Articles Posted in Holidays and Special Occasions

A judgment or judgment lien for accrued child support in Washington remains in force for 10 years after the youngest child named in the order turns 18, pursuant to RCW 4.56.210.  The statute therefore generally makes a child support judgment unenforceable after the youngest child turns 28.  Washington courts have referred to this statute as a “nonclaim statute.”

RCW 74.20A.220 allows a parent to extend or waive “any statute which may bar or impair the collection of the debt….”  A father recently challenged the applicability of his waiver to RCW 4.56.210 on the ground that it is a nonclaim statute rather than a statute of limitations.

The father was ordered to pay monthly child support when his marriage was dissolved.  He made the first child support payment nine years after the order was entered.  He subsequently signed a waiver eliminating the time limit for collecting the approximately $50,000 he owed in unpaid child support.  The “Waiver of the Statute of Limitations Defense” stated it applied to “[a]ny statute of limitations defense created by RCW 4.16.020, RCW 4.56.210, or RCW 6.17.020” and any other statute “that limits the time DCS can collect [the defendant’s] support debt.”  The waiver further stated it allowed DCS to collect until the defendant had paid the support debt in full.

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For many families the spring is an exciting time.   During spring, the weather gets warmer, the flowers bloom, the baseball season begins, and families plan for their summer vacations.  For families whose children’s residential time is split between two unmarried parents, it is also often a time that the parenting plan requires parents to swap summer schedules.  In many plans both parents submit their desired summer schedules and one parent has the prevailing preference for each year.  Here are a few ideas that some families have found helpful when addressing notice for summer vacation schedules: Continue reading

Past blog posts have discussed tips for helping children of two-home families deal with the holiday season and spending holidays away from one of their parents.  Today’s post discusses another group of people affected by a two-home family: the extended family.  Oftentimes, divorced (or otherwise unmarried) parents hope that all their extended family will be able to attend the holiday get together the years they have their children.  Unfortunately, when scheduling with the extended family there can be added confusion, hurt feelings, and headache for divorced parents.  Fortunately, there are things you can do to help the holidays run more smoothly and help your kids get to see as many members of their extended family as possible.   Continue reading

Whether it be because of divorce, children being born outside of marriage, or other non-traditional family structures, we have many clients with children whose parents and/or guardians are living in more than one home.  This can be difficult for kids and families on typical days, but is especially difficult on holidays and other special occasions.  Here we provide a few ideas for how to make the holidays a little better (and less stressful) for kids living in two-home families.

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After Halloween, Thanksgiving will be right around the corner. This holiday is included in Washington’s Parenting Plan Pattern form. Parents can choose to modify the form to schedule the holiday in a way that makes sense for their children (in rare circumstances, the court may choose to overrule the parents’ decisions). For many two-home (i.e., unmarried or separated parents) families this means the children will spend the Thanksgiving holiday with only one of their parents. And, some parents will be spending the holiday without their kids. Families choose to schedule the Thanksgiving holiday in a number of ways. Here are some of the ways two-home families choose to schedule their Thanksgiving holiday.

  1. Only the Thursday. Some parents choose to schedule the Thanksgiving holiday as just one day. The child (or children) will be schedule to reside with one parent for Thanksgiving Day and then the child will resume their normal holiday schedule. This is generally the default.
  2. Thursday through Friday. In this schedule the child is with the parent scheduled to have the child for the Thursday Thanksgiving and following Friday. This means that the child returns to the normal residential schedule for the weekend.

For many unmarried parents, the most difficult part of sharing residential time with their child’s other parent is the holidays spent away from their children. While you may not be able to celebrate with trick-or-treating, there are other things you can do to make the Halloween season special. Here are some ideas for celebrating Halloween when you won’t be with your children on the evening of October 31st:

  • Make a special event out of decorating for Halloween. Make a special Halloween-inspired dinner.
  • Take your kids to Great Wolf Lodge, or another place that has a month-long Halloween celebration.
  • If your work offers a Halloween celebration for kids on a day other than the 31st, see if you can arrange (with the child’s other parent) bringing your child to your work-sponsored event.
  • Let your child dress up in their costume on another day in October and bring them trick-or-treating at family members or friends’ homes (warn friends and family in advance so they are prepared).
  • Watch a fun Halloween movie with your kids – costumes optional.
  • Throw a kids Halloween party while you have your child.

While you will probably still miss your kids on October 31st, these ideas can help you and your kids celebrate the season in a fun and special way.

If you have any questions about your parenting plan, holiday schedule, or other family law questions. Please contact us.

Summer vacation has already started for many Washington children, and will be starting soon for the rest. For children of unmarried parents, this often means a change in their residential schedule. During the summer, kids may be spending more time with the non-primary residential parent at his or her home, or they may be vacationing with one or both parents. This can also mean changes in childcare and extracurricular activities.

Parenting plans can help families plan how summer break will be handled. Some families choose to have summer schedules that mimic their school year residential schedules. This is most common in families where both parents are local, and both parents work during the summer. For these families it can make the most sense to have the school year schedule continue year-round. This avoids unnecessary changes for the children and maintains frequent contact with both parents throughout the year.

Other unmarried parents have plans that schedule the children to reside the majority of the summer with a parent living far away from the child’s usual residence. This allows the children to have substantial time with the non-local parent without missing school or compromising their extracurricular schedule. It can be difficult for the child to be away from the primary residential parent. Frequent communication between the primary residential parent and the child should be encouraged.

As the weather warms and spring gets closer, many people take time to refresh and renew. Some people do spring cleaning and get rid of items they don’t need anymore. Others hit the mall to get some new spring and summer fashions. As family law attorneys, we’d like to remind you of some other things you might want to consider (or reconsider) as the season changes.

The first two considerations specifically relate to unmarried or divorced parents with children. If you have a child that will be graduating from high school in 2014 or 2015 it might be a good idea to consult an attorney about how (and/or if) you and the child’s other parent will afford college. There are time limits on when requests for post-secondary education expenses may be filed, so you want to be sure you know when the deadline in your case is, and that you file before that. (In many cases, the deadline is the expiration of the order of child support.) If your child will be graduating in 2014, you will want to consider this issue a priority! If you are going to speak with an attorney, you will want to do so as soon as possible.

The second consideration for parents is whether they have their residential time with their child planned out for summer vacation. Many parenting plans require that dates for residential time be communicated to the other party during the spring. This can vary, and some plans require it even earlier. This is also a time you might want to consider whether a modification of your parenting plan has become necessary. It might be possible to get a modified plan in place prior to summer break.

As any parent knows, kids change over time. They grow bigger, stronger, more independent, and busier. As they change, it is often necessary for the parenting plan that schedules their residential time to change with them. Last week, this blog discussed flexibility within parenting plans, or within the families following (or not following) a parenting plan. Here we’ll discuss a few ways that parenting plans can address growing children’s changing needs.

First, the form parenting plan provides two paragraphs for planning the child’s residential time with each parent. The two paragraphs address the child’s schedule at two different ages. Paragraph 3.1 of the form parenting plan addresses the child’s residential schedule while the child is under school age. (School age is defined by paragraph 3.2 of the form [usually when the child starts kindergarten or first grade]). Paragraph 3.2 provides the residential schedule for school-age children. This provides families the ability to make two residential schedules within the plan itself. Parents often choose to have more frequent, but shorter visits for the non-primary parent when the child is under school age, and then visits of longer duration when the child is older. These decisions are (hopefully) dependent on the needs of the child and their families.

Second, layered into the existing form, you can also have an even more graduated approach. If the child is very young, the child may need to have very short visits during the first year or so, followed by longer and longer visits all while they are still in the “before school age” definition. Or, you may want to design a different schedule for elementary, middle school, and high school. While the pattern form is designed for two schedules, it is possible to add more than two if both families agree, or if one party convinces the court that it is necessary.

Unmarried parents creating parenting plans often expect to have to share their children for Christmases, birthdays and Thanksgivings. What they usually haven’t contemplated is sharing sick days, Veterans Days, MLK Days and Presidents Days. These are all days that often result in kids being out of school while parents still have to work. As most parents agree, these days are often disruptive to their work schedules, especially if the kids do not attend a daycare that allows them to attend on those days.

To avoid confusion, parenting plans are expected to schedule where children will be each day (even each hour) of their lives. This doesn’t mean that they can’t do a weekend at their grandparent’s or an overnight at their friend’s home, but it does mean if those plans fall through, the parent scheduled to have residential time with the child will be responsible to provide care (or find a suitable alternative).

Parenting plans often (and almost always should) provide a time that the transfer from one parent to another happens. Prior to that time, unless otherwise stated, the children should go to the parent with whom they are scheduled to reside. That means that if you are to have the children from 9:00 a.m. on Monday until 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, and they get sick at 9:45 a.m. on Monday morning, it is likely you that will have to take the day off work (or figure out a suitable alternative). If one of the unmarried parents is a stay-at-home parent to other children, it might make sense to have that parent scheduled to have the children during most school hours. That way, if the kids do get sick, that parent is available to care for them until the other parent is available to take over. Specific circumstances should be discussed with a well-qualified family law attorney.

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