Family Law Issues in Gig Harbor, WA
Helping You Prepare, Safeguard, and Protect Your Best Interests Throughout All Stages of Your Relationship
Just like our families, family law issues can be unique and complicated. Navigating Washington’s state laws and court system can be stressful, too. An experienced attorney – like the lawyers at Harbor Family Law – can help you resolve matters involving your spouse or future spouse, children, parents, and other family members with patience and compassion.
Marriage and Family
Entering a marriage, growing a family, or blending families require foresight and planning. For many individuals who marry or remarry later in life, bringing property, assets, and sometimes children into their new partnership isn’t always easy. If you’re facing one of these scenarios, it can be beneficial to have legal guidance as you join your financial and legal futures. Depending on your situation, you may need counsel about:
- Prenuptial and post-marital agreements
- Adoption and stepparent adoption
- Drafting or revising wills, trusts, and powers of attorney
- https://harborfamilylawgroup.com/adoption/Combining or segregating property ownership rights
- Modifying parenting plans, child support, and spousal support agreements
Before meeting with an attorney to discuss these issues, it is helpful to make a list of your concerns and priorities and compile all relevant documents (including financial documents; existing wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents; and custody or support agreements or orders). An attorney will help you identify and undertake the appropriate steps to protect and provide for your family.
Separation and Divorce
If you are considering separation or divorce, it’s wise to evaluate your situation now and prepare yourself before you consult with an attorney.
If you or your children are in danger, take immediate steps to protect yourself, including contacting law enforcement and obtaining an order of protection (also called a “restraining order”). Contact a family law attorney experienced in domestic violence cases for assistance.
Otherwise, spend some time collecting documentation and recording important information before initiating legal action. Steps you should take include:
- Gather and review financial documents. Make a list of all assets (bank accounts, property, investments, etc.), liabilities (loans, mortgages, credit cards, etc.), and other shared financial concerns (subscriptions, accounts, utilities, memberships, etc.). Ensure that your name is listed correctly on titles and accounts. Record the account numbers and passwords, and print or save .pdf copies of statements reflecting the current balances of assets and liabilities.
- Make plans. Consider the practicalities of what separation will mean for you, your spouse, and other family members. Think about what new housing configurations will look like. Would it be practical for one partner to keep a jointly owned home and buy the other out, or would selling the property be more reasonable? Is there somewhere one spouse could live temporarily while steps to reach a permanent living solution are underway? How would different living situations affect children’s schooling, afterschool care, and activities? How would they change the cost of living? Try to envision multiple options for separating your daily life and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Consider how your finances will change and how a legal separation will affect benefits like insurance coverage.
- Keep notes. If you observe new or unusual behavior by your spouse, especially significant financial actions like selling property or opening new bank accounts, keep as detailed a record as possible. This could be an attempt to hide assets you may have a legal claim to in a divorce.
- Take steps. If you are contemplating divorce, you may need time to transition into a different job with better pay or benefits. You may wish to begin that process before you begin the separation process to ensure your family is financially secure and minimize the disruption. You may also want to get your finances in order, especially if you are improperly omitted from assets or tied to debt.
Washington State does not require you to legally separate for a period of time, undergo counseling, or provide documentation of “fault” (such as proof of adultery or abuse) before filing a petition for divorce. As long as at least one spouse is a Washington resident, it is sufficient that the parties to a legally valid marriage agree that it is “irretrievably broken.” Before a judge grants an order of divorce, any issues involving shared property and children must be resolved by agreement of the parties or order of the court.
There is a mandatory 90-day waiting period in Washington before a judge can sign an order to end a marriage. This 90-day period starts on the date of filing (if the divorce is an agreed filing) or the date the divorce petition is served on the other party (if it is contested). An uncontested divorce in Washington State, therefore, can take as little as three months to complete; a contested divorce can easily take a year or more depending on the complexity of the marital assets, the temperaments of the parties, and the caseload in the courts.
Why Consult with a Family Law Attorney?
Consulting with a family law attorney can help you understand your options and determine the best course of action for your family. Every family’s situation is different; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A skilled, experienced family law attorney can help you craft a parenting agreement with enough structure to be enforceable but enough flexibility to grow and change with your family. Legal counsel should listen to your needs and help you negotiate financial and practical agreements that minimize unhappiness and provide a solid basis for your family’s future. An attorney can also help mediate disputes and eliminate aggressive or emotional interactions.
Even if you are separating amicably, with minimal shared assets and no dependents, an attorney can help you understand the separation process and ensure that you file your action correctly and timely. The cooperative strategy of Collaborative Law is the process by which equally-represented parties and their attorneys work together to resolve conflict and keep control of the major decisions that impact their family rather than engaging in a long, costly court battle. This process supports the needs of the parties involved, including children and other dependents, and reduces the stress, expense, and hostility that can accompany a divorce. Working with an attorney on a collaborative divorce can help minimize the conflict and trauma involved in a divorce.
Family law cases have their own rules, requirements, and procedures. Even simple matters can have complicated components, and issues that seem amicable can quickly turn unpleasant. A family law attorney who is well-versed with family law claims in Pierce County courts and throughout Washington State can help you resolve your claim and minimize the stress. It’s crucial to contact an attorney for cases involving:
- Complex and high-asset divorce
- Legal separations
- Division of marital property, assets, and debt
- Spousal support
- Child custody and child support
- Child visitation and parenting plans
- Rights of unmarried parents
- Spousal support/maintenance/alimony
An attorney will explain the legal process involved in pursuing a divorce, which can alleviate some of your anxiety about the legal requirements and procedures. They will identify any issues
that need to be addressed and provide you with the expert resources you may need to resolve your case (such as appraisers, tax consultants, medical professionals, and more). Ideally, they will help steer you towards ways to efficiently resolve disputes outside of court, minimizing conflict, stress, time, and expense. However, if court proceedings are necessary, they will zealously advocate for your rights and the best interests of your children.
The attorneys at the Harbor Family Law firm understand how difficult, emotional, and stressful family law issues can be. Our team of compassionate legal professionals will skillfully help you navigate these significant life events. We pride ourselves on our attention to detail and ability to adapt to the style and needs of each client, crafting a unique solution for each unique family. Our team of experienced, caring attorneys works together to reach the best resolution for you and your case. Contact us today for a no-obligation, confidential consultation.