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Karen Christina Skantze
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Karen Skantze’s Answers

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  • Can ex give unilateral permission to allow daughter to go on non-mandatory school field trip?

    My ex-wife is requesting that I pay half the expense for a school field trip that falls on her week, but says she does not need my permission to let our child go on the trip. Our child will miss other classes in school to attend this optional fie...

    Karen’s Answer

    All actions of the parties are measured against what the court orders in fact state. Issues about decision-making are to be resolved based on what the Parenting Plan Order provides under decision-making. Whether a party is to contribute to a particular expense is based on what the Order of Child Support states. Your post focuses on both the permission aspect under decision-making (parenting plan) and also whether you have to share the expense (order of child support). It will be difficult for any attorney to give you a spot-on answer without having examined the Orders entered in your case. The following are my general observations:

    Parenting Plan issue:

    Each parenting plan under paragraph 4.1 states “Each parent shall make decisions regarding the day-to-day care and control of each child while the child is residing with that parent. Regardless of the allocation of decision making in this parenting plan, either parent may make emergency decisions affecting the health or safety of the children.” Paragraph 4.2 addresses major decisions and whether decision-making is solely to one parent or joint. If education is listed as joint decision-making, then both of you have to make the decision about what is best for the education of your child(ren). Then comes the question about whether the field trip is a major decision let alone educational or whether it is really a decision over extracurricular activities, which could also be listed under paragraph 4.2 of your parenting plan.

    You may want to take a look at your Order, and if dispute resolution is a requirement within your parenting plan you may want to request mediation to resolve the dispute, following all the instructions stated in your parenting plan about how to give notice. The other option is contempt, but I have found that the courts are more apt of find the other party in contempt over the residential provision rather than any other aspect of the parenting plan. If the child is struggling in school, grades are low, and she will miss important classes, you will want to point out this information in any court action you pursue with proof in the form of progress reports/grade reports.

    Child Support Issue:

    Whether you are required to share a specific expense at a particular proportion is based on what your Order of Child Support states. You should consult paragraph 3.15 of your Order of Child Support. If the field trip is considered an education expense and if the Order does not state the parties must be in agreement about the particular expense before the obligation to share the expense exists, then the expense must be shared. If it does include a condition that the parties must agree, then you may not have to pay the expense. If the court considers this expense to be more under the category of an extracurricular expense, then the issue becomes whether extracurricular expenses are listed under paragraph 3.15. If extracurricular expenses are listed, then just as with educational expenses, the next inquiry is whether the obligation exists outright or only if the particular activity is agreed to by the parties.

    One of the most common drafting oversights is not to include “by agreement” for any expense category listed under paragraph 3.15 of the Order of Child Support that is also a category of joint decision-making under paragraph 4.2 of the Parenting Plan Order.

    I encourage you to schedule a consultation with an attorney and to bring your paperwork to the consultation appointment, so you can receive on-point advice and recommendations.

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  • Does being convicted for assult4 effect custody of minors?

    My husband waiting for prosecution for assult4 against me.If he gets convicted,can he still get for joint custody?Also he is on disability(mental& physical).

    Karen’s Answer

    All custody determinations are centered on the best interests of the child. Most criminal and civil no-contact orders or protections orders state that residential time with child(ren) is subject to a dissolution, paternity, or other legal proceeding. This is so the issues surrounding the incident of abuse can be better understood in the context of parenting plan issues, which a family law case will have the capacity to delve into at a much deeper level. Each parent has parental rights to the child, so in the case of one parent having a conviction for or a history of domestic violence/anger management as well as mental health issues, the court will likely order that the other party submit to domestic violence/anger management and mental health evaluations and require that party to undergo all treatment recommendations. While his visitation might start out as supervised or with unsupervised day visitation for very limited hours, there is a possibility that the court could phase in increases to residential time if he meets certain conditions, but whether this occurs or not depends on a determination of what is in the best interests of the child. Any motion you file with the court should include a request that the court order these evaluations and you may also want to consider having the court appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to investigate the parenting plan issues. A Guardian Ad Litem is a party to the action. He or she does not represent the petitioner or respondent, but does represent the child(ren) and is a person solely concerned with what is in the child(ren)’s best interests. Even if you do not request a Guardian Ad Litem, the court on its own motion could appoint one if the court felt the case needed further investigation to lift it from being a "he said/she said" contest. There is a lot at stake in custody cases, and these types of cases often involve numerous intervening issues. I recommend scheduling consultations with attorneys and potentially hiring one to make sure that you are able to put your best foot forward.

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  • MY ex wife is taking my son out of state without notifying me. I need to file a motion for contemtpt.

    I live out of state and need to file a motion for contempt in Snohomish county. There is language specific in our parenting plan requiring her to notify me if my son spends 24 hours away from home. She has refused specific requests for that kind o...

    Karen’s Answer

    A contempt action requires a motion, declaration in support of the motion stating the reasons the other party should be found in contempt, and order to show cause, and a proposed order on show cause regarding contempt.

    Often texts, emails, and other supporting documentation are provided as an exhibit to the declaration. Within the text of the declaration you would cross reference to the appropriate exhibit identifier (e.g. exhibit A, B, C, and so on), and the actual documents are stapled to the declaration, which are also labeled with the matching exhibit identifier.

    Your post indicates Everett, WA as the city and state, although you live in Illinois. I assume, therefore, that the case was originally filed in Snohomish County. If so, the next step in the process in Snohomish County is to appear ex parte (Department A) at the courthouse to obtain a show cause order and notice of hearing. If the court approves the order to show cause, then your motion, declaration, order to show cause, and proposed order on show cause regarding contempt needs to be personally served on the opposing party with enough time to give her notice of the hearing as required under the court rules. A link to a helpful guide published by Washington Law Help is as follows: http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/WA/StateChannelResults.cfm/County/%20/City/%20/demoMode/%3D%201/Language/1/State/WA/TextOnly/N/ZipCode/%20/LoggedIn/0/iSubTopicID/4/iProblemCodeID/1390099/sTopicImage/familyjuvenile.gif/iTopicID/862/ichannelid/7/bAllState/0.

    It is best to hire an attorney in general and especially if you are out of state and the motion is to be filed in this State/Snohomish County. If you decide to go this route, you should “interview” potential attorneys by scheduling consultation appointments with them. These can occur by phone. During the consultation, the attorney can give you insights into the process, and may also provide you with pointers on how to construct your documents as well as discuss with you whether additional acts by your ex would constitute contempt and whether those instances should be included too. If you decide to retain an attorney, they are advice and guidance will obviously delve much deeper into the issues than a limited consultation appointment time would allow. I have found that the court is more likely to make a finding of contempt if the other party has violated the residential provisions than any other aspect of the parenting plan, but all instances of the other party violating the clear terms of the parenting plan should be included.

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  • What my daughter include in her parenting plan for her 3 yr old son?

    Can she make the father do weekly drug tests? Does a Petition to establish paternity have to be done even though he has signed the affadait for paternity? Can the set the child surport amount or will the court? What is the fee's to file a par...

    Karen’s Answer

    I agree with substantially all of my colleague’s answer to you post, including the links to guides published by Washington Law Help. I would add that when there is an affidavit of paternity, it about asking the court to establish a parenting plan and child support. I would also add that there is a filing fee for any action under the Uniform Parentage Act - $260.00. Assuming the case would be filed in Snohomish County, I have attached a link to the Clerk's Fee schedule: http://www.co.snohomish.wa.us/documents/Departments/Clerk/Fees/ClerksFeeCharteffective06-07-2012.pdf

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  • Family Law, Failure to File a Notice of Relocation

    I recently moved without properly filing. In fact, I have never filed one. Part of that is neglect on my part for not being current on the RCW requirements. In the eight years the parenting plan has been in place, my ex and I were mostly on good t...

    Karen’s Answer

    Filing now after the move will confirm that the move occurred prior to the notice being given. Once the notice is given, then the Notice form the other party receives requires a response if he is going to preserve his objection, provided he has one. Not filing and waiting for him to do so, may mean that you will be put on the defensive if he does file a contempt action or may not require anything if he does nothing. These are the difficult questions/raised by not following through with the notice requirements. I tend to support curing the problem at the first opportunity; however, more would need to be known about when the move occurred, how long the other side has been aware, what kinds of communications the two of you had on the subject (preferably in writing) to give you a more adequate answer.

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  • Can Adequate Cause be "cancelled" by the Petitioner dismissing their petition? Do they need to give notice to all parties?

    Petition filed to modify Final PP. Hearing held & Adequate Cause is found to exist to modify. GAL appointed by court (not by request of petitioner). GAL report is done & parties signed an agreed order for parenting classes that said a LATER AGR...

    Karen’s Answer

    Any party may dismiss a cause of action they started, but notice should be given, especially in light of the history of the case. However, an agreed order to dismiss the case was signed, and it appears that one party merely submitted the form that had been approved by the other party (you) for entry. It is unclear whether the GAL report may have favored the petitioner or respondent, or whether the report may have motivated the petitioner to dismiss the modification action. If you believe the case should remain open, you could try to vacate the order dismissing the case provided you have not waited too long. However, there are probably more things an attorney would need to know about your case to make sure he or she has provided an adequate/on-point response. You should schedule a consultation with an attorney and considering hiring one given the items you write about in your post and the ongoing difficulty you describe.

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  • Can you motion for contempt of the parenting plan and the child support order in the same motion?

    N/A

    Karen’s Answer

    Yes, but make sure you indicate all facts and check all boxes that have to do with violations of the child support order and the parenting plan. In many instances, all the allegations in one motion are considered a single actionable contempt violation. Given that there are two orders, at minimum, there should be two contempt violations - one for each order violated - if the facts warrant a finding of contempt. I also agree with my colleagues answer and links to resources.

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  • My proposed PP has restrictions for ex spouse drugs, DV issues but he wants to settle outside and dismiss my issues

    I filed alot of evidence with all my original filings. Declarations from those who have been witness to his anger/violence. As well as a police report from when he assaulted Me while I was pregnant. And drug use evidence. He thinks I'm being spi...

    Karen’s Answer

    In general a party can decide to pursue certain issues, even dismiss the case in its entirety. If a party does not choose to dismiss the case and decides instead to reach an agreement with another party, then the parties submit agreed orders in Department A/Ex Parte Court with the hope that the commissioner will sign them. In addition to presenting agreed orders, the party presenting the agreed orders needs to make sure that court file on the case is brought down to the commissioner. The commissioner (the court) independently reviews the findings, and has discretion as to whether he or she will sign the agreed orders. If the court takes notes of the initial allegations, the court may decide not to sign the agreed orders.

    However, the above is about the general process for parties that do reach an agreement. The above is not an endorsement that that is what should occur in your case. You mention that you filed a lot of evidence about his anger issues/violence, drug use, and a police report about his assault of you. If the evidence is accurate and the issues/concerns are real, I caution you against walking away from your allegations and encourage you to let the court decide the issues.

    When there is confirmed domestic violence and an identified perpetrator, the perpetrator is about control and manipulation as one of my colleagues mentioned above. If you are too close to the situation and likely to feel pressured to walk away from the allegations, it is often best to hire an attorney so that you can delegate the other party to that attorney.

    Your obligation to your child (ren) is for you to keep yourself safe and your child(ren) safe. When a case proceeds, perhaps with a Guardian Ad Litem appointed to determine the best interests of the child, the party's issues are addressed; certain recommendations are included for the person with the issues to engage in a domestic violence/anger management evaluation and substance abuse evaluation. If the evaluations confirm the existence of the problem, then the court will want him to engage in treatment and satisfactorily complete all treatment recommendations. While the court may phase in some sort of visitation, it will be dependent on the other person's progress in treatment and hopeful the treatment received will make him a better parent if he follows through with it.

    Your ultimate question was about how things can be done outside of court to resolve the issues. The general answer is mediation, but mediation is a voluntary process and no one is forced to reach an agreement. If he is not likely to recognize the issues and wants you to simply drop the issues while you want these issues addressed, mediation is not going to result in agreement unless you give in. Based on your post, giving in does not appear to be a sound idea.

    In lieu of hiring a private attorney given cost issues, you could set up a consultation appointment so that the issues could be discussed and some insights shared with you.

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  • Spouse is incredibly behind on child support payments and contempt is next step. How does this reflect on visitation?

    I understand they are two separate entity's but how can a parent who is violating a court order for months and months be allowed to have visitation when the children he visits he provides nothing for. I don't think he shouldn't see his kids but it...

    Karen’s Answer

    As frustrating is might be, which it understandable is for many custodial parents, it is the law. In the visitation context, it is about the best interests of the child. The legislature and by extension the courts believe that the involvement of both parents in the child’s life is in that child’s best interest, all things being considered equal. In contrast, past due child support belongs to the parent, not the child. Because the focus of the two issues is on different persons (child in one context and custodial parent in the other), it stands to reason that asserting the right of the parent to collect past-due child support from the other parent who is behind on making payment is not grounds to restrict visitation that is viewed as promoting the best interests of the child. Accordingly, visitation is separate from whether a parent is current with child support or not. However, you do have the potential option of filing a motion for contempt of the child support order, which among a list of remedies could include jail time for the past-due parent and which may motivate payments of past and present support, or to have DCS enforce collection of child support and past-due amounts.

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  • If I cannot afford an attorney to seek contempt back support what can I do so I'm utilizing everything the law allows?

    I simply cannot afford an attorney myself. I wish this was not the case but being a stay at home mother for years with multiple young children to now care for on own I hardly make ends meet as it is. I know they offer free legal help even attornys...

    Karen’s Answer

    A contempt motion is used when the other party violates the terms of an order, such as the Order of Child Support. Motions for contempt require a show cause order and personal service of the motion, documents filed in support of motion, and the show cause order on the other party.

    You should provide a copy of the current Order of Child Support, and indicate that there has been no payment with reference to the inclusive dates that support has not been paid. Double check your order of child support to see whether support payments were to be paid directly to you or whether payments were to go through DCS either so they could register the payments or register and enforce the collection of child support. If DCS is involved, they would have an accounting of the support amounts paid and not paid, and a tally of the back support amount still owed, which you should request a copy of and attach to your motion.

    Delinquent support payments become vested judgments as they fall due, bear interest from their due date and may not be retroactively modified. Statutory interest (12% per year) on support arrearages is mandatory, so you should tabulate the amount owed and the interest amount, and request the total amount.

    Contempt action can also involve jail time for the other party to encourage payment of support, along with other remedies. Obtaining a judgment for past-due support is one step, and enforcing the judgment is the second step.

    You may also want to work with DCS and have them handle the collection of past due child support if the prior Order already involves them or if you want to newly request their involvement. This is an option that is less costly and onerous of your time. However, a contempt finding and a judgment on arrears often has more teeth in the long-run. A link to DCS website is as follows: http://www.dshs.wa.gov/dcs/services/enforcement.asp.

    If you file a contempt action, you can also consult Washington Legal Help: the link is as follows -http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/WA/StateChannelResults.cfm/County/%20/City/%20/demoMode/%3D%201/Language/1/State/WA/TextOnly/N/ZipCode/%20/LoggedIn/0/iSubTopicID/4/iProblemCodeID/1390099/sTopicImage/familyjuvenile.gif/iTopicID/862/ichannelid/7/bAllState/0

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