June is Pride Month! LGBT Family Law Expertise at Dellino Law Group

LGBT Family Law

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, making it a great opportunity to highlight issues surrounding LGBT Family Law.

Dellino Law Group ardently supports marriage and relationship equality. Regardless of sexual or gender orientation, we believe in each family’s right to exceptional legal representation.

LGBT family law continues to change rapidly, both federally and in Washington State. We are dedicated to remaining up-to-date and knowledgeable with the evolving nature of the law, and we are proud to serve the LGBT community throughout Seattle and Washington State. The following are just a few of our specialty areas:

*Child Custody for Same-Sex Parents:

Same-sex marriage became legal in Washington State in December 2012 and there are no legal differences between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. In the same vein, child custody considerations should be subject to the same laws for same-sex couples as for opposite-sex couples.

However, many same-sex couples with children have been together for many years prior to December 2012 and/or may not yet have chosen to legally marry. In cases where one partner is the legal parent of the child, custody issues may become challenging if a separation should arise. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the existing laws to potentially establish parental rights based on demonstrating the parent-child relationship and bond, despite legal or biological ties.

Other child custody issues or disputes may arise for same-sex parents as well. Our family law attorneys at Dellino Law Group understand the unique considerations involved when creating parenting plans for same-sex parents and are skilled and experienced in advocating for the rights of parents, regardless of sexual or gender orientation.

*Divorce for Same-Sex Couples:

Once again, same-sex marriage became legal in Washington State in December 2012 and there are no legal differences between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. This includes marriages entered into in Washington State as well as in any other state. The only way to dissolve a same-sex marriage in Washington State is through divorce proceedings, just the same as an opposite-sex marriage.

It is advised that you contact an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process of dissolving your marriage. At Dellino Law Group, we have worked with many same-sex couples in dissolving their marriages. We understand that even though the law and procedure may be the same as it is for opposite-sex couples, there could arise complex, unique issues, given that this is still fairly new territory in terms of case law. We are dedicated to helping you achieve the best possible outcome in your individual case.

*Domestic Partnerships:

In 2007, Washington State began allowing same-sex couples to register as domestic partners. Unless dissolved, all of the Washington State domestic partnerships were converted to marriages on June 30, 2014. If your domestic partnership was converted to marriage and you are now seeking divorce, there are special considerations you need to be aware of.

For questions or consult about dissolutions of domestic partnerships, conversion to marriage, or registration of domestic partnerships, please contact us.

*Committed Intimate Relationships:

In Washington State, “common law marriage” does not exist. However, Washington courts do recognize “committed intimate relationships. These relationships were formerly known as “meretricious relationships” and exist when an unmarried couple lives together for a significant period of time. In Washington State, these relationships have property rights similar to those had by married couples. It is critical that you know and understand the implications of living with an intimate partner in Washington so you can plan accordingly. Cohabitation laws apply to all couples meeting legal requirements for committed intimate relationships, including both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

Please see our blog post  for detailed information about committed intimate relationships including factors the court uses to determine this type of relationship, your rights, and important issues to consider.

*Adoptions:

Many gay and lesbian couples are uneasy about potentially facing discrimination when looking to adopt. Some states do have laws that are less welcoming and even outright discriminating, but Washington is not one of those states.

In Washington, same-sex couples have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. Any person who is legally competent and who is at least 18 years old may become an adoptive parent (RCW 26.33.140). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are qualified to adopt, regardless of whether they are single or married.

Same-sex couples can adopt jointly and can arrange second-parent adoptions as well. The NCLR(National Center for Lesbian Rights) defines second-parent adoption as a legal procedure that allows same-sex parents to adopt his or her partner’s biological or adoptive child without terminating the first parent’s legal status as a parent, regardless of whether they have a legally recognized relationship to the other parent. This is also known as a co-parent adoption.

Unfortunately, there is not yet an anti-discrimination law in place preventing birth parents from deciding against individuals or couples based on sexual or gender orientation. If you are a LGBT-identified individual or couple, finding the right adoption match may be challenging. It is advised that you work with an experienced attorney through this process. Our family law attorneys are very knowledgeable and experienced in the unique challenges LGBT individuals and couples face when seeking adoption. We are eager to work with you to achieve your goal of welcoming an adopted child into your family.

 *Legal Representation:

In addition to adoption, custody, and divorce expertise, we are equipped to manage the unique considerations for LGBT-identified individuals or couples who may be seeking

  • Estate Planning
  • Wills, trusts, and powers of attorney
  • Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreements
  • Property Division

Please contact us for a Free Consultation to discuss any and all LGBT Family Law issues.

 

Committed Intimate Relationships: What to know when you move in with a partner

*WA recognizes Committed Intimate Relationships & Not Common-Law Marriage

It is a common assumption that after living with an intimate partner for a long-time, you automatically end up in “common-law marriage”. You get all the economic and legal benefits of a marriage without the formal certificate and expensive party. Sounds great, right?

Wrong. It’s not so simple. Only a handful of states recognize common-law marriages, and Washington State is not one of them.

While there is no common-law marriage in Washington State, unmarried couples living together for a significant period of time may become recognized as “committed intimate relationships”.  These relationships were formerly known as “meretricious relationships and are often inaccurately referred to as common-law marriages.

Committed intimate relationships, including both opposite-sex and same-sex couples, have property rights similar to those had by married couples in Washington State. It is essential for you to know and understand the implications of living with an intimate partner in the state of Washington so you can be well informed and plan accordingly.

*How does the court determine a Committed Intimate Relationship?

There is not a specific set of criteria or a distinct formula used to determine if a relationship constitutes a committed intimate relationship. The courts use a number of different factors when making this determination. Some of these factors (among others) may include:

  • How long was the relationship?
  • Was cohabitation continuous?
  • What was the purpose of the relationship and the intentions of the parties involved?
  • Did you hold yourself out as a couple?
  • Was this an exclusive relationship?
  • Were you registered domestic partners?
  • Did you pool resources / Did you buy property together?
  • Were you on each other’s bank accounts or credit cards?
  • Were you names in each other’s wills?

Each case is evaluated individually, but generally a couple needs to have lived together for a minimum of 2-3 years and presented/held themselves out to be in a committed intimate relationship.

*Rights in Committed Intimate Relationships:

When an unmarried, cohabitating couple separates, if their relationship constitutes a committed intimate relationship as determined by the courts, their rights and responsibilities are similar to those of married couples. If a couple cannot negotiate and come to an agreement on their own, the court may need to get involved in making determinations.

The most common issues that arise include:

  • Determining division of debts and liabilities
  • Determining property ownership rights and division of assets
  • Determining child custody and child support

Generally, property acquired during the committed intimate relationship is presumed to be owned jointly by both parties. This will be divided in a way that is fair and equitable as determined by the court. The separate property of the parties is not subject to division.

*Some of the significant differences between rights in a Committed Intimate Relationships vs. a Marriage:

  • Couples do not receive the same tax benefits as married couples
  • There is no spousal support and no duty of maintenance when a couple separates. The court will get involved with the division of assets and liabilities only. The only exception to this is if a couple has a valid written contract in place that provides for support or maintenance.
  • Attorney fees cannot be awarded in these cases. Each individual will have to pay their own fees. Awarding attorney fees is limited to married couples RCW 26.09.140

*What can I do to protect myself?

If you are considering moving in with an intimate partner or currently live with a partner, and were unaware of the WA law on committed intimate relationships, you may be wondering what you can or should do with this information.

*Enter into a Cohabitation Agreement:

  • This allows you to make sure that you and your partner dictate the terms of what will happen if your relationship and cohabitation are to end, rather than leaving it in the hands of a court.
  • You may do this either at the onset of moving in or even after you already have.
  • You can set forth how property will be divided and protect yourself from allowing a partner to gain a share of your property in the event of a break-up.
  • Cohabitation agreements protect both parties and serve as insurance in the event that are questions or disagreements at the end of a relationship, when emotions often run high.

*Legal Representation

Whether you are entering into, are in the midst of, or are facing the end of a committed intimate relationship, we are here to help. Our experienced family law attorneys will help you navigate this complicated and emotional process objectively. We have the expertise, knowledge, and compassion to assist you effectively and collaboratively as you enter the next phase of your life. Please contact us for a Free Consultation.

Relocation with Children – Moving with Kids after a Divorce

If you are considering relocating with your child or have received notification of a proposed relocation from the other parent of your child, you need to know what to expect, what your rights and options are, and how to best proceed to protect the best interests of yourself and your children.

Washington law has a specific process and set of statutes that govern issues related to relocation with a child, including each party’s rights and responsibilities. This is also known as the Relocation Act (RCW 26.09.405-560).

*Proposing Relocation with Children:

For many different reasons, a parent may decide to move and relocate their child(ren) in the process of doing so. It may have to do with a job re-location or promotion, or it may be related to a divorce or separation and subsequent desire to move closer to extended family. For any reason, when the primary residential parent decides to move and relocate the children, the other parent has a right to be given notice of the proposed relocation and an opportunity to object. This is a legal requirement, regardless of whether you may believe the other parent is in agreement.

*Process of Notice and Objection:

If you are the primary residential parent and are intending to move and relocate the child(ren), you must give the other parent at least a 60 day notice. If you are given less than a 60 day notice of your move, for some unforeseen reason, you are required to give notice to the other parent within 5 days of becoming aware of it.

If your move is a far enough distance that it will disrupt the existing parenting plan, you must also file a proposed new parenting plan to replace the existing one.

The other parent has 30 days to file an objection with the court. The court clerk then sets a trial date, which could be 3-4 months out. There may be a preliminary hearing. If the other parent does not file an objection within 30 days, the relocation will be permitted. If they do file a timely objection, the primary residential parent may not relocate the children until there is a hearing held on the objection.

If the move is within the child’s current school district or if there is not yet any Parenting Plan or child custody court orders, the Relocation Act does not apply. (RCW 23.09.405)

*Legal Presumption and Opposition:

There is a presumption that a relocating primary residential (custodial) parent will be permitted to relocate the children unless the objecting parent can present evidence that outweighs this presumption.

The objecting parent must demonstrate that the detrimental effect of the relocation overcomes the benefit of the change to the child and the relocating person, based on these eleven statutory factors (RCW 26.09.520). The factors listed are not weighted and no inference is to be drawn from the order in which they are listed.

*Legal Representation:

This process can be emotionally charged, complicated, and extremely stressful. Whether you are proposing relocation or objecting to a relocation proposal, you will need to work closely with a knowledgeable family law attorney who will help you fight for the best interest of yourself and your child(ren).

Decisions you make early on in this process can strongly affect the outcome of your case, making it vital that you involve us as soon as possible. Our family law attorneys are experienced and well-equipped to help navigate your unique situation.

 

*Case Summary Example:

The following is a brief summary of one of our recent family law cases pertaining to relocation:

  • Description: Our client is a dedicated father who came to us after being served with a relocation notification from the other parent. The client was faced with having his child move to the other side of the state, taken out of his school, and away from regular time with his father. After thorough preparation in presenting our client’s case and after arguments and briefing of the issues, we were able to obtain a ruling from the court that our client would be better suited as the primary residential parent. The other parent’s relocation was denied. This was followed by establishing child support for our client from the other parent, given his new status as the primary parent.
  • Outcome:  Relocation was denied and our client became the primary residential parent. We were able to achieve the result that was in the best interest of the child and our client.

Ask the Difficult Questions Before you say “I Do”!

Some would say we are amid “Divorce Season”, with higher rates of divorce occurring January through March. We certainly see an influx this time of year.

When saying “I do”, most all couples hope for “happily ever after”. The truth is, however, more than half of American marriages end in divorce, despite everyone’s best intentions.

Dissolving a union that was meant to be forever is generally an emotionally painful process, and often quite expensive. We encourage you to do all that you can to increase the odds of your marriage going the distance.

This New York Times article discusses the need to have hard, honest conversations before heading to the altar. Build a stable foundation for your partnership. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions! Avoiding challenging conversations early-on in order to avoid potential conflict is not wise. Have the open dialogue now before it is too late!

The article suggests these 13 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married, with the goal of stimulating open and honest discussion with your partner and creating essential foundational building blocks on your road to forever:

  1. Did your family throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down when disagreements arose? It is important to discuss conflict resolution and how early experiences may or may not have impacted how you approach resolving conflict.
  2. Will we have children, and if we do, will you change the diapers? Couples should have a solid idea of where each other stand on the question of children, including whether to have children and parental roles.
  3. Will our experiences with our exes help or hinder us? Couples are often resistant to directly discussing their prior relationships. However, some discussion here may be important in order to come to a place of acceptance of each other’s pasts
  4. How important is religion? How will we celebrate religious holidays, if at all? Have early, honest discussions about this issue, especially when there are religious differences. If you are planning to have children, it is helpful to have a plan.
  5. Is my debt your debt? Would you be willing to bail me out? Understand where each other stand regarding financial independence. Come to an agreement about whether to combine finances or keep them separate, and how to go about doing this. Financial conflict is one of the leading causes of divorce. Have open and honest conversations early and develop a mutual understanding and plan.
  6. What’s the most you would be willing to spend on a car, a couch, shoes? Get on the same page about spending patterns, priorities, and expectations.
  7. Can you deal with my doing things without you? Discuss areas of life where you wish to maintain autonomy as well as expectations of privacy. Develop understandings about this early, in order to minimize tension later.
  8. Do we like each other’s parents? If you are lucky, you will get along swimmingly, but often the relationship with in-laws is quite challenging. This can be manageable if you and your partner are on the same page and can present a united front.
  9. How important is sex to you? Open the dialogue about sexual desires, expectations, and negotiation. Create a precedent for open discussion about sex with your partner.
  10. How far should we take flirting with other people? Is watching porn okay? It is recommended that you and your partner have agreements about behavior related to flirting, pornography, and monogamy. Attitudes and behavior may change with time and conversations may be ongoing.
  11. Do you know all the ways I say “I love you”? Learn each other’s “love languages”. Understand the expressions of love your partner most values.
  12. What do you admire about me, and what are your pet peeves? Consider how you will manage aspects of your partner that you find challenging in the long term.
  13. How do you see us 10 years from now? Develop a mutual understanding of your life and relationship goals.

 

Be aware of how the new tax law will impact your spousal maintenance

Tax season is underway and Americans have less than two months to file taxes for 2017.

For those who pay spousal maintenance to their former spouse all year long, filing taxes presents the opportunity to claim a tax deduction for these payments. This can often be quite significant!  This is the silver lining – but not for long. President Trump’s recently passed tax code imposes a substantial impact to those paying and receiving spousal maintenance.

What is spousal maintenance?

Upon divorce, it is not unusual for one spouse to ask for maintenance. Spousal maintenance is money paid by one spouse to another, separate from child support and meant to support the spouse in paying bills, upholding a certain lifestyle, or other reasons. Spousal maintenance is known in some states as “alimony” or “spousal support”.

Spousal maintenance is not mandatory in Washington State (unlike child support). The court will determine whether it is found to be just and equitable to order maintenance. This is up for some interpretation, with no specific rules governing what is just and equitable, but there are certain factors the court is likely to consider:

  • Whether the person seeking support can support him- or herself
  • Each party’s financial resources
  • The standard of living both parties are accustomed to
  • How long a couple was married
  • Each party’s age and earning capabilities
  • How much each party has contributed to the household over the course of the marriage

The court will consider these topics and more in determining whether or not spousal maintenance is granted. In general, short-term marriages tend to yield maintenance awards that are also short term, versus long-term marriages which are more likely to yield longer term awards. “Rehabilitative maintenance” is a time-limited award that is intended to afford one spouse the time to become financially independent.

How will the new tax law affect things?

This MarketWatch article details the way the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) impacts alimony, or spousal maintenance as termed in Washington State. Before TCJA, payments that met the tax-law definition of spousal maintenance could always be deducted by the payer for federal income tax purposes. On the other end, recipients of spousal maintenance always had to report the payments as taxable income.

The new TCJA changes this completely. Under TCJA, tax deductions are eliminated on spousal maintenance for all divorce decrees that occur after December 31, 2018. In addition, recipients of spousal maintenance required under agreements executed post-2018 will no longer have to include this as taxable income.

For spousal maintenance payments made under pre-2019 divorce or separation agreements, the old laws remain. Payers will continue to claim a tax deduction and recipients will continue to be required to report spousal maintenance as taxable income. As the article states, it will be “business as usual”. The article goes on to describe the requirements for spousal maintenance payments required by pre-2019 divorce agreements to qualify as tax deductible. Please refer to the article for details.

What now?

The new laws bring about a dramatic change for spousal maintenance payments required under divorce or separation agreements made on or after January 1, 2019 – and it may impact the way people are looking at their divorces in this calendar year.

If you are amid divorce or separation proceedings and expect to pay spousal maintenance, it may be to your advantage to have your agreement finalized and signed before the end of the year so you will fall under the old law and be able to claim tax deductions moving forward.

However, if you expect to be the recipient of payments, it may be wise to delay finalization of your agreement until after January 1, 2019. This would mean you would fall under the new law and your payments would not have to be included as taxable income.

Either way, the shift complicates things and you need experienced counsel to help guide and support you in this process.

Legal Representation

If you considering divorce or in the early stages of divorce proceedings, it is essential that you have strong legal representation on your side who will see your case through. If you are seeking spousal maintenance or if you are obligated to provide spousal maintenance, you will need skilled and experienced counsel who can advise you appropriately around the new tax law. Our family law attorneys at Dellino Law Group have extensive experience and expertise in this area.

Our attorneys will consult with you and advise you of your legal rights and obligations. We will support you in developing a sound understanding of how the new tax law may impact your spousal maintenance payments, and we will assist in determining the best path moving forward. Please contact our family law attorneys as soon as possible!

 

Surviving Valentine’s Day after Divorce or Separation

Valentine’s Day decorations have been rampant for over a month now. Reminders are everywhere of this holiday for celebrating love and romance. Sounds great, right? …..NOT for everyone…

If you are recently divorced or somewhere in the process of divorce or separation, this can be a particularly painful time of year. You might experience feelings of failure, increased stress, loneliness, or sadness anticipating this day that is all about love and happiness. You might be dreading Valentine’s Day!

We want to acknowledge that this may be a challenging time for some of our clients and many others out there. It is widely known that more than 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. While this is an unfortunate truth, at least there can be some comfort in knowing you are not alone.

If you are recently divorced or separated and feeling the sting of Valentine’s Day, please consider some of our strategies for making the most of it this year. Who knows? Maybe you can find some happiness and fulfillment afterall:

  1. *Treat yourself. Buy yourself a gift. Whether it is your favorite dessert, a new outfit, or something more extravagant, buy yourself something that brings you joy. Treat yourself to a feel-good day. Hit the spa, your favorite restaurant, go see a great movie, or stay in and watch a marathon of your favorite show. Love yourself and treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated. This is an important time to engage in self-care.
  2. *Give! Rather than focusing on not receiving gifts, choose to be a giver this year. Plan to give small, meaningful gifts to people that you care about. Show them your love! You may also consider giving your time through volunteer work. Giving is good for the soul.
  3. *Spend time with a friend. Plan to have lunch or a night out with a friend or a group of friends. Chances are you are not the only single person in your life. Get together with someone you enjoy and appreciate some good conversation.
  4. *Focus on the kids. If you have children, put your energy into making it a special day for them and showing them your love. Do something fun together and put focus on how Valentine’s Day is a day to show love to family. Focus on the other kinds of love in your life rather than on lost romantic love.
  5. *Be active. Use physical activity to release stress and tension. Go for a hike or a run. Find a yoga class. Ride your bike. Go dancing. Find something you can do alone or get a friend on board. Either way, doing something physical is a great way to release energy and endorphins on Valentine’s Day.
  6. *Laugh!  Whether with friends, with your children, or on your own, find humor and allow yourself laughter. Laughter is healing and reduces stress. Make this a priority.
  7. *Remember that you WILL survive. You made it through the December holidays and New Year’s and you will get through this too. Valentine’s Day is over-hyped anyway!

There is plenty of love to go around. Focus on showing love to your friends, your family, and most importantly to yourself!

Is Divorce your New Year’s Resolution?

As 2017 comes to an end, many are contemplating New Year’s resolutions. If nothing else, it is a time of reflection over the past year and a time to imagine what hopes and goals we have for the year ahead. Maybe you are planning to stop smoking, drink less, exercise more, eat healthier, or become more politically active. Most of us hope to make positive changes or do something that will better ourselves. This may involve re-evaluating our relationships and in some cases putting an end to an unhappy marriage.

Entering 2018, divorce is likely on the minds of many. People are reflecting upon their relationships as they reflect upon their lives. This is a common time for people to contemplate and ultimately pursue separation and divorce.

Trends in recent years have given January the less-than-endearing nickname “Divorce Month”, with January seeing more divorce inquiries than at any other time in the year. Others refer to January as the beginning of “Divorce Season”, as people are beginning to consider their options and divorce rates remain higher beginning in January and through March. Either way, there is a definite surge that occurs in January in the number of people seeking divorce advice and ultimately filing.

Why the divorce surge in January?

Here are some factors to consider:

Couples hold it together for the holidays:

  • Generally if one is making a divorce inquiry in January, they made the decision to do so before the holidays. Many times couples will choose to hold off proceeding with divorce until after the holidays to avoid making it unpleasant for children or other family members. This means January is prime time to announce and pursue divorce plans, once holiday festivities have completed.
  • In other cases, the stress and pressure of the holidays may be just enough to push struggling spouses over the edge. Holiday stress has the tendency to magnify and even exacerbate existing problems.

A fresh start in the New Year:

  • It is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts, reflections and resolutions. People who are unhappy in their marriages frequently use this time to decide to make significant changes. In some cases this may mean committing to doing things differently in the marriage, beginning couples counseling, etc. However, it is also common that unhappy spouses are ready for a blank slate. They may decide that their resolution for the coming year is to remove themselves from an unhappy or dysfunctional marriage, leading to increased divorce inquiries and filings.

Financial reasons:

  • For some couples, choosing to file for divorce in January is a calculated financial decision. They may want to avoid interference with joint tax filings from the previous year, to maintain the tax benefits of filing jointly one last time. There may be other strategic economic reasons to wait until the start of the new year to file, depending on the couple’s unique situation.

Legal Representation:

Divorce is complicated even when it’s not complicated. Dissolving a union that was meant to be forever is challenging and painful, and you should not try to tackle it alone. Contact an experienced family law attorney to represent and advise you appropriately. Our family law attorneys at Dellino Law Group are highly skilled and experienced in managing divorces on all parts of the conflict spectrum, from more simple dissolutions to very high conflict divorces. Our attorneys are well-versed in the sensitive nature of this topic area. We are prepared to help you navigate the process, offer sound legal advice and counsel, and ultimately reach a resolution. Please contact us for a Free Consultation.

How to help your children cope with divorce during the Holidays

The holidays are notoriously challenging for those undergoing stressful life changes, such as separation or divorce. Those enduring these experiences may endure amplified loneliness this time of year, while others are filled with holiday cheer.

The holiday season is often a particularly special time for children. Many kids wait with excitement and anticipation for the holidays, making it that much more difficult when divorce or separation is coloring the picture.

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson with Seattle Children’s Hospital spoke on King 5 News about how to support children who are affected by divorce or separation. According to Dr. Swanson, more than 1 million U.S. children experience divorce or separation of their parents each year. The holidays are especially challenging for these children, often bringing on a sense of intensified loss or confusion. Dr. Swanson highlights that many children’s behavior changes in the first year of separation, encouraging parents to be very aware and supportive. Toddlers may regress and school age children may struggle with school, sleep, or interpersonally.

Please review our 5 tips for divorced or separated parents to reduce stress and help your children cope:

  • Be aware that your children’s feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or confusion may be amplified during the first year of separation and during the holidays
  • Communicate honestly with your child. Encourage them to speak openly about how they feel and answer their questions.
  • Keep routines as unchanged as possible, in order to provide some stability and structure.
  • Utilize your child’s pediatrician as a resource for your child’s emotional and physical health, in response to this major life transition.
  • Provide reassurance for your children that they are not to blame.

If this is your first holiday season post-divorce or separation, please review these additional tips/suggestions for surviving this time of year with your children’s best interest in mind:

  • Decide ahead of time how holidays will be divided. Create a plan that is clear, balanced, and acts in the best interest of the children. Keep arrangements as clear-cut as possible to minimize confusion for the children and to avoid unnecessary conflict with the other parent.
  • Provide reassurance for your children that the holidays will be enjoyable even though they will be different this year. Allow your children to be part of the process of creating new holiday traditions.
  • Focus on making your children’s holidays cheerful, joyful, and bright, staying as present-focused as possible.
  • If you do not get to spend the holidays with your children this year, plan an earlier or later celebration. Be reassuring and do not make them feel guilty.

JUNE IS LGBT PRIDE MONTH! LGBT FAMILY LAW FOCUS AT DELLINO LAW GROUP

Celebrate Pride!

LGBT Family Law

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, making it a great opportunity to highlight issues surrounding LGBT Family Law.

Dellino Law Group fervently supports marriage and relationship equality. Regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, we believe in each family’s right to exceptional legal representation. LGBT family law continues to change rapidly, both federally and in Washington State. We are dedicated to remaining up-to-date and knowledgeable with the evolving nature of the law, and we are proud to serve the LGBT community throughout Seattle and Washington State. The following are just a few of our specialty areas:

Child Custody for Same-Sex Parents:

Same-sex marriage became legal in Washington State in December 2012 and there are no legal differences between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. Along the same vein, child custody considerations should be subject to the same laws for same-sex couples as for opposite-sex couples.

However, many same-sex couples with children have been together for many years prior to December 2012 and/or may not yet have chosen to legally marry. In cases where one partner is the legal parent of the child, custody issues may become challenging if a separation should arise. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the existing laws to potentially establish parental rights based on demonstrating the parent-child relationship and bond, despite legal or biological ties.

There are other child custody issues or disputes that may arise for same-sex parents as well. The family law attorneys at Dellino Law Group understand the unique considerations involved when creating parenting plans for same-sex parents and are skilled and experienced in advocating for the rights of parents, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Divorce for Same-Sex Couples:

Once again, since same-sex marriage became legal in Washington State in December 2012there are no legal differences between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. This includes marriages entered into in Washington State as well as in any other state. The only way to dissolve a same-sex marriage in Washington State is through divorce proceedings, just the same as an opposite-sex marriage.

It is advised that you contact an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process of dissolving your marriage. At Dellino Law Group, we have worked with many same-sex couples in dissolving their marriages. We understand that even though the law and procedure may be the same as it is for opposite-sex couples, there could arise complex, unique issues, given that this is still fairly new territory in terms of case law. We are dedicated to helping you achieve the best possible outcome in your individual case.

Domestic Partnerships:

In 2007, Washington State began allowing same-sex couples to register as domestic partners. Unless dissolved, all of the Washington State domestic partnerships were converted to marriages on June 30, 2014.

For questions or consult about dissolutions of domestic partnerships, conversion to marriage, or registration for domestic partnerships, please contact us for a Free Consultation.

Committed Intimate Relationships:

In Washington State, “common law marriage” does not exist. However, Washington courts do recognize “committed intimate relationships. These relationships were formerly known as “meretricious relationships” and exist when an unmarried couple lives together for a significant period of time. In Washington State, these relationships have property rights similar to those had by married couples. It is critical that you know and understand the implications of living with an intimate partner in Washington so you can plan accordingly. Cohabitation laws apply to all couples meeting legal requirements for committed intimate relationships, including both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

Please see our prior blog post for detailed information about committed intimate relationships, your rights, and important factors to consider.

Adoptions:

Many gay and lesbian couples are uneasy about potentially facing discrimination when looking to adopt. Some states do have laws that are less welcoming and even outright discriminating, but Washington is not one of those states. In Washington, same-sex couples have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. Any person who is legally competent and who is at least 18 years old may become an adoptive parent (RCW 26.33.140). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are qualified to adopt, regardless of whether they are single or married. Same-sex couples can adopt jointly and can arrange second-parent adoptions as well. The NCLR (National Center for Lesbian Rights) defines second-parent adoption as a legal procedure that allows same-sex parents to adopt his or her partner’s biological or adoptive child without terminating the first parent’s legal status as a parent, regardless of whether they have a legally recognized relationship to the other parent. This is also known as a co-parent adoption.

Unfortunately, there is not yet an anti-discrimination law in place preventing birth parents from deciding against individuals or couples based on sexual or gender orientation. If you are a LGBT-identified individual or couple, finding the right adoption match may be challenging. It is especially advised that you work with an experienced attorney through this process. Our family law attorneys are very knowledgeable and experienced in the unique challenges LGBT individuals and couples face when seeking adoption. We are eager to work with you to achieve your goal of welcoming an adopted child into your family.

Legal Representation:

In addition to adoption, custody, and divorce expertise, we are equipped to manage the unique considerations for LGBT-identified individuals or couples who may be seeking:

  • Estate Planning
  • Wills, trusts, and powers of attorney
  • Premarital Agreements
  • Property Division

Please contact us for a Free Consultation to discuss any and all LGBT Family Law issues.

I don’t think I am getting enough child support – what can I do?

If you are concerned that you are not receiving the appropriate amount of child support, we encourage you to:

  • Understand the basics about child support modification law
  • Assess whether anything has changed since the original order. This may include            your child’s needs or the financial status of one or both parents
  • Consult with an experienced family law attorney

 

Child Support Modifications

In Washington State, the law allows parents to petition for a child support modification to accommodate changes in circumstances. The primary Washington State child support modification statute is RCW 26.09.170.

A Washington State child support modification is the legal process by which an Order of Support is adjusted to reflect the current finances of both parents. It is very common that child support orders should require adjustments in order to keep up with the growing needs of the children and to accurately account for the changing circumstances of the parents.

Either parent may petition for a modification as long as the requirements of RCW 26.09.170 are met.

Child support orders that have been in place for less than a year may not be modified unless there is proof of a substantial change in circumstances that can be provided by the petitioner.

Examples of factors that may serve as the basis for a petition to modify a child support obligation include:

  • The age of the child(ren)
  • Changes in income of one or both parents
  • A child wishing to attend college after high school
  • Changes in residential schedule
  • Work-related daycare costs
  • Medical insurance costs
  • Extraordinary medical expenses
  • The number of children in the household

The statute provides for a review and potential adjustment of child support every two years. If 24 months have passed from the date of the entry of the child support order or since the last modification (whichever is latest), the order may be adjusted without a showing of substantially changed circumstances. The adjustment is based upon:

  • Changes in the income of the parents; or
  • Changes in the economic table or standards listed in RCW 26.19

 

Legal Representation

Our Family Law Attorneys are skilled and experienced in representing parents who are petitioning for child support modifications. We recognize that these cases can be complex and emotional for everyone involved and we urge you to call us to consult about your unique case. We will advise you about whether or not you have the substantial change of circumstances required to seek a child support modification. We will help obtain the outcome that is in the best interest of you and your children. Contact us today for a Free Consultation .

Contact Dellino Law Group

High caliber legal representation for DUI, Criminal Defense, Divorce, Family Law, Traffic Violations, Estate Planning, and Civil Litigation in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Federal Way, Kent, Redmond, Bremerton, Poulsbo, Lynnwood, Everett, Marysville, Bothell, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, Brier, Sammamish, Renton, Burien, Monroe, Issaquah, Lakewood, Puyallup, Port Orchard, and all of King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Kitsap County, and Thurston County.