Adoption

What is stepparent adoption?

Stepparent adoption is perhaps one of the most common forms of adoption in the United States. In stepparent adoption proceedings, one parent agrees to terminate his or her parental rights so that the other parent’s new spouse or partner can adopt the child.

Provided that the adoption is uncontested, this can be a relatively straightforward process. The prospective adoptive parent must also be:

  • Approved by a social worker who conducts an investigation called a post-placement study, and
  • The court must give final approval.

Without a parent’s consent to terminate his/her parental rights or a forced termination for other reasons, the process can be substantially more difficult, if not impossible.

What is the likely cost of a stepparent adoption?

You must pay the court filing fee, and engage and pay a court-approved social worker to investigate the parents and child and write a report to the court. Add to those costs the time for your attorney’s work, which averages 2-3 hours. Often, the whole process does not exceed $2,500.

What is the process in Washington state?

Consent – The first step in any adoption case is attaining the biological parent’s consent. This can be done via signing an affidavit.Petition for Adoption –

Petition for Adoption – In order to commence the adoption process with the Court, the parties must submit the petition for adoption.

Post-Placement Evaluation – The court will appoint a social worker to interview both parents and ask questions about their background, employment, etc.

Confirmation of Consent – If you are adoption in King County, Washington, then you will need to submit a confirmation of consent from the biological parents.

Finalization Hearing – At this hearing, both parties appear in court together with the adoptive child to make their case that this adoption is in the best interests of the child. The judge or court commissioner reviews the documents and finalizes the adoption.

Documentation – The parents should receive certified copies of the Decree of Adoption after it is signed. Within 30 days, the decree will be sent to the Vital Statistics Division so a new birth certificate can be created.

Divorce

Can I get divorced faster by waiving the 90-day waiting period?

No. Nobody can waive the 90-day cooling off period. Parties cannot get divorced in Washington in less than 91 days — 91st day being the first after expiration of the 90-day cooling off period.

Can you do my divorce for an all-inclusive fee?

Some attorneys will advertise they can do the divorce for an all-inclusive (“flat”) fee, but those are usually the simplest divorces where all parties agree, and only the paperwork needs to be prepared. We seldom do divorce work on a flat fee basis because there is no way of knowing going into the case if it will be easy or difficult. That is why we almost always bill our fees on an hourly basis, with an advance fee deposit to secure the work we do.

Do I need an attorney to get a divorce in Washington?

You are not required to hire an attorney to get a divorce in Washington state, but it is highly recommended. Unless you have no assets, no debts, and no children, you should seek legal counsel from an experienced divorce lawyer to protect yourself while making legal decisions that may affect the rest of your life.

How long will it take to get divorced?

Statistics from several years ago suggest the average divorce takes about eleven months from start to finish. Some divorces resolve themselves faster, and others drag on much longer. The shortest divorces take 91 days. The required 90-day cooling off period ensures no divorce can finalize in less than 91-days.

How will assets and debts be divided?

In Washington state and Snohomish County, community property is divided equitably (fairly). This means that community property (assets and debts acquired during the marriage) are divided in a manner that is fair and equitable to both parties. Separate property is usually not divided, but may be in certain circumstances to make a property division more fair. Gifts and inheritance are typically not subject to property division. Complex assets, like business interests, retirement accounts, investments, etc. require skilled analysis to determine how they will be divided equitably.

If mediation is required, should by spouse and I schedule mediation at the beginning of the case?

Ultimately, the answer this question depends on each party’s preference. When parties schedule mediation at the beginning of the divorce process, the likelihood of settlement appears to be around 50%. The likelihood of settlement increases to about 95% when the parties mediate at the end of the divorce case. Divorcing spouses typically elect to mediate at the end of their case — about a month or two in advance of their scheduled trial date.

Is mediation required before going to trial?

Yes, you cannot proceed to a divorce trial without completing mediation. Only in cases of domestic violence or other unusual circumstances can a mediation be avoided. Most cases with settle in mediation.

Should I file for legal separation instead of divorce?

Legal separation can be filed if you do not yet qualify for divorce in Washington, or if it is your preference to file for a legal separation. Legal separation is handled similarly to divorce, but you continue to be legally married. Before deciding on whether to file for divorce or legal separation, you really need to understand the differences between a decree of legal separation and a decree of dissolution of marriage (divorce).

What are the usual attorney fees in divorces?

From what we notice, most divorce attorneys in this geographic area charge around $250 to $350 per hour. We also know of Everett divorce attorneys who charge more than $350 per hour. You may quickly verify this by calling two or three other local law firms and asking for their hourly rates. My hourly rate is $300 per hour.

What documents should I bring when I first meet with you?

Bring the documents already filed in the case. If neither party has filed anything yet, then you probably should try to bring with you the following: a list of assets and their values; a list of debts and their balances; the last two years tax returns with W-2s; and recent pay stubs of both parties. If you can’t easily get these for the first meeting, don’t wait — just make an appointment with us.

While my divorce is pending, should I file my taxes as married or single? Jointly or separately?

If your divorce is not finalized prior to December 31st, then you and your spouse must file as married. If spouses are legally divorced on or before December 31st, they should file single, no matter how much that tax year they were married. Divorcing spouses must then decide whether to file joint or separate taxes.

While my divorce is pending, should I file my taxes as married or single? Jointly or separately?

If your divorce is not finalized prior to December 31st, then you and your spouse must file as married. If spouses are legally divorced on or before December 31st, they should file single, no matter how much that tax year they were married. Divorcing spouses must then decide whether to file joint or separate taxes.

Will I need to hire someone else, other than my attorney, for the divorce?

Sometimes, in the case of complex assets or retirement or investment accounts, a CPA or pension expert will need to be engaged and paid for by you in addition to your attorney’s fees. We will guide you if such an expert needs to be hired.

Estate Planning

Can you do the documents for me for an all-inclusive fee?

Yes, we can usually arrange to do your Last Will; Durable Power of Attorney, and Health Care Directive, for a flat fee — for singles or married couples.

How do I make changes to my existing Last Will and Testament?

For major changes, executing an entirely new Last Will and Testament is the most efficient way to make those changes. Once a new Will has been signed into effect, you would simply destroy the original copy of your previous Last Will and Testament.

For minor changes, executing a Codicil to your Last Will and Testament is the most efficient way to make those changes. A Codicil can change a part of your existing Will or add a whole new provision.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

A Durable Power of Attorney authorizes another person to legally act on your behalf. You can grant someone a very narrow power of attorney, such as the power to sell a particular item, or very broad power, such as complete control of all your property. A Durable Power of Attorney assures that, in the event you are incapacitated or unable to make decisions about your financial affairs or medical options, a designated person can attend to your financial or medical obligations. A durable power of attorney operates while you are still alive; once you die, the Will takes over.

What is a Health Care Directive?

Sometimes called a living will, a Health Care Directive is a legal document that ensures that medical decisions are made according to your wishes in the event of an emergency.

What is a Last Will and Testament?

A Will is a legal document prepared and executed during your lifetime to provide instructions for the division of your property, the care of your minor children, the handling of your estate and other important matters after you pass away. For many people, a Will is the most important document they will execute in their lifetime. The significance of a Will depends less on the size of the estate than the kinds of property left or on the matters to be taken care of upon your passing. Wills become a matter of public record upon death.

Estate planning is not just for the rich, it is for everyone. All of your possessions, including cars, bank accounts, personal property, real estate, etc. are part of your personal estate. You won’t be taking these possessions with you when you die so you need a formal estate plan to share them with family, friends, and charities. An estate plan is the best way to protect the rights of your beneficiaries. Without it, the courts will distribute your possessions for you.

Personal Injury

Am I automatically at fault if I rear-ended the other vehicle?

No, not automatically. The burden of proof will be against you, however, until you prove that the accident was the defendant’s fault notwithstanding the fact that you rear-ended him or her. You might win the case, for example, if you could prove that the driver’s brake lights failed to work.

Can I claim against a company that hired the commercial driver who hit me?

Maybe. If the driver was on-duty at the time of the accident, you would need to prove that the driver was an employee of the company rather than an independent contractor. Professional truck drivers are usually considered independent contractors, not employees.

Can I obtain punitive damages?

No, unfortunately. Washington is one of the only four states that does not allow punitive damages in civil cases unless they are specifically authorized by t statute.

Can I win if the accident was partly my fault?

You are entitled to that percentage of damages that represents the defendant’s percentage of fault for the accident — 65 percent of your damages, for example, if the defendant was 65 percent at fault and you were 35 percent at fault. Keep in mind that in this example, you would be responsible for 35 percent of the defendant’s damages.

How is fault determined in a car accident?

Washington is a “fault” insurance state, meaning that you can file a claim directly against the at-fault driver’ liability insurance policy or, if the at-fault driver is uninsured, against the driver him or herself (https://www.insurance.wa.gov/your-insurance/auto-insurance-rights). To win your claim, you will need to prove that the defendant was careless (negligent), that this negligence caused the accident, and that you suffered actual damages.

My injuries will prevent me from ever returning to my previous occupation. Can I recover damages for the loss of my career?

Yes, in most cases, if you can prove that it was your injury that forced you to abandon your career. If the injury was work-related, however, workers’ compensation rules might limit your recovery.

My loved one was killed in a car accident. Can I sue on his or her behalf?

If your loved one is killed in a car accident, an eligible relative or the personal representative of the deceased victim’s estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Eligible relatives include:

  • Spouse
  • State-registered domestic partner
  • Children
  • Stepchildren
  • Parents or siblings (if and only if the deceased has no spouse, domestic partner, children or stepchildren, and if the parent or sibling in question was financially dependent on the deceased)
Should I talk to the insurance company or sign a statement?

No, at least not without the consent of your lawyer. The insurance company, sometimes your own insurance company, is your adversary when you file a claim because you are asking for money and they are looking for an excuse to avoid paying.