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Know your options.

What should I do to prepare for court?

It is always important to keep excellent records, regardless of what type of case you are dealing with. In a family law matter, you want to ensure you keep good financial records, as well as keep track of the time you spend with your children and what responsibilities you take on. In a criminal matter, you want to keep records of anything that has to do with the charge and the day it happened. You’ll also want to keep a list of anything you’ve done to be proactive since that time, such as getting an alcohol/drug evaluation in the case of a DUI.

What should I expect at court?

Cases are rarely settled in one hearing. When you have a family law case, you will often have temporary orders that can last until you come to a settlement or go to trial. When you are facing a criminal charge, your attorney may need to gather evidence in order to negotiate with the prosecutor and/or prove your case. In that case, you may have multiple hearings that get continued before you resolve your matter. It is important to stay in touch with your attorney throughout your case in order to keep them up to date on any steps you have taken or any new developments, but also to make sure you are informed and educated about your options. Often times, a party’s involvement in their case can make all of the difference.

What can I expect at mediation?

Mediation is the opportunity for you and the other person to come together with a neutral third party who will attempt to help guide you towards an agreement. In the majority of family law cases, mediation is required prior to going to trial, unless there is a history of domestic violence. It is advisable to take your attorney with you to mediation, though it is not mandatory. You and the other party may be in the same room or separate rooms in which the case the mediator will go between the two of you to gather information. Typically, both parties will need to concede on some points in order to come to an agreement. If a final agreement is not reached, the parties will need to have subsequent hearings or proceed to trial.

How does the court determine who gets custody of the children?

There are many factors that go into a court’s ruling on a final parenting plan. However, the primary focus is always the best interest of the child. Per RCW 26.09.187: 

(a) The court shall make residential provisions for each child which encourage each parent to maintain a loving, stable, and nurturing relationship with the child, consistent with the child’s developmental level and the family’s social and economic circumstances. The child’s residential schedule shall be consistent with RCW 26.09.191. Where the limitations of RCW 26.09.191 are not dispositive of the child’s residential schedule, the court shall consider the following factors:
(i) The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent;
(ii) The agreements of the parties, provided they were entered into knowingly and voluntarily;
(iii) Each parent’s past and potential for future performance of parenting functions as defined in *RCW 26.09.004(3), including whether a parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child;
(iv) The emotional needs and developmental level of the child;
(v) The child’s relationship with siblings and with other significant adults, as well as the child’s involvement with his or her physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities;
(vi) The wishes of the parents and the wishes of a child who is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to his or her residential schedule; and
(vii) Each parent’s employment schedule, and shall make accommodations consistent with those schedules.
Factor (i) shall be given the greatest weight.

While navigating this process can be overwhelming, a skilled family law attorney can assist you in achieving the best possible outcome. You can assist in the outcome of your case by being proactive in actively supporting your child’s needs, keeping good records, and making your best effort to positively coparent with the other party.

How is child support determined?

Child support is determined by calculations set forth by statute. It factors in the net income of the parties, both individually and together. The calculation may also include a credit for a parent that has the children 90 nights or more per year or a deviation for additional children in the household from other relationships. In general, the parent that has the children the majority of the time is the one that receives the support. However, that is not to say that child support is not ordered in cases where custody is shared equally – it often is.

You can use the Washington State Child Support Schedule Worksheet Calculator to gain a sense of what your support payments may be. In many cases, determining a party’s net income is not always black and white. Likewise credits and deviations are not guaranteed. If you find yourself in a situation where child support needs to be determined or modified, you will want to consult with a qualified attorney to maximize your chances of achieving your desired outcome.

What are the chances of me getting the maximum sentence on a criminal charge if I am found guilty?

The maximum sentence on a misdemeanor in Washington State is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. On a gross misdemeanor, the maximum sentence jumps considerably to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. While it is rare that you will receive the maximum sentence, the range of sentences received for the same criminal charges vary substantially. 

The majority of misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors do not have minimum sentences. The most notable exception to this are DUIs. Not only do DUIs have minimum sentences (which you will be ordered to comply with if you plead or are found guilty),  DUIs “stack” meaning the minimum sentence you receive increases on each subsequent offense. Unfortunately, just because a crime carries a minimum sentence, it does not mean that you cannot be sentenced to more time, fines, or conditions.

Whether or not you are facing a charge with a minimum sentence, in order to have your rights protected, it is critical to have an experienced local attorney represent you when you are facing criminal charges.


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