October 15, 2013

Domestic Violence Protection Orders

Domestic violence protection orders ("DVPOs") are one of 4 types of court orders for domestic violence victims. DVPOs are available for victims of domestic violence OR people in fear of physical harm from a family or household member. It is NOT necessary to wait for abuse to occur before filing for a DVPO.

Protection orders can:
  • Restrain an abuser from further violence
  • Restrain an abuser from the victim's school, workplace, residence
  • Prohibit contact with the victim
  • Award temporary child custody
  • Establish temporary visitation
  • Order treatment or counseling for an abuser
  • Prohibit removal of children
  • Order abuser to pay court costs incurred by the victim to obtain the order
Intentional violation of a protection order subjects the abuser to mandatory arrest, and possible criminal charges. A protection order with restraints from contact with the respondent's minor children can last up to a year before it must be renewed.

Temporary emergency orders: If there is an immediate need for protection, a temporary protection order lasting up to 14 days can be obtained until a hearing can be held.

March 13, 2013

How Maintenance Works

Maintenance payments can be awarded in a divorce or separation action for either party. A court will not consider marital misconduct when determining a maintenance award. Unlike child support payments, maintenance is not awarded according to a schedule or specific calculation. Whether to award it or not, and if so how much and for how long is up to the court, which considers:

  • The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance
  • Rehabilitative training (the time necessary for the party seeking maintenance to obtain the training or education needed to make them employable in suitable employment)
  • Standard of living during the marriage or domestic partnership
  • Age, physical and emotional condition of the party seeking maintenance
  • Financial obligations of the party seeking maintenance
  • The other party's ability to meet their own needs and pay maintenance
  • Length of the marriage or domestic partnership (maintenance is generally not awarded for short-term marriages/domestic partnerships of less than 3 years)
Because the court has so much discretion in making this determination, it is advisable to have the representation of an attorney. Contact a Kirkland family law attorney for more information. 

February 11, 2013

How is Child Support Determined?

Parents have a legal duty to support their children. In Washington, child support is calculated based on the parents' income as well as the number and age of the children. If Parent A makes 65% of their combined income, Parent A will pay 65% of the child support due. Washington has a mandatory schedule courts must use to calculate child support. To estimate how much child support might be awarded in your case, use DSHS's online child support calculator.

The court is allowed to deviate from the schedule if it determines that, under the circumstances, a deviation is in the child's best interests. If the court determines a parent is voluntarily not working or making less money to avoid his or her support obligation, the court can impute income to him or her and award child support based on the imputed income.

Child support must usually be paid monthly - even if the child moves to another state, but it may not exceed 45% of your net income (absent unusual circumstances). 

January 21, 2013

Same-Sex Marriage in Washington State

In 2007, Washington state-registered domestic partnerships were created to provide more equal benefits to domestic partners. In November 2012, Washington, Maine, and Maryland became the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote - joining New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia in permitting same-sex marriage.

Washington's new law phases out domestic partnerships for everyone except for senior couples (one partner is 62-years-old or older). Same-sex domestic partners who are not seniors can either apply for a marriage license or wait until June 30, 2014. On June 30, 2014, the state will automatically convert registered domestic partnerships to civil marriages unless one of the partners is a senior.

If a registered domestic couple marries or their partnership is converted into a marriage, their legal date of marriage under Washington law will be the date the original domestic partnership was registered.

After June 30, 2014, domestic partnerships will only be available to senior couples.

A brief summary of the new law can be found here. For more information about how it may affect you, contact a Seattle family law attorney. 

January 16, 2013

Moving the Kids (Relocation)

Washington maintains strict laws that govern the procedures for relocating a child or objecting to a child's relocation. 

Relocating with Your Child

Moving Outside the Child's Current School District: If the custodial parent wants to move out of the child's current school district, he or she must notify the other parent (and any other person entitled to court-ordered time with the child) by personal service or certified mail with return receipt. The notice must be given at least 60 days before the intended move. If the parent could not have known about the move 60 days in advance, he or she must give notice within 5 days of learning about the move. 

Moving Within the Child's Current School District: If the custodial parent wants to move within the child's current school district, he or she only has to give notice by reasonable means. The other parent can't object to the move - he or she can only request a modification of the parenting plan. 

Domestic Violence: If the moving parent is moving into a domestic violence shelter or to avoid a "clear, immediate and unreasonable risk to health and safety," the notice can be delayed for 21 days.The new address can be withheld from the notice if it is protected by court order or the parent is part of the address confidentiality program. If any of the notice requirements may put the parent or child's health or safety at risk, he or she can ask the court to waive them. 
The court may order sanctions, including contempt, if a parent fails to give proper notice. A parent intending to relocate should seek legal advice before attempting to move. The content requirements for the notice are described in RCW 26.09.440.

Objecting to Your Child's Relocation

Any person entitled to court-ordered time with the child can object to the child's relocation. If the relocating parent gives proper notice and no objection is filed within 30 days after service, the court will allow the relocation and may confirm the relocating parent's proposed revised residential schedule. Practically, the objection should be made as soon as possible before time and resources are committed to the move.
The relocating person cannot move the child during the 30-day time period in which others entitled to court-ordered time with the child have the right to object without a court order allowing the move.
Forms for relocating can be found here. Relocation actions are complex. Temporary and emergency orders may be granted if warranted under the circumstances. For more information about your rights and procedures regarding relocation, contact a Kirkland family law attorney

December 29, 2012

Stepparents and Child Support

Is a stepparent obligated to pay child support?

Maybe. When determining child support, courts will always look to the child's biological parents first. But a stepparent who lives with his or her stepchildren has a duty to support the children under Washington's family expense statute. A stepparent who does not live with the children (i.e. someone whose spouse has kids from a prior marriage that lives with the other parent) has no support duty. 

The stepparent's support duty terminates when the stepchild voluntarily leaves the biological parent's home, when the marriage is dissolved, or when the court otherwise orders it. A stepparent may still be ordered to pay child support while a divorce or legal separation is pending and until it is finalized. Informal legal separation of the parents is not enough to end the stepparent's support duty. 

Of course if the stepparent adopts the steppchild, he or she will be considered the same as a biological parent for child support purposes (and almost all other purposes too).

For more information, contact a Kirkland family law attorney.  

December 21, 2012

Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement is a private contract executed by a couple before marriage. It is generally used to define the parties' rights and benefits regarding the division of their property if the marriage ends as a result of death, separation, or divorce. Without a prenuptial agreement, Washington's default rules govern the division of property for married couples and registered domestic partnerships.

The Default Rules: Washington is a community property state. Generally, this means that all property acquired during a marriage or domestic partnership is community property. Income, retirement savings, and real estate, for example, are all presumed to be the property of both spouses if earned or acquired during the marriage or partnership. Property acquired before the marriage or partnership or property acquired by gift or inheritance, on the other hand, is generally separate property. If community property is used to improve or benefit a party's separate property, the community may acquire an equitable interest in the separate property. After a marriage or partnership is dissolved, all the couple's community and separate property is before the court to make a "just and equitable" division in light of the parties' circumstances.
Your Rules: Many couples have reasons to avoid the default rules and use prenuptial agreements to create their own rules. Older couples may want to protect the wealth they acquired before the relationship. Couples with children from prior marriages may want to ensure those children are protected. One of the parties may have significant wealth, significant debt, or own a business. 
Creating a Valid Prenuptial Agreement: When it comes to enforcing prenuptial agreements, Washington courts will review them to see if the terms are financially fair to both parties. If the terms are financially one-sided, the court will assess the agreement's "procedural fairness" by considering whether both parties adequately disclosed the nature and extent of their debts and liabilities, whether the agreement was entered into freely and voluntarily, whether both parties had the opportunity to obtain independent legal advice, and whether the agreement was executed sufficiently in advance of the wedding so as not to create undue pressure on one of the parties to sign it. 
If you are considering a prenuptial agreement or would like an attorney to review a prenuptial agreement you have been presented with, contact a Kirkland family law attorney