Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Help Your Attorney Help You

Here are some practical tips to help you get ready for a trial or a hearing.

Make sure your text messages that you might want to submit to court are black print on a white background, just like a normal document.  If you have colors on colors, after a few rounds of copying, you just have a large smear as "evidence."

Also, make sure the font is large enough to read through several generations of photocopying, and that the dates are on the text messages; having the date and time on the message helps the court keep the conversation in its proper order.

The same thing with video.  Have some verifiable date and time on your videos, and remember that court time is limited, and, if the courts allow video, they do not want to see hours of it, but only key, verified, short segments.

Here at Mason Law we are accustomed to preparing you for trial and hearings, and these tips can save you time (money) and help you present your side of the story in court. Contact Mason Law in Spokane, WA at 509-443-3681, and at www.spokaneinjuryanddivorcelaw.com.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Tracing Property

When it comes to the property issues in divorce, it becomes important to determine if either person has "separate" property, which normally includes property you brought into the marriage, or that you inherited during the marriage.

Title is not significant unless there is something more than just a signature on the title to show that a gift of property (either from the separate property to the marital "community" property, or the other way around).  For example, both spouses signing on the title to refinance the separate property home, without more, does not show that the spouse who owned the home meant to make the house into community property. 

The important question is the "source of funds" used to make purchases of property at issue in the divorce.  That is why you want to be able to "trace" the money you brought into the marriage, and where it went.  These matters all become pretty complex pretty fast -- for example, if the community funds were used to put a new roof on the separate property home, the community might have a "lien" against the separate property for those funds.  If the community made the house payments, but the house payment was equal or less than reasonable rent, then the separate property is unlikely to owe the community for the community paying down the mortgage. And so on.

Craig Mason of Mason Law in Spokane, WA, is accustomed to addressing these issues.  Contact him at 509-443-3681 or www.spokaneinjuryanddivorcelaw.com

Friday, July 1, 2022

De Facto Parentage -- a Parent "in-fact"

Washington State has long had a common law pathway to be declared a "parent" of a child.  More recently, there is a statutory pathway, as well, as our legislature has recognized changes in the family form, and our statutes and courts are clear that a child can have "more than two" parents.  If you have a close relationship with a child and are in danger of losing visitation, here are the statutory elements for establishing that you are a de facto parent: (a) that you resided with the child as a member of the household for a significant period; (b) that you engaged in consistent caretaking of the child; (c) that you undertook full and permanent responsibility for the child without an expectation of financial compensation; (d) that people knew you had a parental role; (e) that you developed a bonded relationship with the child; (f) that one of the parents of the child supported you developing this relationship; and (g) that continuing your relationship is in the best interests of the child.

Here at Mason Law we have experience helping you to develop the facts for your case.  Call Craig Mason, in Spokane, WA, at 509.443.3681 for more assistance in protecting your relationship with a child to whom you have become a parent.

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.