Divorce & Family Law
An experienced and knowledgeable divorce attorney is essential in understanding the complexities of divorce proceedings.
Above all else, divorce cases are about the lives, relationships, and futures of all people involved.
Our lawyers understand the importance of protecting these elements in divorce cases, without compromising their commitment to providing aggressive and superior representation.
Overview: Family Law
Family law is the term that is applied to the laws and rules developed regarding family relationships. More than any other area of the law, family law reflects the values society shares regarding how people who are related should treat each other. Family law involves many areas of law, a sampling of which is provided below.
Dissolution of Marriage
A divorce is a method of terminating a marriage contract between two individuals. From a legal standpoint, a divorce will give each person the legal right to marry someone else, divide the couple’s assets and debts and determine the future care and custody of their children. While each state has individual statutes that address these issues differently, the basic principles the states follow when considering requests for divorce are relatively uniform.
Contemplating divorce can be difficult. Whether you are sure you want to end your marriage or are still considering your options, it helps to learn the basics of divorce law and procedures. Should you conclude that divorce is necessary, it is very important that you seek the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. Involving a knowledgeable family law attorney as soon as possible in the divorce process is one of the best ways to preserve your own long-term financial and emotional health.
Dissolution of Marriage: Military Personnel
Divorce and the military require a special knowledge of laws not applicable to civilian divorces. For example, federal legislation entitles active members of the armed forces to delay a divorce and to court-appointed counsel in certain circumstances. See the Service Members Civil Relief Act.
Military pensions like their civilian counterparts are divisible in the event of divorce, but are subject to different rules than the more common Qualified Domestic Relations Orders for private retirement accounts or Domestic Relations Orders for state and municipal pensions. See the US Code, Title 10, Chapter 71 – Computation of Retired Pay.
Alimony/maintenance and child support are also subject to special rules. Calculating income and collecting support can be more complicated because of regulations governing active or retired members of the military.
Familiarity with the definition of “disposable retirement income,” for example, is key to establishing support orders when dealing with retired military personnel. Federal law may also affect where the parties end up in court, so planning and strategizing require a thorough grasp of the special rules governing military divorce.
It is very important to choose a divorce lawyer familiar with military law and military divorce. Military couples will go through the same procedural process as civilians when divorcing. But they must also be aware that there are other factors that the typical civilian couple will not have to address, and which may prolong the process because of the very nature of one of the party’s military service, such as an active duty assignment in a remote area, or a permanent station overseas.
Often times, unique issues face a military family contemplating divorce. Our extensive experience working with military families allows us to educate our clients on how divorce will impact their military benefits such as pensions and survivor benefits.
Our experience also allows us to anticipate and handle these unique circumstances. In addition to the special implications for military families, divorce also presents issues such as child support, spousal maintenance, custody and visitation of the children, and the division of marital assets.
We work hard to ensure that the agreements into which our clients enter on these issues are realistic, while also ensuring that these agreements help our clients achieve their goals.
Adoption law is governed by the state in which the parent and child live. Adoption law requires adoption attorneys to establish a process by which a legal parent-child relationship is created between individuals not biologically parent and child (adoption process). The biological parent gives up all parental rights and obligations, and these rights and obligations are assumed by the adoptive parents.
Each parent has a duty to support their child for so long as the child remains dependent. A child is dependent if the child is under 18. A child over 18 may be dependent if the child is in high school or the child is physically or mentally disabled. Sometimes a child over age 18 is still dependent if he or she is enrolled in vocational school or college.
The Order of Child Support sets out the amount of support to be paid, the person who is to pay it, how the payments are to be made and when the payments are due. Child support may extend to post-secondary education and may be required to be paid by a step-parent in certain circumstances.
Long Term and Substantial Asset Marriages
Harrington Law Office, PLLC focuses extensively in this specialty area. Long-term marriages generally involve division of pensions, IRA’s, and other types of retirements. We regularly draft Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO’s), and court orders to divide military pensions pursuant to DFAS guidelines. We also have experience with state and federal agency pensions, FERS, PERS 1, PERS 2, & PERS 3, Firefighter and Police pensions, and a multitude of other industries’ and pensions and private retirement portfolios.
These cases may also need to address (defend or seek) spousal maintenance, valuations of real property and personal property, and division of these assets. Long term marriages also have unique issues regarding healthcare coverage, social security benefits, and medical or disability issues that affect the ability to work or provide for oneself.
Substantial assets cases have their own set of complex and unique issues to be resolved through the dissolution process. Although many of the issues of a long-term marriage will be triggered in high asset divorces, there are still many issues where we have specialized expertise to assist you through the process to achieve your desired result.
We have extensive experience with business evaluations and valuations, appraisal services for businesses, unique or unusual asset appraisal, commercial property appraisal, and the unique issues facing spouses who own or are managing members of corporations. We also utilize outside professionals for forensic accounting, future earnings and net worth analysis, retained earnings analysis, loans to and from closely held corporations, and many other issues unique to high assets dissolutions.
Establishing paternity is the critical first step in collecting child support and exercising visitation rights. When legal paternity is established, a child has the right to the father’s Social Security or veteran’s benefits, medical coverage, pensions and inheritance. Additionally, the parent has a right to a relationship with their child in most circumstances. Also, the medical genetic information of both parents is available for the child if needed for diagnosis and treatment of medical problems.
Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin use the community property system to distribute marital assets between divorcing spouses.
In a proceeding for dissolution in Washington the court shall, without regard to marital misconduct, make such disposition of the property and the liabilities of the parties, either community or separate, as shall appear just and equitable after considering all relevant factors including, but not limited to: (1) The nature and extent of the community property; (2) The nature and extent of the separate property; (3) The duration of the marriage; and (4) The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to a spouse with whom the children reside the majority of the time.
The typical divorce involves a union of many years with considerable marital property, both personal property and real estate, children, family businesses, large or concealed debts, trust funds, real estate in other states, joint and separate accounts, investments, insurance, pensions, and other assets. In these complex situations, the parties often cannot divide their property on their own and therefore may require court involvement for its ultimate division.
Spousal Support / Alimony / Maintenance
Spousal Support may be ordered for either spouse in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct. Typically spousal support is paid in periodic installments (weekly or monthly, for example) for a certain length of time or until the death of one of the spouses or the remarriage of the recipient. Spousal support is not appropriate in many dissolutions and is awarded on a case-by-case basis.
Visitation / Parenting Plan
A parenting plan is a document that outlines the parenting schedule and can include each parent’s responsibilities in raising their child. A parenting plan can be lengthy and detailed or it can be brief and simple. It should include a standard parenting schedule, which can delineate where the child will live during the week and weekends and who will be responsible for transporting the child to and from school and other activities on certain days.
Additionally, the parenting plan can address holidays, summer vacations, and how other special days during the year will be divided between the parents. Regardless of what is included in your parenting plan, it should be predictable, clear, and easy to understand. Further, the parenting plan should take into consideration the needs of the child and reflect his or her overall best interest. There is no one-size-fits-all parenting plan that works well for all families. Our experienced attorneys can help you formulate the best parenting plan for your child.