Articles Tagged with divorce

Some people come to our office hoping that they can annul their marriage. People may want to annul marriage because they regret their decision to marry their new spouse, or because they feel like their marriage was a sham. They want their marriage (and their spouse) to go away and to be able to try and put their life back together. In Washington the process is not called an annulment it is called a determination of validity, but the effect is similar, and unfortunately for these people, is only available in  limited circumstances.

While it is not called an annulment in Washington State, it has the same desired effect. A decree of invalidity makes it as if the marriage never happened. RCW 26.09.040 is the law governing the procedure and requirements necessary for someone to have their marriage declared invalid. The statute requires that both parties to the marriage be living and that at least one of the parties is a resident of the State of Washington (or a member of the armed services stationed in this state).

A declaration of invalidity may be obtained if the court finds that at the time of the marriage one of the following circumstances was present:

If you are contemplating or experiencing a divorce, it is important that you are aware of Washington State Laws and how they might affect your divorce proceedings. Here are three laws that you should review and why they might be important to your case. This is just a brief look at Washington laws, and an attorney can assist you with a more in-depth review.

  1. RCW 26.09.080 – This statute is important because it provides some of the factors that the court will look to when determining how marital property will be divided. The list of factors is not an exclusive list, and the court will consider other relevant factors not listed within the statute.
  2. RCW 26.09.090 – This statute provides the factors the court will consider when determining whether to award spousal maintenance (commonly known as alimony). These factors are also used to determine how much maintenance to order, and for what duration maintenance should be ordered.
  3. RCW 26.09.187 – In dissolution cases involving children, this can be the most important statute of all. Paragraph 3 of the statute provides the factors the court must consider when determining the proper residential schedule for the children. The statute requires that courts give the first factor the greatest weight.

If you would like to speak with a Seattle area divorce attorney, please contact us. We would be happy to discuss these laws and all others that might impact your case and your life.

On this blog, we’ve previously discussed the ways that a parenting plan can adjust to the needs of children as they grow and change. Parenting plans can also be drafted to fit the needs of the parents. This can include work schedules. Our clients are not all 9-5 employees. Some work nights, some work swing shift, others work schedules that require them to work several days in a row and then take several days off. For unmarried parents with these types of schedules, more conventional parenting plans may not work.

Some people aren’t aware of the ways a parenting plan can be written to fit their life. For example, instead of having the kids every other weekend, plans can include provisions that adjust based on the work schedule of either or both parents (perhaps providing one parent three weekends in a row, then the other two weekends in a row). As another example, families working night or swing shifts might prefer having their residential time with their children start in the morning following their shift instead of in the evening after school.

It is our goal to draft parenting plans that fit our clients’ families. We work to ensure that we know our clients, and how their work schedules might affect their time with their kids. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss your parenting plan or other family law issue.

Many people choose to stay in an unhappy marriage for the benefit of their children. This decision is extremely personal, and often admirable. However, as family law attorneys, we hope parties staying married for the sake of their kids consider these three things:

  1. Spousal Maintenance: the duration of the marriage is one of the factors the court considers when determining whether to award maintenance (known in other jurisdictions as alimony). As the length of the marriage increases, it becomes more likely that the court will award maintenance, and for a longer duration. In addition, while the marriage is intact the non-earner spouse (or lower-earning spouse) will not necessarily be preparing for having to support themselves financially, leading to them needing more time to prepare for financial independence after divorce. This can have an impact on the maintenance provided to that person.
  2. Quality and Quantity of Parenting Time: Many parents complain that during an unhappy marriage, their parenting was adversely affected by living with their spouse. In these circumstances, parents might find that their relationship with their kids actually improves after divorce. While children may not spend the night in your home every night as they do prior to divorce, many parents find that they have more quality time with their kids after separating from their spouse. A family law attorney can provide you advice on what a parenting plan might look like if you choose to divorce while the kids are still minors.
  3. Property Division: Washington is a community property state, meaning that property acquired during marriage is presumed community. In most circumstances, the longer a marriage continues the more shared assets and debts are acquired. In some cases, property is acquired that one spouse cannot afford on their own. This can complicate divorce and put both parties’ financial futures in jeopardy.

None of these issues for consideration are meant to encourage anyone to get divorced. Divorce is difficult for people mentally, financially, and emotionally. That said, some people are staying together under false assumptions or misunderstandings. Even if you do decide to stay married for the kids, it is often in your interest to discuss how to manage your affairs while you stay married. If you are concerned about your marriage, and would like to speak with a Seattle area family law attorney, please contact us.

As family law attorneys, one of the first questions we often hear from our clients is “how much is this going to cost me?” The answer to that question (as with many legal questions) is often: it depends. Clients want to know how much child support and spousal maintenance they’ll be paying. This article hopes to explain why the answers to these questions are not as clearcut as clients (and we) wish they were.

Child Support: Although there are child support worksheets and a child support  schedule that help us determine how much child support you will be paying, more detail is needed before we feel confident in our advice. While you might be able to provide your income information during an initial meeting, it is unlikely that you can provide all of your spouse’s income information. There are also some unknowns as to how the court may impute an income to a unemployed or underemployed person. Adding to the complexity, in cases involving spousal maintenance the amount of spousal maintenance can affect the child support payment, so without knowing the spousal maintenance amount it is difficult to determine the child support that will be ordered. This is only the beginning. There are also deductions, taxes, deviations and more!

Spousal Maintenance: There is no statutory formula for determining how much spousal maintenance a spouse will have to pay to support the economically disadvantaged spouse. Instead, there are statutory factors helping a court determine whether to award spousal maintenance, and if so, for how long. Most of the time, only after looking at financial declarations from both parties, and information relating to the factors in the statute, are attorneys able to provide a well-educated estimation of the amount of spousal maintenance the court may order.

The first pleading in a family law case usually has to be served upon (not just mailed) the other party. In general, this means that the other party will need hand delivered the initial documents by someone of suitable age and discretion (This person cannot be a party to the suit.). (After a case has been initiated, some pleadings can be provided to the other party by mail, fax, or even email [upon agreement].) Service of the initial pleadings can set the tone of the case. There are some legal requirements for service, but these are not the only things to consider when serving the other party. Here are some other considerations:

  1. Where are your kids? If you are serving the other party, and you share children with that person, you will probably want to make sure they are served when the children are not present. It is unlikely that service in front of the children would ever help your case (or your kids).
  2. Where is the other party at the time of service? In family law cases involving money (which is most of them) you want to be sure that serving the other party does not negatively impact their ability to earn money. Getting served at work can be embarrassing, but it can also reflect negatively on the person being served. Others might not know that the service is in regard to a family law case, and may assume the worst. If the other party ends up out of a job, it can impact your case.
  3. Is the other party going to leave town? Service becomes more difficult if the other party is not in the state (and even more difficult if they are not in the country). If you know the other party is about to leave town, it is important to tell your attorney that at your first meeting. Your attorney may advise that you quickly draft initial pleadings and have the other party served before s/he leaves town.
  4. Is there another way? In some cases where parties agree that there is a legal issue to be resolved, parties can join in a petition. If the other party joins in the petition, there is no need to serve that person. This can avoid embarrassment for the party, and can start proceedings off amicably.

How and when someone is served is something you will want to discuss with your family law attorney. Please contact us if you would like to discuss this, or any other family law issue, with an attorney at  our firm.

Many people wonder when is the right time to consult with an attorney about their family law case. Often, the difficulty in making this decision results in people waiting too long to confer with an attorney. Having a client come into our office long after pleadings have been filed, arguments heard and even orders entered is often a frustrating experience. As family law attorneys we are able to see how the case might have gone differently if the person would have been represented throughout the process. Often, by the time the person comes into our office our ability to help them is severely limited by actions previously taken while unrepresented.

While each person’s case and circumstances are different, here are occasions when you may want to consider speaking with a family law attorney:

  1. If you are served with a petition, motion, notice, or other court document.
  2. If you are considering filing a petition or complaint in your family law case.
  3. If you are entering a marriage and you want to know about protecting the assets you currently have.
  4. If you are experiencing a change in circumstances in your family and want to know how it might affect your legal rights or obligations.

Just because you speak with an attorney about your case does not mean that you have to hire that attorney to represent you; however, at least you can ask that attorney what the process will be like. With more information you will be more prepared to decide whether you want to represent yourself, be represented by an attorney, or consult with an attorney, but do some of the work yourself.

Many divorcing people wonder how long their divorce will take, and whether there is anything they can do to speed up the process. RCW 26.09.030 requires that ninety days elapse after the filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage before a divorce decree cam be entered. This means that the minimum length of divorce proceedings is ninety days. The maximum length of time the dissolution of marriage process can take is more difficult to determine. In a highly contentious divorce, including continuances and other delays, the process can take well over a year.

Once the decision to dissolve a marriage has been made, most people want to get out of the marriage as quickly as possible. If your goal is to get your divorce finalized as quickly as possible there are things you can do to speed things up:

  1. Compromise on the Little Things: This doesn’t mean to agree to any terms or conditions that will make a significant difference in your life, but you should be willing to compromise on issues that won’t. Compromising on issues that aren’t imperatives for you will help you isolate issues that are, and focus your resources on having them resolved.
  2. Tell Your Attorney: Tell your attorney that one of your main priorities is for the process to move as quickly as possible. Be prepared for them to tell you that it might not always be in your best interest to rush things. That said, even if your attorney does respond in that fashion, at least she will know that one of your goals is to be divorced soon.
  3. File Early: Ask your attorney to file the petition as soon as possible. As stated above, the petition has to be filed to get the ninety-day-clock to start ticking. Often settlement negotiations start before a petition is filed. Sometimes negotiations are completed quickly and the parties are still forced to wait the ninety days. The sooner the petition is filed, the sooner the courtroom doors are open to enter the decree.
  4. Be Prepared: Be ready to provide your family law attorney with information and documentation to help them do their job as quickly as possible. Ask them what they want you to provide, and then provide it. They will often need certain information prior to advising you on the best next step. The sooner they see the complete picture, the sooner they can advise you what to do next.

With these tips comes one additional thought – it is not always in your best interest to get a divorce finalized as quickly as possible. A family law attorney will be able to give you advice regarding the appropriateness of quick settlement and finalization of your divorce in your specific circumstances.

After separation, many people want to discuss with their lawyers some of the immediate issues that need resolution: temporary child support, temporary parenting schedules, and who gets to live in the house. As part of these discussions (especially the one regarding which spouse gets to live in the home), they also want to talk about how to divide the household furniture (both during the temporary phase, and the final division). They want to know whether they can take the bedroom set to furnish their bedroom at their new apartment, or whether they can keep the kids’ beds.

In many cases, we encourage our clients to sort these issues out with the other party directly. (We would never encourage this in cases where allegations of domestic violence are at issue whether our client is the accused or the victim/accuser.) The reality is, we know that in many cases the furniture being argued over is not worth spending your legal fees on. The court will often attribute a value to the furniture based on what the furniture could be sold for at a garage sale. This means that many of the things you want to fight over will be worth just pennies on the dollar. Furthermore, the court will often look favorably on the party that is willing to negotiate regarding the small assets and not waste the parties’ resources (and the court’s time) on low-value items.

As such, we often encourage separated spouses to figure these things out based on necessity. For example, the spouse moving out of the family home will often take a guest room bedroom set for their new master bedroom. The party who has the kids the majority of the time often takes the kids furniture. Also, in many cases the parties both have items that were purchased to meet their specific needs and it often makes the most sense for that party to take these items with them (or keep them at the house as the case may be).

When clients come into our office seeking to initiate or respond to a family law action, they are often full of energy (and sometimes anger) and want to get moving on their case. This energy and enthusiasm usually continues for the first few weeks, but often decreases after that. Most family law court processes take time, and many clients feel the growing desire to get things over with.

While we understand (and often share) the feeling of wanting to be done with a legal battle, we encourage clients to stay the course if settlement is not in their best interest. On the other hand, there are cases that we encourage our clients to settle (for example, when more money can be saved by reduced legal fees than could be gained by continuing litigation). When we do believe that staying the course is the right action we encourage our clients to do the following:

  1. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: if you initiated an action to get something, and you don’t have it yet, don’t give up just because you are tired.
  2. Think About How Long You’ll Have to Live With the Results: In many cases, our clients will have to live with the results of a family law action for the rest of their lives. Don’t settle for something that you will regret a year from now so that you don’t have to have a stressful couple weeks (or months). (An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is also an appropriate expression here.)
  3. Do it For the Kids: In some cases our client doesn’t come into our office asking for us to advocate for him or her; instead, some clients are seeking someone that will advocate for what they believe is in the best interest of their children or step-children. If you start a family law action for the sake of someone else, think of them when your resolve wanes. Think if you want them to live with whatever you are considering settling for.