Experience in Providing Solutions For You
Whether you are thinking about divorce or legal separation or have been served with paperwork from your spouse or partner, getting good advice from an experienced family law attorney is critical. During our initial meeting, we spend time gathering information about you, your family and the particular dynamics of your situation. There are many different ways to approach a case, from working cooperatively with the other side, negotiation, mediation, arbitration or if necessary, litigation. Each approach has different advantages, and we tailor our approach after meeting with you and assessing the unique facts and circumstances of your family and your goals. We help you understand your options and choose the strategy that will work best for you and your case.
Ending a marriage or partnership is really about the people involved and we are dedicated to creating solutions that work for
you.Divorce and Legal Separation
A divorce is a termination of the marital relationship where the debts and assets of the parties are divided by the court. A legal separation is similar; since the debts and assets are still divided but the parties still remain married. In either case, if minor children are involved, parenting and child support will need to be addressed.
In many simple cases where there are no children or few if any assets, many couples elect to do it themselves. Even if you decide to do it yourself, it would be wise to have an attorney review your paperwork before it is submitted to the court. If children are involved or if there are significant assets such as a home, advice and representation by a family law attorney experienced with the rules and statutes in Washington is invaluable and can help you avoid costly problems and mistakes.
Under Washington law, most property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is generally community property. Community property is owned by both spouses, however, community property is not necessarily divided 50/50 at divorce. A number of factors can lead to divisions of property in favor of one spouse or the other. An attorney can assist you in identifying and valuing all of the property and in obtaining a division of the assets that is fair and equitable in your individual circumstances.
Spousal maintenance (also known as alimony in some states) is money paid by one spouse to the other to assist in meeting his or her living expenses. Spousal maintenance is more common in longer marriages, where there is a significant difference in incomes or both. Maintenance can also be used to allow a spouse to obtain education so that so that he or she can find a job or earn a higher salary. The most common example is where one spouse stopped working to care for children while the other spouse pursued his or her career. We can assist you in evaluating whether spousal maintenance is appropriate in your situation and, if so, how much and for how long.Parenting Plan/Residential Schedule
A child’s residential schedule and other parental custody issues are addressed in a document called a Parenting Plan or residential schedule if the parties are not married. A parenting plan or residential schedule is actually a court order that that identifies the primary residence of the child, the primary caregiver, and the time that the other parent can spend with the child. A parenting plan is determined in or out of court with guidance from child custody attorneys, and when contested is usually the most important issue for parties in a divorce, modification, or non-parental custody case. Establishing a parenting plan is one of the requirements or outcome of the divorce process. Often times, the temporary order obtained at the beginning of the court case or the arrangements the parties have been following in many cases becomes the basis for the final parenting plan. It is essential that your rights and the best interests of the child are protected from the start.
We have helped clients resolve child custody, visitation, residential schedules and parenting plan issues, advocating for our clients and their children’s best interests. We have represented hundreds of clients in divorces and other family law actions involving both contested and agreed child custody and parenting plan cases.
We can can address all your child custody and parenting plan problems, such as:
- Child custody
- Visitation and parenting plans
- Parental relocations
- Modifications in custody and visitation
- Paternity as it affects visitation rights
We have represented numerous clients in child support matters, from the most basic to the most difficult and complex. We can assist you with the initial determination of child support, post-divorce adjustments and modifications of child support. We have experience in more difficult child support matters including identification of hidden income and enforcement of child support.
We can represent you in all aspects of child support, including:
- Determination of child support payments
- Modification and adjustment of child support orders
- Identification of income for child support
- Collection of back child support
- Paternity as it relates to child support
Basic Child Support
Although the parties may not believe child support is an issue in their case, the court will review all child support orders to ensure that appropriate child support obligations are set in all family law cases involving children. Child support is set according to a statutory formula, and DSHS has an online calculator that you can use to estimate your support obligations.
Child support is based on the net income of the parties. For W-2 wage earners with no other sources of income, determining net income to set child support is straight forward. Determining net income for the unemployed, underemployed, or for individuals who own businesses, investments, or have non-recurring income can be more difficult and can dramatically affect child support obligations. The more complicated your financial affairs are, the more critical it is to ensure you have an experienced family law attorney assisting you when determining child support obligations.
Deviations from the guidelines may be appropriate in cases of poverty, significant wealth, or when the children have special needs. The support can change due to changes in the circumstances of either parent such as an increase or decrease in income, disability, or a change in the child's residential placement (custody).
Other Support for Children
In addition to basic child support, parents are obligated to share in child related expenses, referred to as “extraordinary expenses.” Extraordinary expenses may include uninsured health care, education, sports and other extracurricular activities, work related childcare, travel, and other expenses. Again, the sharing of these expenses is typically based on the parents’ net incomes and each parents share of the combined net income. The resulting percentage is often used to divide responsibility for extraordinary expenses. Although technically not child support, the courts are able under certain conditions to require parents to pay for the higher education expenses of their adult children (post secondary support).
Enforcing Child Support Orders
Either a private party or the state can file an enforcement action on a Washington State child support order. We have represented clients in child support enforcement and contempt cases. We have negotiated and litigated on behalf of parties seeking back support judgments, as well as those defending against such actions, even in cases brought by the State through the prosecutor’s office or the Department of Child Support.