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.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

What is CIR?

After people have had a bad divorce experience, they often think, "I'll never get married again."  However, they then co-habitat with someone, and are shocked to discover that they are subject to a "CIR" (committed, intimate relationship) suit upon breaking up with a person after a period of years, and the court can find that they have a "community" of sorts and distribute the property they accumulated during the relationship.

Other names for a CIR include:  "Meretricious Relationship" and "Equity Relationship."

The best way to avoid a CIR is to explicitly form a separate property agreement at the beginning of the relationship.

Here at Mason Law, we have prosecuted CIR cases, defended CIR cases, and drafted property agreements -- prenuptial, post-nuptial, and separate property agreements. We can help keep you out of trouble, or get you out of trouble once you are in it.  Craig Mason of Mason Law and staff are ready to help, in Spokane, WA and Eastern Washington generally. 509.443.3681

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Parenting Plans

Sometimes divorcing parents get so involved in speaking ill of each other, that they (and their attorneys) overlook the factors considered by the court that are all about the children - and not about the parents' emotions.

The court will look at "the best interests" of the child.  If you left the children at home to go to church, to go fishing, or to go have an affair, the court does not care which it was.  (This is the meaning of "no-fault" divorce.)  The issue is only how much love and energy you put into the children

The court wants to know who has the strongest and most stable relationship with the child.  Who has nurtured the child?  Who has gone to the school to get lessons and made sure the child did his/her lessons?  Who has fed the child healthy meals?

And what does the child need now, and into the future, to grow and thrive?

If the child is sufficiently mature, the court might "take into account" the child's wishes, but no matter how old the child gets, the court is the decision-maker (not the child), and the court will look at which parent's home will best serve the child's growth and development.  There are some other factors, as well, but the focus remains on: Which parent has put in the time and effort to help the child grow?  If both parents have done so nearly equally, and have similar work schedules, then 50/50 plans are much more common in recent years.

Here at Mason Law we help you get beyond the irrelevant things you might want to say in pain and anger, and we help you focus on what the court needs to know about the best interests of your children. Contact Craig Mason at Mason Law at 509-443-3681 in Spokane, WA.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Community Property/Separate Property

There are nine community property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In these states, all property of a married person is classified as either community property (owned jointly by both spouses) or the separate property of one spouse.

In some of those states, once the property is "characterized" as separate property, the court loses the power to give it to the other spouse. Other states are like Washington in that the court must characterize the property before making a "just and equitable distribution," but that "just and equitable distribution" can include giving separate property to the other spouse.

These cases can get very complex in the determination of whether property is separate or community, and during the course of those cases clients often learn that they should have (or should not have) gotten a prenuptial agreement, or a property agreement, or they learn many other aspects of the law that lead them to wish they had better prepared for a possible divorce.

At Mason Law, Craig Mason has years of experience with these matters in Spokane County and other Eastern Washington counties. Call Mason Law at 509-443-3681.  And for further reading see In re Marriage of Kile & Kendall, 186 Wash. App. 864, 347 P.3d 894 (2015), a case in which a Mr. Mason's appeal reversed the legal errors of a very smart judge -- community property law is simply that tricky to understand.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Non-Parental Actions are No More in Washington.

The legislature has just repealed the non-parental custody statute (RCW 26.10) and has moved similar actions under the Guardianship Statute (RCW 11.130).

If you are concerned about the well-being of a child, the facts you must provide to the court to become the guardian of the child are similar to those necessary under the old statute.

The legal standard is that no parent of the minor is willing or able to exercise parenting functions.  Parenting functions are defined as the ability and willingness to feed, clothe, care for, educate and protect the child.

The new statute also has complicated how and when the state must provide an attorney to the child or to parents who might lose their children. 

Here at Mason Law, Craig Mason has seen cases through many changes in statutes and case law over the years, and he can help you negotiate these new legal standards.  Call Mason Law, Spokane, WA, at 509.443.3681 if you need help becoming the guardian of a child. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Let’s Begin the New Year with some Important Information.

Washington repealed its Non-Parental Custody Act (RCW 26.10), and as of December 31, 2020, orders final by that date shall remain in effect as final orders, but any pending case is automatically dismissed and must be re-filed under the new Guardianship Statute (RCW 11.130.185 and related statutes).

The key showing that must be made under the new statute is: “clear and convincing evidence” there is no parent of the minor child willing or able to perform “parenting functions.”

Parenting functions are all the ways in which one nurtures a child: feeding, clothing, loving, educating, and financially supporting.

Frankly, no one is sure where this new statute will lead, as statutes require years of court interpretation before the doctrines are clarified.  But Mason Law of Spokane, WA, has been through statutory changes before, and will go through them again.  If you have a grandchild, niece, nephew, or other child, whose parents cannot care for them, and you wish to step in, call Craig Mason of Mason Law in Spokane, WA, at 509-443-3681 to discuss the facts of your situation.