Bellevue Family Law Frequently Asked Questions
Making important decisions about your family's future can be difficult -- and learning about the legal avenues that can make those changes happen can also be hard. This page of Bellevue, WA, divorce frequently asked questions is here to help those who are learning about Seattle family law issues such as divorce, child custody, domestic violence, and divorce mediation.
Do you have a question that isn't addressed below? Contact us today to talk to an experienced Seattle family law attorney.
- Page 3
Why is a living will important for my estate plan?
As a part of your estate plan, you probably have already created a last will and testament, often just called a will, which details what happens to your assets when you are gone. There is another important document that should be a part of your estate plan as well, with a similar name but a completely different purpose: the living will.
What Is a Living Will?
A living will is a legal document that states the treatment you want if you are incapacitated or mentally unable to make medical decisions for yourself. If you live in Washington State, you have two document options for putting your medical care wishes in writing: a Health Care Directive (now usually called a living will) and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
The conditions of the living only go into effect if a doctor confirms that your condition is terminal, or two doctors confirm that you are in a permanently unconscious state. However, you must be at least 18 years old and mentally stable to create a living will.
Instructions That May Be Included in a Living Will
There may come a time in which you are severely ill or injured and unable to make choices about the kind of healthcare you want. For example, you may wish for certain life-saving measures to be taken, or you may wish to avoid a prolonged treatment period in which your quality of life could suffer. Religious convictions may also play a part in your healthcare choices. Whatever your reasons, you can state your wishes in this document. Some examples of health care choices you may include in your living will include:
- Do not resuscitate (DNR). Including this in your will means that doctors will not use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or other life-saving techniques, including chest compressions, mouth-to-mouth or supplemental oxygen, breathing tubes, electric shock, or medications meant to restart a stopped heart.
- Artificial feeding or hydration. These are methods to deliver nutrients or water to patients who cannot eat or drink by themselves. Feeding tubes are placed into the body via the nose, mouth, veins, or directly into the stomach or intestines.
- Medication. You may opt to decline certain or all types of medications. For example, you may only wish for medication which eases pain and suffering but not antibiotics, chemotherapy, or other life-prolonging medications.
- Other procedures or medical care. You may be as broad or specific as you wish to include or exclude your desire for any other particular procedures or techniques such as dialysis or blood transfusions.
In order for a living will to be considered valid and used for care, you must first sign and date it, and then you must supply a copy to your doctor. You’ll also want to keep a copy with your other estate documents, and notify a family member or trusted friend of the location.
Get Help With Your Living Will
While you don’t need an attorney to have a living will created for healthcare, having a professional review this document as a part of your overall estate plan is a good idea. At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we have over two decades of experience helping our clients ensure that their last wishes are respected. When you’re ready to document your end-of-life wishes, you can reach out to us and arrange a private consultation at our law office in Bellevue at (425) 460-0550.
How can I prove that our prenuptial agreement is invalid?
There are several elements that a prenuptial agreement must have to be binding; if you can prove that the accord doesn’t satisfy one of the requisites, the courts will deem the prenuptial agreement invalid.
Perhaps your prenuptial agreement was made at a time when your life circumstances were vastly different from what they are today, and you think the contract is unfair. Maybe you were coerced into signing it. Or maybe there was a technical error that has invalidated your agreement.
Remember the final hearing of the Jim Carrey movie "Liar?" Carrey’s character, divorce attorney Reed, was able to get his client’s prenup thrown out because she lied about her birth date on the document and entered into it as a minor, which automatically invalidates it. Of course, the scene was highly sensationalized, but this sort of thing can and does happen in an actual divorce.
Reasons a Court Might Overturn a Prenuptial Agreement
Prenuptial agreements can be reversed when one of the parties raises a concern about its validity and proves that it doesn’t stand up to the legal requirements. Below are a few of the reasons a judge might overturn a prenup.
- The paperwork wasn’t filled out correctly. If there are technical errors, or it doesn’t meet Washington’s legal standards of a binding agreement, it might be invalid.
- Your spouse failed to list all of the assets on the document. Full disclosure is necessary for a prenup. Hiding assets is a common prenuptial agreement mistake that people make, often leading to invalidation of the legal document.
- You signed it when you weren’t in your right mind. For example, if you were coerced, under the influence of alcohol, or otherwise didn’t have your full mental capacity when you signed it, the judge may render it invalid.
- You didn’t have legal advice when you signed the agreement. If you didn’t have a lawyer assist you, it could be argued that you didn’t fully understand what you were getting into, and you didn’t have a full knowledge of your rights.
- You and your spouse didn’t stick to the terms of your prenup.
- The terms are grossly unfair. The courts might not allow for a prenup that leaves one spouse in economic ruins. The terms have to be relatively conscionable. Maintaining a standard of living similar to that enjoyed while in the marriage is something for which your divorce attorney may be able to argue.
Molly B. Kenny Can Help Protect Your Best Interests in a Divorce
If you are going through a divorce, and there are substantial assets involved or you think your prenuptial agreement is unfair, you will want to seek out a lawyer’s help. For a divorce attorney in Washington State that knows the ins and outs of prenuptial agreements, contact our Bellevue law office today at 425-460-0550.
What happens to the family business during divorce?
A family business during divorce will likely be considered a marital asset and, therefore, subject to equitable distribution. There are several potential ways to handle the family business, but be forewarned: the heated emotions and reactive tendencies couples have during a divorce can cloud sound judgment about the enterprise and other assets.
As hard as it is to stay focused during the turmoil of your dissolution, it’s important to the future of your joint business to keep an open mind about what’s best for the company, not what’s best for egos, spite, or reprisal. You may want to consider hiring an outside manager or business consultant to come in and handle some of the day-to-day affairs until you’ve reached a settlement agreement.
Potential Ways to Handle the Marital Business during Divorce
Approximately 90 percent of all small and large businesses in the United States are family-owned, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. And because couples often decide to marry sans prenup, it’s quite common for couples to be at a loss as to how to deal with the family business during asset division when divorce is imminent.
The first thing you’ll need to do is obtain a professional assessment of the enterprise to determine its value. You may need to hire an appraiser or certified public accountant to evaluate the company and determine if you should split your investment or approach it another way.
Once the value of the enterprise has been calculated, there are a few ways to approach the family business; which route you and your ex decide to go with depending on your goals and leverage.
- Buyout: If you didn’t have much involvement with the business, you might want your ex to buy you out. Your ex may be able to provide you with a lump sum, you can arrange for a payment plan, or you and your ex may devise a trade agreement that works for both of you, e.g., you keep the business and he keeps the house.
- Sell it: If there is little to no liquidity and little power to borrow or trade, the company may need to be downsized or sold to divide the assets equitably.
- Co-ownership: If both you and your ex remain interested in running the company and you want to maintain ownership, you can create an agreement to make that work. Although continuing to co-own and co-manage a business post-divorce is rare and somewhat complicated, it can be done. Some couples work much better as business partners than marital partners.
Getting Legal Counsel for Asset Division during Divorce
If you own a family business and are getting a divorce, it’s vital to get professional help to protect your financial interests. For a lawyer in Washington with the substantial field experience which takes a thoughtful, creative approach to divorce and asset division, call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny for a consultation: 425-460-0550.
What Is Court-Ordered Divorce Mediation?
In some cases, divorcing spouses cannot agree on one or more aspects of their divorce settlement after the case has gone to court. The judge may order the couple to undergo mediation sessions to resolve the issue before the case can continue. Most court-ordered mediation sessions involve a dispute in custody or visitation issues, but can also be issued for problems with property or finances.
Differences in Court-Ordered and Private Divorce Mediation
Although the processes of court-ordered mediation and private mediation are largely the same, there are a few important differences. For instance:
- Fees. Private mediators usually charge for their services, but if mediation is court-ordered, you and your spouse will usually not have to pay a fee for these sessions.
- Mediator. The court may assign you a mediator to resolve the dispute rather than letting you and your spouse choose a mediator to help you.
- Confidentiality. The mediator in court-ordered sessions will have to give a report to the judge about what took place in mediation, while most private mediation sessions remain confidential.
- Topics. You and your spouse can discuss all aspects of your divorce in private mediation, while your court-ordered sessions will likely be limited to resolving the issue at-hand.
- Options. Some spouses work better when they are not in the same room together, choosing to have a mediator go between rooms to reach a decision. However, your appointed mediator may be more concerned with completing the task than using a method of mediation that works best for you.
As you can imagine, court-ordered mediation can disrupt the progress of your case, delaying the divorce until you and your ex reach an agreement. The best option for disagreeing couples is to seek mediation before their case is heard in court. If you and your spouse need legal help to make a tough decision, fill out the short consult form on this page and we will contact you shortly.
What kinds of help can abused immigrant women get for their children?
There are many different protections available for abused or battered women living in the U.S.—even if they are not full legal residents. The U.S. government has provided wives, mothers, and other victims benefits under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which provides help for abused immigrants who:
- Have been abused by a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
- Are children (under age 21) who have been abused by a US citizen or lawful permanent resident parent.
In addition, you could be eligible for other types of immigration relief even if you are unmarried, if the person who abused you is not a legal resident, or if your abuser is not related to you.
What Kinds of Benefits Could You Get If You Leave an Abusive Situation?
You and your children could get many different benefits, such as health care, shelter, insurance, and other forms of relief such as:
- Emergency Medicaid. This plan allows you and your family to get emergency room treatment, as well as hospital care for cancer treatment and dialysis.
- Insurance. The Washington State Health Insurance Exchange allows abuse victims to get subsidies and help with copays and medical costs.
- Medical Care Services (MCS). This program gives medical assistance to disabled immigrants or victims over age 65.
- Children's and pregnant women's medical services. All low-income pregnant women and their children are eligible for these services (regardless of residency status).
- State Family Assistance (SFA). This program offers cash assistance for eligible families with dependent children.
- Pregnant Women's Assistance (PWA). Provides cash benefits for low-income pregnant women.
- Food Stamps. Women can get help feeding their children through the state-funded Food Assistance Program.
- Working Connections. This program subsidizes the cost of child care for working parents.
The first step you need to take to protect your family is to get away from your abuser. Read the related links on this page to find a safe place to stay nearby, or call the number above to tell us your story.
Can my husband sell or remodel the house after we divorce?
Yes. If you and your husband both decide that the family home should stay in his possession, then he will be able to sell or remodel the house in the future without your approval. Of course, if you wish to give up possession of the home, but not your legal rights to it, this can be done during divorce negotiation.
Let’s say that your husband is keeping the home because it is closer to Ballard High School and is more convenient for the children. However, the house belonged to a former member of your family, and you do not want to let it out of your possession permanently. In this case, you should make sure that you preserve your legal rights to the property in the final Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA).
Here are a few things you should consider while drafting your MSA:
- Exclusive possession. Generally speaking, whoever takes possession of the house will usually expect exclusive decision-making power as to who lives there and what is done to the building and land. However, they may relinquish some control if both partners continue to pay the mortgage, taxes, or insurance on the property.
- Joint ownership. If you and your husband both want to retain some ownership of the house, your MSA should clearly outline who is responsible for maintenance, cleaning, landscaping, and general upkeep of the property. If a tree limb falls in the back yard and damages the pool, who will pay for repairs? If your windows need to be replaced will you split the cost evenly, or will the “tenant” spouse pay more?
- Financial implications. While you and your spouse may split the property, only one of you will be able to claim its tax benefits, such as the mortgage interest rate deduction. Consider the future: will your children inherit the home, or will it be sold when they are grown? If the property is sold, how will the proceeds be divided? You should also make provisions for what will happen to the home if one of you dies, such as buying extra life insurance to cover the costs of the property.
Do you have questions about the financial aspects of your divorce? Fill out the consult link on this page for answers, or read our free Washington women's divorce guide.
How do we decide who gets the timeshare in a divorce?
Like most property questions in a divorce, splitting a timeshare will take careful consideration. While real estate may have been considered a valuable asset in the past, a collapsing housing market means that any property you gain in the divorce might not necessarily carry a high value. After considering the value of the mortgage, land, and house itself, you and your spouse may be better off selling your real estate holdings than saving them for either one of you.
But if you and your spouse own a timeshare, the question of who gets the land becomes more complex. You may have both purchased the property and given a considerable amount of communal funds to the purchase, but cannot find a buyer that will allow you to get back your investment. For this reason, it can be difficult to estimate the value of the timeshare—should you receive half of what you paid for it, or only half of the amount when it is sold?
Discussing Your Timeshare Options With a Mediator
If selling is not an option, there are a number of ways you and your spouse can split the property. If you are going through a mediated divorce, you may be more likely to reach a solution that works for both of you. For example, if you have children, you may share the use of the property. This may involve drafting a schedule for use (alternate weekends, holidays, etc.) of which parent will take the timeshare on a given day. As this requires ongoing cooperation, this solution will work best for couples who are on friendly terms and do not have trouble interacting with one another.
To find out more creative solutions to splitting your assets, we encourage you to read the related links on this page or click the contact link above to ask us a question about your case.
Should My Spouse And I Go Through Divorce Mediation, Or Is It Unnecessary?
It depends. Many spouses who want to terminate their marriages want to get the process over with as quickly as possible. One partner may have begun a new relationship, another may be moving out of Washington State--or both partners have simply decided that their marriage problems are not able to be reconciled.
Divorce is usually a very complicated process. The quick-and-easy way out is not recommended except in the simplest of cases. For example, if a couple does not have children, does not have any shared debt, does not own a home or other large assets, earn comparable salaries, has been married for two years or less, and there is no alimony payment, a couple may pursue divorce without mediation. However, it is still a good idea to have an attorney review the final documents before the process is finalized.
If We Need Help With a Divorce, Why Should We Choose Mediation?
If the above situations do not apply to you, you should have an experienced mediator help you through the legal and financial aspects of your separation. It is very easy to make a mistake during a divorce proceeding—and those mistakes can last you the rest of your life. If you can speak openly and honestly with your spouse, mediation could work for you. The biggest benefits of mediation include:
- Mediation is almost always faster and less expensive than going to court.
- Couples learn how to work together for the benefit of their children. If you must have an ongoing relationship with your ex-spouse, mediation allows you to work out an agreement that works best for both of you, and does not unnecessarily disrupt your children’s lives.
- You have more control. In mediation, you and your spouse will be able to split assets however you choose and decide on your own custody agreement rather than leaving the decision to the court. Setting these terms yourselves allows you to build a future relationship that is more likely to work.
To find out if you and your spouse could benefit from divorce mediation, click the contact link on this page to set up a private consultation.
Can low-income parents get help paying child support?
It’s possible, but you will have to act quickly. Once the court has your basic support obligation, you will have a much harder time getting the court to lower your payments based on your financial situation. If you are able to show that your financial circumstances do not allow for the basic amount of child support, your payments may be set at a rate that you are able to afford.
How Low-Income Parents in Washington Can Lower Their Child Support Payments
By law, the court must order a support amount that is less than the basic support obligation if a parent is considered “very low income.” Here are a few examples of when your support should be lowered:
- If paying a basic support payment would reduce your income below the federal poverty line. If a basic support order would put you below the poverty line, you may only be asked to pay up to $50 per month per child.
- If your calculated child support amount is more than 45 percent of your income. The law requires that your total support payments be less than 45 percent of your after-tax income.
Non-custodial parents should note: under Washington law, if you and your ex-spouse’s combined income is over $12,000, you may not be able to use the basic support obligation.
How Can I Tell If I Qualify for These Exceptions?
There are many ways to get help with your child support schedule. The child support worksheets offered by the Division of Child Support (DCS) can help you determine which situations apply to you. You can click the contact link on this page to ask us a question about your estimated payments and you can also order a copy of our free divorce guide, The Thinking Man’s Guide to Divorce in Washington.
Why do women stay in abusive relationships?
It’s easy to understand when a woman is afraid to leave her partner because she is afraid that he will hurt her, or even kill her, if she tries to leave. But the truth is that physical violence is only one symptom of abuse.
Control Over a Partner Is The Driving Factor Behind Abuse
Violence is only one method of controlling a partner. While striking or threatening a partner may make them fearful enough to stay, it also gives them a significant reason to leave. By the time a living situation has escalated into violence, an abuser has typically set up many other methods of control to make it extremely difficult for the victim to simply walk away.
Here are a few control methods that abusers use to ensure that their partners feel “trapped” in an abusive relationship:
- Money. The biggest reason women stay in unfavorable relationships is because they believe that they have nowhere else to go. Their partners may own their home, their car, and provide the majority of their income.
- Education. Victims who have not completed as much higher education as their partner may fear that they will be unable to get a job to provide for themselves and their children, or may have been told that they are “not smart enough” to make it on their own.
- Children. Domestic violence affects whole families in Seattle. Women who are afraid that they will be unable to provide for or protect their children if they leave will typically stay in an abusive situation longer than women without children.
- Lack of support. Many cultures look the other way when domestic violence occurs, or do not see it as a viable reason to end a marriage. If a woman is told by her relatives that violence is normal or natural, she will not have the benefit of familial resources when she leaves, and she may be frightened of being alone.
- Psychological trauma. Many women do not take action against their abusers because they are paralyzed by the psychological effects of the trauma.
- Fear of legal issues. Many victims may have been told by their partner that the law will not protect them, that lawyers are expensive, and that the court will not be able to keep a perpetrator away from the victim and her children.
If someone in your family needs legal protection from an abuser, we can help. Click the contact link on this page and we will contact you privately to listen to your story and explain your options.
Should my husband and I split our investments in a divorce?
You may be tempted to split everything down the middle in a divorce: house payment, furniture, even the money in your bank accounts. But when it comes to splitting your investments, there are many ways you can be led to believe you are getting an even swap, only to be left working for 10 more years because the market went south.
Here are a few things to consider before you agree to keep or trade any investment accounts in divorce court:
- Your investment returns are not guaranteed. Your spouse may attempt to “play up” the value of a certain stock because it is currently on the rise. However, investments will always carry more risk than liquid assets such as land, houses, or cars, so you should get an unbiased professional opinion on the value of an investment before accepting.
- Examine your pension benefits. There are two main types of retirement accounts: defined benefit plans (DBP) and defined contribution plans (DCP). The first a monthly pension that your employer pays to you after you retire. The second plan—which includes 401k accounts—bases the amount of your monthly benefits on how much you have contributed to the fund over the years. An accountant can help you determine what each account is worth today, helping you decide on a fair share.
- Consider how your financial accounts relate to each other. It can be tempting to divide your assets one at a time, but many investment accounts are linked and interact with each other. For instance, each carries tax implications, capital gains, early withdrawal penalties, and other fees that can affect the value of the asset.
- Think about your life-long financial security. Don’t sign an agreement just to “get it over with.” The decisions you make about your finances now will affect you for the rest of your life, and you will not have another chance to get a fair portion once you sign an agreement.
If you do not fully understand your investment accounts, you should have a CPA or attorney look over the details to make sure you are agreeing to a fair and sustainable amount. Learn more about preparing for a divorce in our free divorce guide for women in Washington. Click the link on this page to begin reading your copy.
Are There Times When Couples Should Not Use Divorce Mediation?
For many couples, it is wiser to go through divorce mediation than to leave property and custody decisions up to the court. However, mediation is not the right route for everyone. Washington couples who are seeking separation should not use divorce mediation if:
- A spouse is untrustworthy. Successful mediation relies on an open, honest dialogue between the separating couple. If a spouse has lied in the past about his or her bank accounts, past relationships, inherited or gifted funds, or an investment portfolio, you should hire an attorney to collect the facts in your case. Your attorney can also deal with your spouse on your behalf in the future, in case your spouse is truant in providing alimony or child support payments.
- A spouse is manipulative or intimidating. Mediation allows each party to work together to negotiate an agreement that works best for them. If your spouse has a habit of “shouting you down” or using your feelings or children against you, it is best to use an intermediary to seek out a solution.
- Your spouse has a history of abuse. If your spouse has committed acts of domestic violence or has a history of drug or alcohol abuse, you may not feel safe negotiating and have less of a chance of receiving an equal portion of property.
- You cannot disagree respectfully with your spouse. Divorcing couples rarely agree on everything they bring to the table in a divorce mediation. There must be some give-and-take in mediation, and each party must listen to what the other wants without reacting emotionally.
Even if you and your spouse have very different ideas about the division of property, there’s no reason to think you cannot reach an agreement in mediation. In many cases, couples are better able to communicate why they want the assets they have chosen and what they are willing to give up more clearly in mediation than in court. To find out if mediation is the right choice for you, click the contact link on this page to set up a private consultation.
What if I am having trouble with child support from someone other than my ex-spouse?
Many custodial parents find that child support problems extend much further than their ex-spouses. Parents who cannot get payments for past support may have difficulties dealing with their ex-spouse’s employers, business partners, or other agencies who have been instructed to forward payments.
What Types of Actions Can Be Considered Child Support Non-Compliance in WA?
If a person, business, or other agent has been instructed to remit payment, or provide support for your child, but has not done so, he or she may be guilty of non-compliance. Non-compliance is a failure to take any action that has been requested by a subpoena, income-withholding demand, or even an initial inquiry that has been issued by the state child support enforcement agency.
Some examples of noncompliance include:
- Failure to respond to an inquiry from a child support enforcement agency
- Failure to comply to the requests of a subpoena issued by a child support enforcement agency
- Failure to return an answer to an income-withholding demand
- Failure to withhold support despite being served a lien
- Failure to deliver withheld support funds to the child support enforcement agency
- Failure to enroll qualified children in an available medical plan
What Can DCS Do About Non-Compliance?
If you suspect that someone has purposely not responded to a child support enforcement demand, you should notify the Division of Child Support (DCS) right away. DCS has the authority to fine the non-compliant entity in order to get them to pay more quickly. You may also wish to have the circumstances investigated by an attorney to see if there is any criminal wrong-doing contributing to non-payment. If you want to get to the bottom of your child support problems, click the link on this page to ask us a question about your case.
Is it possible for my ex-spouse to modify a protection order?
While your spouse cannot make changes to an existing protection order without your knowledge, it is possible for him or her to petition the court to modify—or even cancel—the order of protection.
What Does a Spouse Have to Do to Cancel or Modify a Protection Order in WA?
The first thing your spouse must do is make a motion to the court that provides ample notice to all parties. Your spouse must provide a written declaration that establishes the reasons for the requested change (you are able to file an opposing declaration if you object to the modification). There will then be a hearing to submit and discuss the evidence supporting modification, after which the court will decide whether to grant the motion.
At the hearing, your spouse must prove to the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that make him or her extremely unlikely to resume acts of domestic violence against you. Evidence in this case may include:
- Your spouse has not committed or threatened any violent acts toward you since the protection order was issued.
- Your spouse has never violated the terms of the protection order.
- Your spouse has not attempted or threatened suicide since the activation of the order.
- Your spouse has not been convicted of a crime since the protection order was activated.
- Your spouse has acknowledged responsibility for past acts of domestic violence.
- Your spouse has successfully completed a course of domestic violence perpetrator treatment.
- Your spouse no longer exhibits drug or alcohol abuse (if such abuse was named in the protection order).
Merely adhering to these points is not enough; the spouse must prove them to the court by a preponderance of evidence. Even if a substantial change in circumstances can be proved, a modification request may be denied if the court decides that the original act of domestic violence was so severe that the protection order should remain permanently in place.
If someone in your family needs legal protection from an abuser, click the contact link on this page. We can contact you privately to let you know which options are available to you.
What questions can lawyers ask me about my assets in a divorce deposition?
The deposing attorney can ask any number of questions about your assets, so it is best to be armed with the facts before walking in to your deposition. For example, if you are not sure of a figure and you make a low guess as to its value, you could be seen as uninformed or intentionally misleading by a judge. Your attorney should walk you through all of the estimated values of the following before the day of the deposition:
- Land. You may be asked by the deposing attorney if you have purchased any land, including lots, acreage or land investments. This may also include burial plots at Evergreen Park Cemetery, or Seattle land or houses you are named to inherit after one of your parents pass away.
- Bank accounts and monetary investments. You may be asked how much money is in you and your spouse’s individual and joint bank accounts, as well as any certificates of deposit, U.S. Treasury Bonds, or contents of your safety deposit boxes.
- Houses and property. In order to determine what will happen to your shared residence and household items, you may be asked the value of your home, who intends to live in it, the condition it is in, and if selling the house is an option. You will also be asked to give a dollar value for furnishings in your home, so it is wise to have your valuable assets—such as antiques, guns, and heirlooms—appraised before the deposition date.
- Vehicles. You will be asked how many cars you have, their value, how much is remaining on each auto loan, and what you intend to do with the vehicle after the divorce. The same may be asked of additional vehicles, such as motorcycles, bicycles, or watercrafts (boats or jet-skis).
- Dividends. You may be asked to assign value to any stocks, trusts, bonds, mutual funds, royalties, tax shelters, or other investments that pay you regular dividends, interest payments, or income.
If you are not sure how to answer questions about any of the previous items, we can help. Fill out the short contact form on this page so we can get in touch with you as soon as possible.
What can I do if too much child support money is being withheld from my paycheck?
It is not uncommon for non-custodial parents in Seattle to fall on hard times and be unable to both support themselves and make court-ordered payments for the care of their children. Fortunately, the Division of Child Support (DCS) will often work with parents to tweak the current payment plan until the full amount is paid.
If you live in Washington State and you believe you are paying too much in child support, you can:
- Contact your Support Enforcement Officer (SEO) – You may be able to negotiate the amount of your payments, and discuss relief measures if you are suffering financial hardship.
- Complete a Resource Statement – In the process of negotiating your child support payment, your SEO may ask you to complete a form that outlines your monthly bills, assets, and expenses to discover where money will be best appropriated.
- Ask about the Escalation Clause – DCS may allow you to pay less toward back child support in the coming months and increase the amount later, allowing you to pay more support after you have paid your current bills.
- Consider a Waiver – DCS may agree to a lesser payment for back support if you sign a Waiver of the Statute of Limitations. However, you should read the terms of the Waiver carefully or have your attorney look it over to see if it is the right choice for you.
- Request a Conference Board – If you and your SEO cannot come to a repayment agreement, you will have to file a request for a DCS Conference Board to meet and offer a decision on how to move forward.
It is important to remember that DCS is supposed to work with you, but while they will consider your needs, they must give more weight to the needs of your child. To find out more about modifying your monthly child support payments, click the related links on this page or download our FREE book, The Thinking Man's Guide to Divorce in Washington.
How can I get help if my ex violated a civil protection order in Washington?
It’s a few days before your hearing, and your ex keeps trying to initiate contact with you. You know he has been served with the civil protection order and upcoming court date—but you’re terrified to think that he might show up at your door. What should you do if he violates the term of the protection order?
Who Can I Call for Help If Someone Violates the CPO?
If your ex violates the terms of the CPO, call the police. Your ex will be placed under mandatory arrest if he has attempted to initiate contact with you or enters a shared residence that he has been ordered to vacate. In addition, he could face possible criminal or contempt charges at the hearing.
WA State Penalties for Violation of a CPO Involving Domestic Violence
If your ex violates the protection order and is convicted, he may be ordered by the court to complete a yearlong State-certified domestic violence treatment program. Defendants will have to undergo 26 weeks of individual and group meetings—at their own expense—and must meet exit criteria before being discharged. A judge may also order mandatory alcohol and drug counseling, sexual deviancy treatment, or parenting courses.
If the abuser is convicted of a domestic violence offense, he will typically be placed on supervised probation for two years by the Seattle Municipal Court Probation Department’s Domestic Violence Unit. Probation officers monitor the abuser to ensure that he attends all court-ordered treatment programs and counseling sessions.
Federal Penalties for Violating a CPO
In addition to state mandates, federal law prohibits interstate travel with intent to violate a valid protection order or causing a spouse or partner to cross state lines by coercion, fraud, or force. Abusers may face up to 5 years in prison as a result of a federal protection order violation that results in bodily harm, or life in prison for a violent act that results in the victim’s death.
If someone in your family needs legal protection from an abuser, we can help. Click the contact link on this page to tell us your story, and we will contact you privately to discuss your options.
How can I make sure I get child support payments if my ex is in a different country?
In most cases, getting child support payments from a non-custodial parent is just a matter of setting up a regular bank account transfer. However, if your spouse owes back payments, or has not been making payments on time, the Washington State Division of Child Support (DCS) can intercede on your behalf.
DCS can take action against non-custodial spouses living in:
- Foreign countries – To get child support payments from a different country, DCS may be able to work with foreign officials to enforce the child support order. If the country does not have reciprocity with Washington, you may have to take legal action against your ex-spouse to collect payment.
- Other states – DCS does have the ability to enforce support if the non-custodial parent lives in a different state. Usually this will involve DCS contacting the state child support agency that has jurisdiction over your ex and request that they enforce the support order. However, once the case has been sent to another jurisdiction, you may have to deal exclusively with that other jurisdiction to take additional actions in your case.
- Indian reservations – If the non-custodial parent lives on an Indian reservation, DCS will contact the tribal government to request payment. DCS may work together with the State Tribal Relations Unit if your ex resides on a reservation, is employed in an Indian-owned business, or is otherwise living on trust land. In some cases, the order may be referred to the tribal court for enforcement.
To find out if you need an attorney on your side to help collect payment from your ex, click the link on this page to download our FREE book, The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Divorce in Washington, or fill out the short contact form on this page to ask us a question about your case.
How can I help my son or daughter if I think they are in an abusive relationship?
You hope that your children would be able to come to you if they have a problem—even if that problem is embarrassing or could make you lose respect for them. But what if you don’t like the way you daughter’s boyfriend grabs her arm, or the way your son’s girlfriend berates him in front of his friends? Should you speak up, or wait for your children to come to you for help?
What Behaviors Make a Relationship Unhealthy?
There are many different warning signs that your child is in abusive relationship—and even one of these signs could be an indicator of violence behind closed doors:
- Does your child constantly apologize or make excuses for the abuser’s behavior?
- Has your child ever tried to convince you that the abuser’s threats or verbal attacks are “just a joke?”
- Does your child assert that the abuser is “not like this at home?”
- Is your child constantly answering texts or calls from the abuser when they are not together, or always return early from an outing because the abuser wants her home?
- Is your child no longer involved in the same hobbies, groups, or activities that they used to enjoy?
- Have your child’s friends come to you with the same concerns?
- Does the abuser act jealous of other people who are close to your child?
- Is your child incapable of going places without the abuser coming with him/her?
- Does your child dress differently in this relationship than in the past?
- Has the abuser ever had a violent outburst that destroyed your child’s property or broken household objects?
How Should I Handle a Talk With My Child?
No matter how old they get, your sons and daughters will always be children--and as your children, you have a right to protect them from any harm. Talk to them about what you have seen, and make it clear that your only concern is their safety. Avoid assigning blame or passing judgment—you should offer information and give them an easy-to-remember safety plan for an emergency situation.
If someone in your family needs legal protection from an abuser, click the contact link on this page to let us help explain your options to you.
How will a judge decide who gets what, if there is a property dispute in our divorce?
Couples are encouraged to use attorneys or a mediator to help decide who gets what in a divorce. However, if a couple is not able to agree on a particular point, they may submit their property dispute to the court for a judge to make a final decision.
Property Can Be Classified in Three Different Ways
Under Washington state law, all property belonging to a married person can be classified in one of three ways:
- Community property – Most items in a divorce are considered community property, such as earnings, purchases, and assets acquired during the course of the marriage. This also includes debts incurred during the marriage. In the event of a divorce, community property may be divided, sold, or split equitably between the spouses.
- Separate property – Individual property may include gifts, inheritances (where one party was solely named as inheritor), court settlements (where one party was solely awarded funds), and pension funds. In addition, any property purchased with separate funds will remain that spouse's separate property. Property that each spouse possessed at the beginning of the marriage is generally considered separate property, although there may be exceptions. In most cases, each party will keep his or her own separate property in a divorce.
- Combined community / separate property – Sometimes property may be considered both community and separate, such as when an investment made by one spouse grows in value during the marriage. Property purchased using individual and joint marital funds may be part community and part separate property. If separate property is mixed together with community property, it is generally considered community property.
It is common for judges in property disputes to assign a total value to the property, and then award each spouse a percentage of that value. It is important to note that you may not necessarily be awarded 50 percent of the property value, but a percentage based on the judge’s assessment of your portion of the property. The resolution is not a cash settlement; each spouse will be ordered to receive assets and items worth the amount of their percentage—including any shared debt between the spouses.
If you would like to attempt to divide your property in mediation before taking it to a judge, send in the brief contact form on this page so we can get in touch with you as soon as possible.