Tri-Cities, WA Family Law Attorneys Guiding Families Through the Legal Process
Legal issues arising within a family unit can be stressful and emotionally draining for everyone involved. Whether people are facing challenges in their marriages or domestic partnerships, are working through child custody or adoption issues, or are trying to navigate any other type of family law matters, our compassionate attorneys at Pacific Northwest Family Law can help. We provide skilled legal representation and adept conflict resolution to help you reach a favorable outcome for your legal issues. We know that every family is unique, so your legal strategies need to be customized to fit your circumstances. There are no “one size fits all” plans here. We will listen closely to your case and build a plan that creatively meets your needs. You will not need to worry about missing deadlines or forgetting important paperwork, as our attorneys will handle it all for you. We work for the best interests of our clients and their families and will aggressively protect their rights. To schedule a case evaluation with one of our family law attorneys, call Pacific Northwest Family Law at (360) 926-9112 or stop by our offices during regular business hours.
What Situations Does Family Law Cover?
Each family law firm will have their own specialties and practice areas, but what they all have in common is helping clients with legal matters which could affect their family unit. Because these matters can be incredibly personal and sometimes emotionally tense, it is the job of a family law attorney to handle all aspects of the case with calmness, tact, and professionalism. Many family law cases do not go to court, instead they are resolved through negotiation and mediation. To successfully reach a positive outcome for their clients, family lawyers must deeply understand their clients’ specific issues and goals. Strong communication and interpersonal skills are a must, along with a wide base of legal knowledge. Some of the areas where a family law attorney can assist clients may include:
- Calculating or petitioning for modifications to child support
- Creating and updating parenting plans
- Dissolving non-traditional relationships and dividing any mutual assets
- Drafting documents for spousal support
- Helping those who are looking to adopt
- Issuing and enforcing protection orders
- Negotiating child custody and visitation issues
- Offering non-divorce options for couples, such as legal separation
- Paternity testing
- Petitioning for divorce
- Providing legal representation to victims of domestic violence
- Providing mediation services
- Securing finances of those going through a divorce
- Splitting marital assets
- Writing prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
Can a Family Law Firm Help Me if I Am in an Abusive Relationship?
Leaving an abusive relationship requires a lot of courage, and often a lot of planning. A family lawyer can help you complete the process safely and provide you with legal protection. All client communications are confidential and initial consultations can often be done over the phone. A family lawyer can discreetly connect you to local organizations and other resources who help victims of domestic violence for further assistance. Many individuals fear leaving their situation because they are financially dependent on their partner, but a lawyer can also help you make a strategy to secure your finances and assets before leaving your abuser.
Lawyers can file an domestic violence order for protection (DVOP) as well, to restrict the contact your abuser is allowed to have with you and your children. A temporary order for protection can be filed without the abuser being present for the hearing or notifying them of the hearing. At times, the hearing may even be done over the phone with the judge. Within a certain time frame after the temporary order is granted, you can file for a final order for protection. For this hearing, the abuser has the opportunity to be present. If the final order is granted, it may be for a fixed period or forever. If it covers a fixed period, you may file to renew your order at the end of this period. This order may remove the abuser from your home, prevent them from being able to contact you or come within a certain distance of you or your children, require them to submit to electronic monitoring, and more. It can even grant you custody of any pets you or your children owned that you had to leave behind when you moved. If the abuser violates any part of this order, they can be jailed.
How Do Divorce Proceedings Work in Washington State?
While it can be sad and difficult when a relationship comes to an end, sometimes it is necessary for the parties involved. Washington is a “no fault” state when it comes to filing for divorce. This means that nothing needs to be legally proven for a divorce, aside from an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. The individual who files the petition for the divorce is known legally as the petitioner and the other spouse is the respondent. You can file your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in any county in the state where you or your spouse reside, along with a Summons. The respondent will then be served with the petition and the Summons. If they agree to everything in the petition, they can sign it and after a 90-day waiting period, the divorce can be finalized. This is called an uncontested divorce. If the respondent disagrees with the terms of the divorce, they have 30 days to file a response to the petition which requests changes.
If children are involved in the divorce, before the divorce can be finalized both parents will be required to attend a seminar on how divorce impacts children and how those impacts can be lessened. In contested divorces with children you may also need to file temporary orders to handle things such as parenting time, where the children will live, and child support for the period while the divorce is ongoing. These orders are only valid for this time period and will need to be replaced with more permanent plans as part of your divorce proceedings.
Contested divorces may need to go through a discovery process where information is gathered in order to complete your case. This could include requests for documentation of bank accounts and other assets, or your lawyer may have specific questions for the respondent which they must answer truthfully, under penalty of perjury. Then mediation can be used to work out the entire divorce agreement or just specific parts. No party is required to go to mediation, and they may refuse or choose to stop at any time. If this occurs, then the matter will be taken to court and a judge will decide your case. Most disputes are solved through mediation, so court cases are rare. When the marriage is legally dissolved and you have filed any additional required documentation, then the divorce is considered finalized.
What Should Be Considered When Making a Parenting Agreement?
One aspect of family law is drafting parenting agreements for divorced, separated, or unmarried couples. Your children’s best interests should always be taken into account when designing your agreement. A skilled family law attorney can work with you to draft an effective and creative plan which takes into account your unique situation, family dynamics, and needs. This can help families minimize conflict in the future. To build the most robust plan for your family, you should account for the following situations:
- What are our custody plans for special events, such as vacations, holidays, birthdays, and religious or cultural events?
- How do we determine financial responsibility for things not specifically included in the child support order?
- What happens if one parent wants or needs to move?
- How will we handle communication and transportation issues, both between parents, and between the parents and children?
- Are the expectations clear as far as providing a space for the child and their personal items at each home?
- Should a particular routine be maintained at both homes for the well being of the child?
- Which parent will claim each child or children as a dependent on their taxes?
- Who is responsible for any medical needs that arise and for taking the children to regular doctor and dental appointments?
- Does our plan allow for modifications as our children mature and their needs and wishes change?
What Is Joint Custody?
Joint custody means that both parents share equally in the parenting of their child and they must find ways to come to agreements on major choices about their child’s life. This can require a lot of cooperation, compromise, and communication. Joint custody consists of two parts: joint legal custody and joint physical custody. Joint legal custody refers to how major decisions affecting the child’s life will be made by the parents. This may include their education, religious upbringing, when and where they can work, what activities they can join, any decisions on their health and dental care, and more. Joint physical custody is how the parents divide up the time the child spends with them. This may have stipulations for holidays, birthdays, vacations, and other events. When a parent has physical custody of the child, meaning the child is physically with them at that time, they can make minor day-to-day decisions for them. A joint custody order may be made up of just one or both parts, depending on the situation.
Why Should You Hire a Family Law Attorney?
If you are going through an upheaval in your family it can feel very stressful and overwhelming, but some people feel hesitant to involve a lawyer in their family’s legal issues. They may wonder if it is worth the money or if a family lawyer can actually help them. However, it can be extremely helpful to consult a lawyer in these situations for many reasons:
- They have extensive legal knowledge: A family lawyer knows which specific state laws may impact your case and can create a legal strategy which takes these laws into account. They know which forms must be filled out and when and how they must be submitted. You will not run the risk of missing deadlines or losing your right to appeal a decision.
- They provide an outside perspective: Family law matters can cause emotions to run high. Family lawyers have extensive experience handling tense situations in a constructive, rational manner. When family relationships are on the line, having this calm demeanor can keep a legal dispute from devolving into an irreparable mess.
- A lawyer can even the playing field: If the other side involved in your legal dispute has representation, you are at a distinct disadvantage if you do not also have someone on your side with knowledge of the law. This is especially true if your case goes to court and you must argue your case before a judge.
- They can remove some of the stress: Chances are, if you are experiencing a family law issue, it is impacting all areas of your life. You may be trying to find a new place to live for you and your children or dealing with the heartbreak of a broken relationship. You likely do not have the emotional energy and time to dedicate to learning the laws governing your situation and filling out the copious amounts of paperwork involved. A lawyer can take care of the legal matters for you, so you can focus on what’s important.
- They can often resolve a situation without going to court: While your lawyer will always be ready to take your case to court if necessary, they typically can use their negotiation and mediation skills to work out an agreement without involving the courts. This keeps your situation more private and may lead to less acrimonious relations and hurt feelings between the parties.
How Can Our Law Firm Help You?
Handling legal issues that involve your family can be very emotionally challenging. Meeting all the required deadlines, filing out all the appropriate forms, and trying to navigate emotionally volatile negotiations on your own can be overwhelming. Pacific Northwest Family Law will work on your behalf to protect the rights of you and your family, so you can begin moving forward with your lives. Our knowledgeable family law attorneys have the skills to bring your case to a satisfactory conclusion, often through mediation, so you do not have to go to trial. However, we have extensive trial experience and will aggressively fight for our clients rights in court whenever necessary. Contact us today to schedule a case evaluation with one of our family law attorneys: (360) 926-9112.