If you are facing a divorce, child custody battle, or any other family law issue, you may be wondering if you need to hire a lawyer. The answer depends on the specific situation you are in. If you and your spouse are able to agree on all terms of the divorce, then you may not need an attorney. However, if you anticipate a contested divorce or child custody battle, it is best to consult with a lawyer to protect your interests. Check out this Family Law FAQ to get some top questions answered.
Child Support Questions
Family Law FAQ: Do I have to pay child support?
Each parent has a legal duty to help support their children. The answer is probably. The parent who has the child the least amount of time is usually the one who pays.
If I have to pay child support, how much will I have to pay?
One of the principal duties of the Court in a Dissolution or Parentage Action is to determine the basic amount the noncustodial parent is required to pay for child support. The good news is the procedure is mostly mathematical and predictable. The net income of the parents is used to determine the combined and basic support obligations of the parties. The amount is usually set as a monthly figure but can be paid with each payday.
How does the court determine my income?
The court starts with “Gross income”. This is the total income before any deductions for taxes, FICA, or insurance. There are specific statutes which detail what can be included or excluded. The list is long. TANF, food stamps, and SSI do not count as income.
Do I still pay child support if I’m not working?
If you are not working, the court may set a reasonable amount of income or “impute” income as if you were working depending upon the reason for not working. Most of the time, the court will presume you could be working, unless you can prove this is not the case. For instance, if you were in a car accident and can show that you are not able to work, the court may decide not to impute income.
Why is net income important in determining child support?
Net income is important because the court uses it to figure the amount owed for child support. Some examples of deductions to figure net income are: Federal taxes, Social Security, Medicare, mandatory union dues, pensions, and others. There are special rules that apply when you are paying support for children who do not live with you or when you are supporting other children.
What if I have a child for more than 90 days a year?
After computing the basic support obligation, in certain circumstances, the court may “deviate” from the amount required to be paid. For instance, if one parent has custody more than 90 days per year, “Residential Deviation” may apply, as in split-custody cases. The amounts owed are then prorated.
Parenting Plan Questions
What is a parenting plan?
A Parenting Plan (also called a Residential Schedule) is a written statement of the terms for who has the child or children and under what terms.
What might a parenting plan include?
The most important terms of a Parenting Plan include who has the child or children during the school year, vacations, holidays and special events; transportation terms; notices if someone wants to move; and restrictions, if needed.
What if the other party does not follow the terms of the plan?
This is the main reason for having a Parenting Plan. If one party does not obey the terms, you may go to dispute resolution and to court for help to enforce the terms.
What about the time before the final orders?
In most cases, the court enters temporary Parenting Plans until the final orders are entered.
Domestic Partnership Dissolution Question
It’s over. Do I need to formally end my domestic partnership or civil union in Washington State?
The process and procedure that you will need to utilize depends on the status/characterization of your relationship. If you and your partner were registered as domestic partners, your Registered Domestic Partnership (RDP) automatically converted to a marriage (unless one of you was 62 years of age or older) on June 30, 2014. A formal dissolution action is necessary to dissolve your marriage; you can alternately seek a legal separation instead of divorce.
If you co-habitated with your partner and lived in a “committed, intimate relationship” (or quasi-marital relationship), you do not need to formally dissolve your relationship. Technically, there is no legal status to dissolve. That having been said, based on the length and character of your relationship, you may have acquired property and assets (along with debts) with your partner and/or significantly contributed to such property and assets although title may not be in your name. Under the law, you may be entitled to an award of a portion of this property and assets; not being legally married does not preclude the finding that a committed, intimate relationship exists. Courts in Washington have the authority to divide assets and debts equitably when the parties are involved in a committed, intimate relationship. The court looks at five, non-exclusive, factors to determine whether the relationship should be treated as a “marriage” for purposes of property distribution:
1) continuous cohabitation and exclusivity;
2) duration of the relationship;
3) the purpose of the relationship;
4) pooling of resources and services for joint projects and
5) the intent of the parties.
If you meet this test, the court then evaluates each of your interests in property (and/or debts) you acquired during the relationship and makes a “just and equitable” distribution of same. If you and your partner can come to agreement regarding the dissolving of your relationship, it is advisable to enter into a written agreement, dividing your assets and debts and your agreement may remain in the nature of a private contract. Alternately, if you do not agree and one of you needs assistance from the court to obtain your fair share of the assets (or payment of debts), it is advisable to file a cause of action in your county of residence. There are some differences between marriage and marital-like relationships regarding other forms of relief: relief under the marital maintenance and attorney fee statutes do not apply, and the separate property of either party is not before the court. Please be advised that there is a three-year statute of limitations period in which you must file, beginning on the date your relationship ends. Failure to meet this deadline may forever bar any relief to which you may otherwise be entitled.
We look forward to answering all of your questions and speaking with you about your legal needs. Call our office or send us a message through our consultation request form.