Three months after the filing and service of the Petition for Dissolution (the “cooling off” period), the court may terminate marital status, returning both parties to single individuals, upon an application by one party. We work diligently and strategically with our clients to resolve their cases in a preferably efficient and cost-effective manner, allowing them to transition as quickly as possible through the proceeding. However, it oftentimes takes much longer to resolve the property, support and custodial issues such that the “three-month rule” should be taken as a minimum waiting period for eligibility for divorce. It is critically important that you obtain expert legal advice (and if a dispute arises, skilled advocacy) to protect your rights and interests in a dissolution.
At Abele Law, we understand that support, whether child or spousal, is oftentimes at the heart of the matter for our clients. We understand the importance of guiding you through a realistic assessment of your needs and advocating for the best possible outcome.
Child support is ordinarily ordered by the court when minor children are involved in a marital dissolution or paternity action. Child support is based largely on the physical custody structure, as well as the allocation of taxable and non-taxable income between the parents, with certain other relevant factors.
Spousal support, on the other hand, is applicable whether or not there are minor children, and can be based on the income of the parties and length of the marriage in the “short run.” A more nuanced, multi-factorial analysis is required for long term spousal support. We also assist clients with cases involving post-judgment support modifications due to a change in circumstances, such as the influx of royalty income, vesting of stock options, or inheritance.
We have a keen understanding of the nuanced and sensitive issues of paternity (parentage) cases. Such cases are initiated between non-married persons who are co-parents of minor children to identify the legal parents, establish legal and physical custodial rights for each parent (including visitation rights), and to address child support and child expense issues in all of the same ways as married (or formerly married) co-parents. All of the custodial considerations are included in paternity proceedings..
We are experienced in successfully litigating and defending against domestic violence restraining orders. The law in Washington has expanded to protect against a multitude of abusive behaviors between spouses, cohabitants, and co-parents in the form of criminally enforced (CLETS) stay away and no contact domestic violence restraining orders. Abuse can take many forms. Where minor children are involved, we believe it is especially important to eliminate exposure to domestic violence to prevent psychological harm which can have lasting effects.
We know that your life and the needs of your children are constantly evolving. Therefore, orders obtained during a divorce or paternity proceeding may need to be altered as circumstances change. Children age, people move, jobs or economics improve or decline. A party may not comply with orders regarding the payment of support or custodial arrangements. In many cases, orders will need to be revisited years after the original family law action is resolved. The law contemplates these changes and provides for continuing court authority to change custodial arrangements or support orders (in most cases). At Abele Law, a component of our practice is to assist clients with achieving their goals by resolving post-judgment modification issues (whether seeking or opposing a change).
We offer family law consulting services to clients in mediation or those who are attempting to achieve a resolution outside of court by negotiating directly with each other in an amicable dissolution, custody paternity, or post-judgment matter. We also consult with clients in the pre-separation stages where it may be too early to file a proceeding, but the appropriate time to define marital and/or custodial rights.
Additionally, we offer limited-scope representation in appropriate cases where clients are in need of legal counsel for a certain one-time matters such as a court hearing, deposition or mediation.
In Washington, the court views parties to a marriage or domestic partnership as equal business partners, and the property (e.g. assets, debts, rights, and interests) acquired during the marriage or domestic partnership (with several notable exceptions) as equally divided in the divorce.
People often ask “but why is divorce so complicated when the court divides everything 50/50?” The answer is property characterization and valuation, which exclusive of reimbursement claims and breaches in fiduciary duties, can alone make division of the assets complicated and litigation protracted.
Depending on the complexity of the legal issues or the asset itself, we at Abele Law work closely with expert CPAs (forensic accountants), business appraisers and real estate appraisers, estate planners, financial planners, and other professionals to assess the community and separate property estate and do the fact-finding necessary to structure optimal outcomes, whether that be in front of judges, mediators or opposing parties.
At Abele Law, our foremost concern is that the best interests of the children are represented in all aspects of our clients’ proceedings involving custody. With a wealth of experience in the legal, as well as the psychological aspects of child custody, we advise, consult with and represent both mothers and fathers in negotiating, mediating and litigating custody issues.
We assist clients in focusing on their short and long term child-related goals and counsel them where possible to craft a plan in concert with the developmental stages of their children. In each case with minor children, the custodial rights of both parents must be determined, involving both legal and physical custody.
Legal custody refers to which parents (or typically both) have decision making power over the decisions regarding the child’s health, education (including religious training) and welfare.
We work with clients to determine the child’s living arrangements. When deciding the optimal “parenting plan” for each child, the court will look to each child’s best interest and will weigh each parent’s drug and alcohol use/abuse, domestic violence (which can be verbal or physical abuse between parents or involving the child) and the quality of co-parenting.
We handle relocation (“move away”) requests where one parent needs to geographically relocate (with the minor children) to another area significantly far away that the normal custodial schedule will be disrupted. Oftentimes, “moveaway” requests result in a severe loss of custody for the non-moving parent and are litigated custodial disputes.
Good co-parenting can lead to a sharp decrease in conflict which in all cases benefits the children. Putting the needs of the children first, while often difficult given the emotions involved, can head off many problems at the “pass.” When embedded conflict leads to obtaining the court’s assistance, we are prepared to put on our client’s most advantageous case.
We are skilled at handling a panoply of custodial disputes including developing a child-sensitive parenting plan appropriate for the family challenges involved, including a substance abuse testing regime, supervised visitation, and co-parenting counseling.