Family LawAt Burleson Law, PLLC, Jeff offers consultations on his family law matters. Once retained, Burleson Law, PLLC operates on an hourly fee arrangement. This arrangement will be thoroughly explained during the initial consultation.
Litigation in a family law matter can be one of the most stressful and emotional situations of your life. Like any other life transition, a divorce or legal separation can be a difficult, complicated process. The decisions you make will have long lasting implications for you and your family. You want to achieve the best result as possible so you can rediscover your own happiness, realize new opportunities, and give your children the healthier environment that they deserve. To do this, you need a person who has the legal ability to successfully pursue your goals.
Also, family law is more than just divorce law. The field of family law actually covers so much more. It includes planning before marriage such as prenuptial agreements, modifications, and child custody issues.
You are more than welcome to contact Burleson Law PLLC to discuss these issues. Even if you don’t plan on doing anything now, it does not hurt to talk so you may plan for the future. At the least we can discuss options for you so if someday you want to take action, we can hit the ground running.
At Burleson Law PLLC, Jeff Burleson has the expertise to guide you through the family court legal system. Jeff previously litigated family law cases with a leading Pacific Northwest family law firm. Types of family law cases ranged from high asset to low asset cases and everything in between. No matter what type of case you have, Jeff will give each case the same attention to detail and commitment to a fair outcome.
Jeff has years of experience providing quality family law work. With an office in Silverdale, he serves the Kitsap Peninsula and all surrounding areas. Jeff focuses on all aspects of family law including:
- Dissolution of marriage
- Domestic partnerships
- Child custody
- Parenting plans
- Military issues
- Modifications of existing orders
- Non-parental custody
- Child support
In Washington, the legal proceeding for a divorce is called a dissolution of marriage. The divorce process will eventually settle issues such as asset and debt division, child visitation, child support, and spousal maintenance (alimony).
At Burleson Law, PLLC, we know litigating a divorce can be very stressful and emotional. Attorney Jeff Burleson’s goal in your case is to make it less stressful and emotional. However, at the same time, Jeff will make sure you get the best result as possible. Your life can move on when this happens. Burleson Law, PLLC has the expertise to do this.
Common Divorce Questions
What is dissolution of marriage?
A dissolution of marriage is a divorce and legally ends the marriage. One or both spouses can file for divorce if a marriage falls apart. Washington is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce. This means a spouse does not have to prove some type of wrongdoing (such as adultery or cruelty) to get divorced. Instead, the legal term used is “irretrievably broken” to describe a failed marriage. A marriage is “irretrievably broken” if one of the spouses says it is. The other spouse does not have to agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken in order for one spouse to file for a divorce.
What is the divorce process?
- One spouse (called the “petitioner”) must file with the court a summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. These documents are filed in the County Clerk’s office. These documents must be served on the other spouse (known as the “respondent”). This process is called service of process and proves to the court that the respondent has received the legal documents.
- Once the respondent receives the petition and summons, he or she must file a response to the petition for dissolution within a certain period of time. Depending on the circumstances, the respondent has between 20 to 60 days to file the response. It is important that a response be filed. If no response is filed, the court may order a default judgment or default divorce. This means the court may grant the divorce and may grant the petitioner’s requests contained in the Petition for Dissolution without your say or input. This is why it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible if you receive a Petition for Dissolution from the other spouse.
- The parties then may file motions for temporary court orders. This is not done in every case. Typically, temporary orders addresses temporary children visitation, child support, occupancy of family home, spousal maintenance, payment of certain bills such as the mortgage. The judge will decide these issues after a hearing.
- The parties will conduct discovery in the case. Requests may be sent to the other spouse to provide certain documents such as bank statement, retirement statements or other financial documents. Interrogatories may also be sent which request the other spouse to answer questions regarding assets and debts, income sources and other related items. There are other discovery tools and techniques available. We can discuss those options.
- The parties attempt to resolve the major issues in the case. Settlement is attempted through negotiation. Other options include mediation with a mediator present. This often times is a more cost effective way to settle a case. However, it may not work in every case.
- If the parties cannot reach an agreement. The parties will attend a settlement conference with a judge. The contested issues will be discussed and potential suggestions could be made by the judge in an attempt to settle the case.
- Finally, if there is a settlement, the divorce is finalized. All of the issues, such as property division and arrangements for children, must be settled in order to finish a case. The court will review the settlement agreement. If the court signs the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, the divorce is finalized and the marriage is ended.
On the other hand, if settlement cannot be achieved, the case will be set for trial. Witnesses can be called to the witness stand and documents may be entered into evidence. The judge will then decide the contested issues such as property division, child visitation, child support and spousal maintenance. Before any action is taken, attorney Jeff Burleson will discuss all options with you.
This is a general road map for a typical divorce case. Every case is different. So it is important to discuss your case with Jeff Burleson. Click here to Contact Jeff.
How long does the divorce process last?
The waiting period to finalize a divorce in Washington is 90 days. The 90 days starts when the Petition is filed and served upon the other spouse. This is the minimum period of time. However, the process can last longer than 90 days especially if the parties cannot reach an agreement. Every case is different. Attorney Jeff Burleson will always try to resolve your case in the most cost effective manner as possible.
Is there an alternative to going to trial?
One alternative is to reach a settlement agreement. If you and your spouse can decide most of the issues in the divorce, it can make the process shorter and less expensive. Another option is mediation. A mediator is a person who is trained to help people reach agreements that satisfactorily resolve issues between them. Some people agree to mediate some issues of their case even if they cannot resolve all issues. For example, they may agree to mediate issues concerning their children, but the property issues have legal aspects which cannot satisfactorily be resolved in mediation. A mediator may be a desirable alternative in many cases. Please feel free to discuss mediation with me.
How are property and assets divided?
Washington law requires that property be divided justly and equitably. This does not necessarily mean 50/50. First, the court will need to identify all property including whether it is community or separate property, and its value.
Washington is a community property state. Community Property is property acquired by spouses during their marriage. It is presumed that all property acquired during the marriage is community property. Usually, each spouse is entitled to ½ of the community property.
Separate property is property that one brings into the marriage. It can also include property acquired during marriage if it was a gift or inheritance to one spouse.
The general rule is that all community property must be divided between the spouses at divorce, and separate property remains entirely with the spouse it originally belonged. In Washington, however, the court may still consider separate property in the property division when determining whether the division is just and equitable.
There can be quite a bit of dispute whether certain property is separate or community. There can also be dispute as to value of certain property. Attorney Jeff Burleson will use his expertise to make sure your case gets a just and equitable result.
How are debts divided?
The division of debt is treated very much like assets. Debts must be identified, valued, and classified. However, it is important to note that creditors are not parties to your divorce. If both you and your spouse signed for the debt, the creditor may collect from either of you regardless of whom the court orders to pay the debt.
Will spousal maintenance (alimony) be ordered?
Spousal maintenance is not ordered in every case. There is no guarantee or right to spousal support. The decision to award spousal support depends on the need and ability of the other party to pay. The court will look at a few factors including but not limited to length of marriage, income potential of spouse, standard of living and employment and educational rehabilitation opportunities.
Who will get custody of my children?
The terms “child custody” and “visitation” are no longer used in Washington dissolution law. Instead, the parents by agreement (or the court in the event of a dispute) must develop a parenting plan. The parenting plan determines when the child or children will have visitation with a parent. It also addresses decision making of the parents concerning education and religious upbringing of the child or children. The court will employ the “best interest of the child” standard when evaluating a parenting plan.
How is child support determined?
Both parents are legally obligated to support their children; they are also required to support stepchildren residing with them until the marriage is dissolved. This means that the parent who is not actually taking care of the children is required to pay a reasonable amount to the other parent for their support. The court will make an order of support for the children based on the Washington State Child Support Schedule formula. The formula includes factors such as the gross income of the parents, the cost of healthcare and childcare and the number of children.
Marriage Planning and Prenuptial Agreements
What is a prenuptial agreement?
A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into by two people before their marriage. They decide how their property will be divided if they get a divorce, legal separation, or annulment, or when one of them dies. The contract contains all of these agreements. Sometimes couples wait until they are married to make these agreements – then the contract is a “marital agreement.”
What makes the agreement enforceable?
In general, a prenuptial or marital agreement is more likely to be enforced by a court if the contract is fair and if both spouses are honest and clear about their finances, including salary, other income, possessions and property, and debts. Sometimes a couple will not follow the agreement while they are married, and this can make the agreement unenforceable. A properly drafted agreement requires an open and frank talk between future spouses about assets and goals.
Do you need an attorney to make these kinds of agreements?
Prenuptial and marital agreements are very complicated and are often not enforced by a court if they are not carefully written. Jeff can help make sure an agreement will be enforced. It is a good idea for both of you to have independent legal advice (that means different attorneys for you and your spouse or intended spouse) and help drafting such a contract.