Monday, May 2, 2022

Saving Attorney Time is Saving Money

Attorneys charge most cases by the time spent.  Each minute you save our attorney is money-saved for you.

If you send a statement for your attorney to edit into a declaration, if you do not capitalize all the "i"s when you mean, "I," then that means you are paying your attorney to do it.  If you simply speak an unpunctuated free-flow of words into your phone, then a declaration that should have taken one hour to edit could take two to four, depending how hard it is to straighten out.

Here at Mason Law, we want to save clients their money, and we remind them that the more work they do on their "raw materials," then the more we can just focus on the "legal edit," and not the "English edit." Of course, we do the "English edit" as well, as needed, but we want your bill to be as reasonable as it can be.  Mason Law of Spokane, WA 509.443.3681 www.spokaneinjuryanddivorcelaw.com

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Guardian ad Litem

You might hear that a "Guardian ad Litem" (GAL) is being sought for your case, or you might request one.

A GAL has two roles:  (1) to be an objective fact finder for the court, and (2) to represent the child's voice.  Often courts appoint a GAL when the parents are in such high conflict that the court worries that the heated testimony will make it impossible for the court to get to the truth, or the court worries that the parents' have so much combat between them that one or both of them is not thinking well enough of the children's interest, and so the court needs the child's interests and wants to be before the court through the GAL.  The courts almost always appoint a GAL if there are signs of domestic violence or abuse.

The cost of the GAL is split by the percentage of income each parent's income is to their total income.  If the parents are low income and abuse is at issue, the county will pay some portion of the GAL appointment.  Some attorneys resist appointment of a GAL as they wish to manipulate what the "child wants" without any actual input from the child, but cost is the only reason not to have one appointed in a high conflict case.

Here at Mason Law, Attorney Craig Mason of Spokane, WA, is very accustomed to the process involved in appointing a GAL and following up on their work for settlement or trial.  For more information call 509.443.3681 or to www.spokaneinjuryanddivorcelaw.com

 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Family Law Appeals

People who lose trials are often very eager to appeal, and hope that a three-judge appellate panel that reviews the case will change the result, or at least send the matter back for a re-trial. Family law appeals are hard to win, and easy to lose.  Here is why:

Family law trials are "bench trials" in Washington.  That means that the judge determines the facts as well as the law. In most other kinds of cases, the judge still determines the law, but the jury finds the facts.  ("Finds the facts," means that in a he said/she said dispute, the "fact finder" determines whose story, or what mix of each story, becomes "legally true," for that case, and the law is applied to those "legal facts.")

How does this all matter for family law?  The appellate judges prefer "finality" in family law cases so that you can all move on with your lives.  Therefore, the appellate courts will not substitute their judgment for the trial judge.  Instead, your appeal can only be won: (a) if the judge made an error of law (the appellate court does not "defer" to an error of law), or (b) if the decision lacked "substantial evidence" (meaning that there was so little evidence in support of the judge's determination that no reasonable person could have found those facts -- here the appellate court defers to the trial court), or (c) if the result was overall manifestly unreasonable.

As you can see, on the facts and on the judgment of overall fairness, the trial court has a lot of leeway and the court of appeals will not re-examine any reasonable decision.  However, if there were legal errors, they will be reviewed carefully, and the matter will be sent back to the trial court for more fact-finding and more legal argument.

Here at Mason Law in Spokane, WA, Craig Mason has successfully appealed family law cases, and has successfully defended trial court decisions on appeal. Keeping in mind the high bar to jump if you decide to appeal your family law decision, or if you need to defend a positive decision from an appeal, feel free to contact Mason Law at 509-443-3681.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Non-parental custody/New Guardianship Statute

There is a new statute that replaces the non-parental custody ("3rd party custody") actions.   The new statute has created two causes of action -- emergency minor guardianship and minor guardianship.

The process is similar to the old non-parental action in that to initiate the action, you must show that neither parent is available or able to perform "parenting functions."  This could be due to abandonment, imprisonment, or incapacity -- often, as we know, due to drug use or simply love of life "on the street" (without responsibility).

If you are a relative, you do not need to pay the filing fee, which is an improvement on the old system.  There is also a streamlined process for getting the children attorneys, and for appointing a "court visitor" to do an initial investigation up front, and to appoint a guardian ad litem.  The children over the age of 12 must be served with your petition, and the older children have more "voice" in the process.

Frankly, the courts are still working their way through the new statute, but Craig Mason of Mason Law has taken most courses he can find on the new statute, and he is reading and re-reading the new statute as he works on the cases he has taken under the new statute.  If you need to intervene because the parents of children you care about cannot perform their parenting functions, or if you are a parent who has recovered your ability and willingness to parent, contact Mason Law of Spokane, WA, at 509.443.3681.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Happy Holidays from Mason Law - to you and all the families in your lives.

Here at Mason Law we fight when we must, but we also never forget that family never ends, and that is why we make the process of divorce as painless as we can while still protecting your interests - especially your long-term interests. 

Yes, your legal parenting plan ends when the children turn 18, but Thanksgivings and Christmases will still come and go.  Grandchildren will be born. There will be graduations from college and trade schools, promotions to celebrate, and the comedies and tragedies of life to share.  Your family might have divorced, and people might have gone their separate ways, but family never ends.  Ties of affection, new and old - even old affections that fell apart - all leave their lasting marks as part of your lives.  As long as any human being lives on with those pieces of time together and emotions shared is alive, family history - all of it - lives on.

This holiday season, look at each other with compassion.  Try to look out at the world through the understandings, even out through the misunderstandings, that some person had at whom you are tempted to be angry or frustrated.  Contemplate how maybe he or she could be frustrated with and by you, and how maybe the other person is a little bit right. Broaden your perspective. Broaden your heart and accept our sincere hope that you never need family law services again in your life.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Mason Law.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

"I will never get married again!"

That is the phrase you might often hear from people who had a rough divorce.

Unfortunately, they later learn that the property they accumulated in their next relationship, even though it was an unmarried relationship, is also subject to court division of the property accumulated during this time, under a "committed, intimate, relationship action" (CIR)  in which a court divides "community-like" property. (These court actions used to be called "meretricious relationship" actions, and may also be called an "equity relationship" action in today's courts.)

The ONLY way to avoid creating "community-like" property is to have a separate property agreement that completely spells out your property, and your partner's property, and who owns what in future accumulations from the labor of each of you.   These agreements also must meet certain standards of fairness when you draft and sign them or they might be subject to later attack in court, potentially putting you right back where you started.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Visitation During Divorce

During the chaos in the early stages of a divorce, the courts will be looking to maintain the stability of the children as best they can.  The courts will be looking to provide that stability by trying to determine which parent spent the most time with the children during the marriage (or relationship), and the strength and stability of the bond with each parent.  Of course, the parent should be mentally and emotionally stable, as well, to provide a secure home for the children.

The court does not know you or your children, so you will need to be ready to explain your relationship with the children, and, ideally, have long-standing friends and neighbors who can describe your parent-child relationships in written statements under oath.  "Reality" is reduced to a file of a few pages before your first hearing -- the "temporary order hearing" -- that will set the ground rules during the divorce.

Here at Mason Law, in Spokane, WA, we are accustomed to helping you gather these facts quickly and under pressure to assist you in getting the visitation with your children that will serve their best interests.  Call us at 509-443-3681 to help with your parenting plan hearings, and then, later, to help you get the best parenting plan at trial.