Law Office of Robert N. Getz, P.S.
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Robert N. Getz

Everett Legal Issues Blog

What you can do to prepare for mediation

If you want to keep your divorce out of court and civil, there is a way for you to do that. Couples in Washington are typically required to utilize mediation to settle disputes and come to agreeable dissolution terms. This alternative dispute resolution method can work for most couples who are going through the divorce process. It may work for you if you take the time to prepare for it.

When it comes to divorce, winging it is not the best approach. You cannot achieve a settlement that is fair for you if you do not know what to ask for or what you are entitled to. You may also find the mediation process confusing and stressful if you do not know what to expect.

Not all divorce options are created equal

Washington residents who are getting ready to officially end their marriages may have questions about the best way to go about it. There are several divorce options available, but not all are created equal. Which is best?

There is not one right way to divorce. Every case has unique issues, so what works for one couple may not work for another. When looking up divorce options online, there are four that tend to pop up -- outside of litigation. Those four are:

  • Lawyer-driven
  • Mediation
  • DIY
  • Online filing

Washington probate: Need assistance with TEDRA mediation?

Did you recently lose a loved one? Has the probate process come to a standstill due to disputes about how his or her estate should be distributed? Are you worried that this means drawn-out court proceedings will be in your future? In the state of Washington, it may be possible to avoid litigation entirely by requesting the disputes be resolved through the mediation process.

The Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act, which has been in effect for just over 19 years now, allows you to skip litigation when you have a probate dispute that needs to be resolved. TEDRA can be used to tackle a wide range of disputes, such as questions regarding will validity or existence, claims of undue influence, third-party claims and concerns regarding beneficiary designations -- among various others. If you wish to utilize TEDRA, you have to file an official petition in court, then the real work can begin.

Is your child custody agreement not working anymore?

When you got divorced, you and your former spouse entered into a child custody agreement that you felt would work well for your family. However, like other Washington families in your situation, you realize that plan no longer works.

Perhaps the parenting plan you agreed to worked well for a toddler or young school-age child, but now that he or she is older, you need to change the plan to better accommodate an older child. Maybe you or the other parent changed jobs and working now interferes with parenting time. While these are certainly reasons to review and reconsider your existing agreement, there are other circumstances commonly seen in courtrooms.

When creating a parenting plan, the specifics matter

In the state of Washington when a couple with children divorces, a custody plan has to be created. Shared custody is the arrangement of choice, though, there are cases where sole custody with or without noncustodial parent visitation rights is appropriate. When shared custody or visitation is on the table, it is necessary to come up with a parenting plan for how the family schedule will work. In doing so, remember that the specifics matter.

If shared custody or visitation is in your future, you may feel satisfied with a parenting plan that just states who gets the kids which days of the week or for how long on visitation days. You may think you can work the rest out later. There may be a select few former couples who can make this type of arrangement work. Most, though, will run into problems if they fail to be very specific in how certain issues will be handled.

Even if you just got married, make sure you are ready for divorce

Who plans for marriage and marital dissolution at the same time? Some Washington residents do, but there should be more. Why? While no one wants to think about their marriage ending in divorce, the truth is a lot of them do. If one is not prepared for it, the financial fallout one might experience could be significant.

According to a recently published article, the average age that women get divorced for the first time is 30. At 30, some people are already established in their careers, and they may have one or more children, a house and a number of other assets to their names. Washington is a community property state, which means marital assets will be split 50/50. The only way that may be avoided is if a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is in place. Even then, the terms of such a contract need to be fair.

Protecting your kids with a trust

Estate planning is not necessarily easy. There are a lot of estate planning products out there, some of which may prove useful to one's situation and others that will not. Many Washington residents have heard about trusts, but many are confused about whether they need one. The truth is, not everyone needs to set up a trust, but for those with children, young or old, it is a great way to ensure their kids get the assets intended for them.

When a person has minor children living at home, there is a need to make sure, in the event of one's death or incapacitation, that those children will be properly cared for. In a will, it is possible to name a guardian to take care of the kids, it is also possible to designate beneficiaries and provide instructions about how assets are to be used to raise the children and then passed on to them when they reach adulthood. The problem with leaving all of this information in just a will is that all assets then become fair game if creditors make claims or legal claims are filed against one's estate. There may also be very little care paid to how the guardians use the funds meant for the kids in their care.

The Jolie-Pitts bring bifurcated divorce into the spotlight

Anything about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's marital dissolution makes headline news these days. Most recently, articles have been released, saying that the couple is filing for a bifurcated divorce. What does that mean, and is it an option for Washington residents?

A bifurcated divorce allows a couple to achieve single status without having a settlement agreement in place. This gives each party the opportunity to move on in their personal lives while taking their time to figure out issues such as property division, spousal support, child custody and child support. There are certain situations where this type of divorce just makes sense.

A parenting plan that works for every member of the family

Washington parents understand how important it is to help their children navigate the transitions and difficult emotions that arise when parents decide to end their marriage. The youngest members of the family often have the most difficult time with a divorce, but there are things you can do to make this an easier process for them. One way you can do this is by crafting a reasonable, sustainable parenting plan.

A parenting plan includes all of the details regarding how you and your spouse will raise the children after divorce. By crafting your plan through discussions, mutual cooperation and negotiations, you can avoid allowing a court to make these important decisions on your behalf. You can customize your plan to suit your individual needs and your goals for your post-divorce life.

Mediation may not be a good fit for you if?

The state of Washington would prefer divorcing couples to work out settlement agreements out of court if at all possible. Couples are generally required to attempt mediation before moving on to litigation. Mediation can prove extremely effective; however, if any of the following are issues in one's case, mediation may not be a good fit.

Issue number one: domestic violence. When one is trying to get away from an abusive spouse, sitting down to attempt to negotiate a divorce agreement is not likely to work. The dominating party will try to control the situation, leaving the abused party with a settlement that is not in his or her best interests. Having legal counsel negotiate or litigate a fair settlement is usually better when this is an issue.

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