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Whether you are the primary custodian or the non-custodial parent, we know you want to continue to parent your children after your divorce.  Chances are, you are not interested in "visits" with your children, but that you want REAL PARENTING TIME.  Time to share life with your children.

Let our office help you with your child custody issues.  Let us help you establish a parenting plan that will allow both parents to be parents.

REAL Questions and Answers:

Q: What happens if my child is left alone with someone he's not supposed to be?: I have full legal and physical custody. My court order says my child is not allowed to be around my ex's father without my permission and supervision because of substance abuse. My child told his therapist that he was left alone with this person, what is the next step that I take? I am trying not to go back into a courtroom, but my order never specified what happens next.

Asked 6 days ago in Child Custody

A: Jacqueline’s answer: There are a couple of ways to handle this. The most aggressive approach would be to file a motion seeking an order of contempt against your ex. If you take this approach, you will need to be very deliberate in how you present the evidence of the violation to the judge. As is often the case, this violation came to light through what is known as "child hearsay," things the child has revealed about his/her time with the other parent. Frustratingly, this type of evidence is ordinarily not admissible in court, so you will need to work with your son's counselor in getting a statement (under oath) from the counselor that sets out the basis for your concerns. A less aggressive approach would be to write your ex a letter or email (something you can present as evidence later, if needed) letting him know that your are aware of the time your son spent unsupervised with his grandfather, and asking for his assurance that the violation will not occur again. You know better than anyone which approach will be the most effective for you. Best of luck.

Q: What age can the children legally decide not to visit?: I am a father of 3 children ages 9, 11 and 13. They live with there mother in Washington State. I live in South Carolina. I have a court order arrangement to have the children fly to SC for the summer. Latly it has been brought to my attention that there mother has told them they have the right to decide not to visit. That they are old enough to over step the court agreement. Also in the agreement it states that both parents will split the cost of travel. How ever since the devorce I have footed the full cost. And the mother has mentioned if she can't afford her half the kids don't travel.

A: Jacqueline’s Answer: I am going to answer under the assumption that the court order you referred to is a Washington order. As to the first part of your question, there is no "magic" age, aside from the age of majority, where a child can determine where he/she will live. Now, that is the legal answer, but the practical answer gets more complicated as children age. It is extremely difficult to force a 16-year old to stay with a parent that he/she does not want to stay with. There is no clean-cut way to handle this from a practical point of view. Further, it is very difficult to get to the bottom of this because courts frown upon, and often forbid, these types of conversations with the children. How are you suppose to know what they think without talking to them about the case, yet you may not be allowed to talk to them about the case. If you think there is reason to believe that one or more of your children really do not want to have residential time with you, then you may want to schedule some family counseling between you and the children during their next visits. Talking about these things in the presence of a counselor will be much more acceptable to a court.

As to the second part of your question, if there is a court order designating who pays what portion of the transportation costs, and she is in willful violation of that order, then you may bring a motion for a finding that she is in contempt of court and ask for any number of sanctions. This would need to be brought in the county where the order originated.

Q: Does he has the right to do this?!: I want to move to a different state with my kids because I have a domestic violence with my daughters father and he is threatening me and causing me emotional stress and my daughters . He trying to make the court to not let me move!!

A: Jacqueline’s answer: If you already have a parenting plan (singed by the Court) in place, then you will have to follow the guidelines laid out in the child relocation act (found in RCW 26.09). The act should be summarized in a section of your parenting plan as well. If you are serious about relocating, then get your "ducks in a row" to increase the chance that a judge would rule in your favor IF the father formally objects to the relocation. Know where you are going to work, where you are going to live, how you are going to support yourself, and where the child will go to school or daycare. Have a plan to propose that will accommodate regular visits between the child and her father and demonstrate a willingness to foster that relationship from a distance. Know how you are going to pay for your portion of transportation for the child's trips to see her father. Keep in mind that, even in the case of domestic violence, if there is no evidence of abuse between the father and the child, then he will likely be entitled to all of the parental rights that a non-custodial parent has. When these relationships become long-distance ones, then the non-custodial parent will usually have less frequent residential time with the child, but the duration of the visits will be much longer. Not just a weekend here and there, but a big chunk of the summer, maybe every spring break, maybe every 3-day weekend, and all or most of winter break (these are just examples). You must be prepared for this. The better prepared you are, the more likely you will be able to convince a judge that your relocation is in the child's best interest. Best of luck.

Q: How would I proceed with my petition to modify if she is refusing to work out our differences?: I am having hard time understanding the RCW`s regarding modifications. I understand that I can request for a minor modification due to change of circumstances (work and moving alittle furthur), but that may not be enough? When I have asked about the other party refusing to mediate with me regarding our issues, she has denied countless times and I was encouraged to proceed with modification or even contempt. If I had the 5,000 retainer I would hire one of you but unfortantly I have to fight for my fatherly rights as best as I can solo. So, how would I go about my petition to modify in the light of refusal to drp and change of work schedule? I am only trying to add 24 extra over nights and clarify some wording in the plan. The mother and I need the plan as clear as day to prevent much more.

A: Jacqueline’s answer: Does your current parenting plan require that you attempt mediation before seeking redress from the courts? If so, then there should also be a line that tells you HOW to alert the other parent that you have an issue you would like to mediate. If you have notified the other parent in the required manner, and that parent is refusing to either respond or mediate, then you can proceed with filing a petition for modification. You will want to demonstrate in your petition that you attempted to mediate. Your next, and more important hurdle, is establishing that there is adequate cause for the modification. I really encourage you to seek counsel. In your question, you quoted a $5000 retainer, but there are many attorneys that can represent you in a modification for less than that, so it wouldn't hurt to do some consultations and see if you can get representation..

Q: Abuser accusing domestic violence victim of drug abuse in parenting plan. asks judge for immediate order to drug test.: a month ago, i followed thru with the call for help. there is a no contact order. he is charged with assault 2 dv. yesterday i received a parenting plan that had accusations of severe drug abuse all over inside. he also requested immediate hair follicle test and says his kids are in danger of being around me and requested a restraining order for him and the young boys. he failed to mention to the family law judge the current no contact order and is defending charges in criminal court. his allegations are unfounded. i dont have drug charges, i dont hang out with druggies. i am a home body and a cardiac patient under several doctors care and had an Implantantable Cardiac Defib installed 7 months ago. i am refusing to be put under this scrutiny. what are my options?

Jacqueline’s Answer: It is extremely frustrating to have an unfounded accusation made against you, but once the accusation is made, it needs to be cleared up. It is quite possible that your ex is using this process to harass you, but even so, it is best to get a comprehensive drug/alcohol evaluation so that you can submit the results to the court. Once you have submitted the results of the eval, your ex will likely be precluded from further harassing you in this way unless he can demonstrate a credible basis for making his accusations. You can even ask the court for an order requiring your ex to pay for the evaluation if you can establish that his accusations were made in bad faith. If you can show that his accusations truly are baseless, then his credibility will be irreparably harmed and his intentions and actions will be heavily scrutinized for the remainder of the case. As for a comprehensive drug/alcohol evaluation, that is an eval that involves more than just self-reporting. The evaluation will factor in other elements such as prior drug use, criminal history, prior treatment, CPS history, and a u/a or hair follicle test.

Q:  Is a parenting plan clause on joint decision-making enforceable, or is it just an empty clause?: Dissolution w/ Child. Mother and Father have joint custody, Mother is custodial parent. Mother took child to church for over four months (i.e. religious teachings, doctrine, etc.) and neglects to mention it to Father. There's a provision in the parenting plan that says religious upbringing is a joint decision. Father proves that no joint decision was made and that Mother ignored the parenting plan. Father argues that four months of church attendance and teachings constitutes religious upbringing over mere recreational attendance. Court says that its ok to take child to church regardless of joint decision making citing "day to day decision of parent in custody at the time" and upbringing prior to divorce. Seems like a flaw in the plan. Why make a plan with no teeth? Is this legal?

A:  Jacqueline’s answer: You have an excellent point. This is an example of the overlap of "day-to-day decision-making" and "religious upbringing." The judge ruled that this falls under day-to-day decision-making and that is a valid and legal ruling. If the judge had ruled the other way - that this falls under religious upbringing - then the farthest the judge would go with the ruling would be to require that you two make the decision between yourselves. The judge will NOT make the decision on whether or not a child is allowed to go to church (nor do we want judges making those decisions). The silver lining for you is that, under day-to-day decision-making, you are free to expose your child to your own religious beliefs.

Q:  Visitation rights for my son?  I currently live in Washington and the mother of my son, has out of no where taken him to Hawaii. We haven't established any visitation plans but I would like to know if it is still possible. My son is 10 months old and he left to HI last month. The mother will not let me speak or see him. Please help me. I really miss my son.

A:  Jacqueline's Answer:   You need to hire an attorney in Washington to help you file a petition to establish a parenting plan. Time is of the essence because, once the child has been in Hawaii for six consecutive months, Washington may no longer have jurisdiction over the child.

Q:  Should a 16 y/o be able to choose where they want to live and what school they go to?  We've had 50-50 custody for 10 years. Child now wants to go to school 25 miles away where my ex moved to last year.

A:  Jacqueline's Answer:   DOES a 16 yr old get to choose and SHOULD a 16 yr old get to choose are two different questions. Until your child is 18, his or her desires are extremely unlikely to be considered by a court. You and your ex are free to come to an agreement on your own and YOU may consider the child's wishes, but a court will not.

Q:  I think I need a modification on my custody, but I want to make sure it shouldn't be something different.  I have joint legal custody with my ex, I am the custodian parent. He has visitation every other Sunday and Wednesdays. He was in a bar fight last summer and is now legally blind, has an anoxic brain injury and has been determined disabled. His current wife and I were having my daughter visit her dad only when his wife could be there. I am now being threatened by her that I have to abide strictly by the parenting plan and allow visitation even if she is not home. I am told they will have 'friends' come over. I would like to make it so a responsible adult has to be present for her visitation, that he is not alone with her. My daughter is 9. Can this be done?

A:  Jacqueline's Answer:   It sounds like you probably have a good basis to ask for a minor modification of your parenting plan. It would be ideal if you could have an attorney help you to navigate the process and the standards.

Q:  What is the next step when someone is served with court papers about modifying a parenting plan (Wa)? Can we "counter"?  My fiance has his 13 yo son living with us full time and his 16 yo daughter lives ft with her mom sans every other weekend when both kids visit one parent or the other. Everything was amicable between my fiance and his ex. Then out of the blue he was served.

A:  Jacqueline's Answer:   Your fiance does not necessarily have to file a counter petition. He can simply respond to the petition he was served with and include his own proposed parenting plan or residential schedule. Usually one has 20 days to respond to a petition, but if there are temporary order involved, it is quite possible that you will only have a matter of days to respond. An attorney would be very helpful in this situation.

Q: Snohomish County: Final Parenting Plan, Credits and Divorce. We came to an agreement on all documents. My ex and I finally came to an agreement on the final documents and want to skip mediation. We have no court date. How do we get them finalized? The only thing we need a judge to order is child support and deviations. What type of court date do i need to get set up. How do we show the judge we agree on the documents and credits? I am just glad after 6 years we can come an agreement and not go to trial or mediation. What paper work does the judge need for final child support so that all the credits are listed in side it. Which we have agreed on. We just need the judge to order paid amount and deviation for my other two children I support. We have agreed on everything but the child support payment. Doesn't a judge have to order that and any deviations? Everything else is done except the deviations. My ex will not allow me to support my other two children. I thought a judge had to award that since it is money and payments.

A:  Jacqueline's Answer:   The type of court date you would need is called a presentment date. It is where you present the final orders to the assigned judge for his/her signature. You will need your Decree of Dissolution, Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, Final Parenting Plan, Final Child Support Order,and Child Support Worksheet. Some judges may also require a verification. Fill these documents out and both parties sign them, then present them at the presentment hearing. You could also check and see if your county has a special docket where you can just show up and present agreed orders.

Q: Major modification parenting plan pretrial with GAL involved. I have a pretrial soon. Ex is trying to change the PP so I only see my son twice a month for 6 hours based on allegations of emotional abuse. At the show cause hearing the commissioner ordered a GAL. I could not afford his services. I cannot afford an attorney. GAL interviewed everyone, except me. They made me out to be a horrible person. GAL stated that I "declined to participate" though I made it clear that I wanted nothing more, but I was not financially able too. I am Par Se but do not have the time to devote to learning how to navigate the legal system and all of its requirements, as I have other stressors in my life of the same magnitude. Am I facing a potential contempt? At this point is there a way to negotiate out if the other party really doesn't want a trial either?

A:  Jacqueline's Answer:   You really need an attorney helping you, but if that is not feasible, then one of the first things you should do is file a motion with the court asking that your portion of the GAL fees be at county expense. This may be granted if you qualify financially. You may need some help with this, so see if there is a family court administrator in your county that can meet with you to give you some procedural guidance. And, yes, there is a way to negotiate an agreement and avoid a trial. This can be done through mediation with a qualified mediator, or through a "parenting conference" with the GAL. Best of luck. 

Q:  What do I do for a final parenting plan after relocation hearing?  I was recently in a relocation battle where the other party was trying to relocate with the child, that was denied. Now the judge wants me to make the finalized papers so he can sign them (I'm assuming the new parenting plan). So I was wondering exactly what I need to do/how do I fill out the parenting plan. Would I make myself the petitioner this time since I was the respondent when I received the relocation papers.

A:  Jacqueline's Answer:   The petitioner and respondent do not change, even though the way the parties are postured does sometimes change. If you are uncomfortable drafting the final orders, there are attorneys that will help you with the drafting, without the cost of full representation. 

Q: Right of First Refusal and daycare provision in Final Order Parenting Plan.  My Final Order gives both parents right of first refusal. My attorney went back for clarification: the judge defined daycare as "paid daycare only" and because my ex isn't "paying" people to watch our daughter the right of first refusal doesn't exist. I never had a chance to question or argue these issues at trial. They were only mentioned and I was extremely misinformed of their true meanings held by the court. I refused to sign the Final Order because I disagreed 100%. My attorney told me that because the judge signed the order I had no choice and if I didn't sign I could be held accountable (for what?). My attorney resigned, and I don't have the funds to hire another. He will never pay anyone to watch our daughter. How can I get right of first refusal in this situation?

A:  Jacqueline's Answer:   It sounds like the existing order specifies that each party has right of first refusal for paid daycare only. You might file a petition for modification of this term, to give a broader definition of "daycare" to include daycare that is unpaid.

Q: An unwed couple have a child the mother let the father get the child every weekend now he want let her get her child.: on 2-12-2015 the police went to the father house for putting his hand on the mother cause she want her child but she have custody for the child what can she do

Asked about 6 hours ago in Child Custody

A: Jacqueline’s answer: It it's unclear from the question whether or not this couple has a parenting plan that is signed by a judge. If they do not, then it is very important that they get an official parenting plan that is signed by a judge and is enforceable. If they already have such a plan, then either parent can be held in contempt for violating the terms of the plan.