multiple statements about the knowledge requirement of violation of a no-contact order. The state stated “This element does not say [the defendant] knew of the provisions of this order and knowingly violated this order. The knowing part refers solely to the violation.” The state further stated, “What I have to prove to you is that [the defendant] knowingly violated a provision of this order.”

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In a recent Washington custody case, a mother challenged a parenting plan that required her to undergo a particular form of therapy to receive equal residential time with the child.  An appeals court reviews the provisions of a parenting plan under a manifest abuse of discretion standard, meaning the trial’s decision is manifestly unreasonable or based on untenable grounds or reasons.

The parents were in a committed intimate relationship from the middle of 2015 to late 2018.  They had a child in September 2017.  Each party had alleged intimate partner violence against the other.  The mother was arrested for domestic violence in September 2018, but the father’s petition for a protection order was dismissed for lack of evidence.

The mother petitioned for a parenting plan, among other things.  The court entered a temporary parenting plan that gave the parties equal residential time and joint education and healthcare decision-making.  The court appointed a parenting coordinator who conducted a parenting evaluation.

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Under Washington criminal law, a defendant commits residential burglary if they enter or unlawfully remain in a dwelling, other than a vehicle, with the intent to commit a crime against a person or property inside.  RCW 9A.52.025.  To convict a defendant of residential burglary, the state must prove that the defendant entered a dwelling, while other forms of burglary only require the state to prove the defendant entered a building.  A defendant recently challenged his conviction of residential burglary, arguing a fenced back yard was not a dwelling.

According to the opinion of the appeals court, which considered the facts in a light most favorable to the prosecution, a homeowner saw the defendant attempting to enter the home’s back door.  The homeowner testified the defendant had a hammer and a crowbar and was striking the deadbolt.  The defendant saw the homeowner and stopped and ran.  The homeowner tripped him in the front yard and he dropped his bag and the crowbar.  The homeowner testified the defendant tried to hit him with the crowbar and bite him.  The homeowner held his arm around the defendant’s neck until the police got there.

The defendant was ultimately charged with residential burglary, possession of burglary tools, third degree assault, and two counts of bail jumping.

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