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Meredith McKell Graff
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Meredith Graff’s Answers

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  • The commissioner in Clark County, WA completely ignored the financial declarations of both parties.

    The commissioner awarded $ 700 per month to the requesting party . The Financial Declarations clearly show comparative monthly incomes at $ 1 , 700 for the receiving party and $ 14 , 300 for the payee . Commissioner explained by saying she ...

    Meredith’s Answer

    What you are talking about is a motion for revision, which is a brand new (as if the first one had not happened) hearing with a judge, because the first hearing was with a commissioner. You cannot submit any new information-it is just based on what is already in the court record. You are right, it can be risky and sometimes people come out worse off than the original decision. But other times, when the decision is really off the mark, it is worth taking the shot.

    You probably realize that you will have to pay something to the other party. Do you receive a salary from your business or do you take distributions from the profit on a periodic basis? If the former, then the award must be based on your salary, if it is reasonable. If you take distributions, you may risk that the judge will agree that the $700 is just right, or maybe even too low. I have seen judges add up the incomes, divide the total in half, then subtract the receiving party's monthly income from the half, leaving the amount the other party has to pay in family support (total of child and spousal support). In your case, even at $4,000 per month, the $700 may be low.

    Keep in mind that these are temporary orders and very well may change at trial, with more information you are able to provide at that time. You may want to suck it up and take this for now as the court order, but if you aren't paying yourself a salary from your business, consider starting now to do so. You can still pay yourself a bonus or take a distribution later in the year if there are funds available, but having a regular income that is reasonable will help prepare you financially for your trial.

    If you would like further information or assistance with your case (I not only represent people but also coach people to represent themselves), please contact me for a no-obligation initial consultation for which we charge a flat rate (not based on time spent).

    Best wishes,
    Meredith McKell Graff

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  • What repercussions could happen if my kids stayed with me in MT instead of returning to their mothers home in WA?

    I took a job in MT, my family agreed the opportunity was a good one. After I got settled, my wife decided not to move as previously planned. Now my kids are with me over the summer break, and they would like to start school here instead of returni...

    Meredith’s Answer

    It sounds like you are still married. Your children have been with you for the summer, but not for six months, the length of time they would need to be in Montana for Montana to have jurisdiction over your children.

    First, you need to decide whether you want to stay married when your wife chose not to join you in Montana. What does she want to do? If you want to get divorced, at this point, you would need to hire someone in Washington to file your divorce in Washington in order for the court to have jurisdiction to order a parenting plan and child support. If you don't do this, and you tell your wife you are not sending the kids home, I can just about bet that she will hire her own lawyer and file for divorce in Washington and get an order of emergency temporary custody requiring you to return the kids to Washington and naming her the primary (custodial) parent. That will weaken your ability to come back to court to ask for custody.

    Talk to an attorney NOW in the county where you and your wife lived during the marriage. File for divorce before she does, or file for legal separation (which gives you three options: stay legally separated, dismiss the legal separation at some point in the future and go back to being married, or move the court to convert the legal separation to a dissolution). Whichever you choose, you want to file your case and get temporary custody of the kids NOW. ASAP. Before you have the conversation with her that the kids are not going back to Washington. She is likely to be very angry and know that anger will cause your case to be not only highly contested but very expensive. If she agrees that the kids can stay with you, get her to put it in writing. You know which way the wind is blowing. Choose the course that is in your kids' best interests. Not yours, not your wife's. What is best for your kids?

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  • How do I get copies of criminal records for my child custody case?

    I am trying to get sole custody of my daughter, because my daughters mother allows convicted pedophiles and thieves around our daughter, and I do not feel that that is a safe environment for our daughter

    Meredith’s Answer

    You can go to www.wsp.org (Washington State Patrol) and set up an account without charge. For $10 each (paid by credit/debit card), you can get criminal histories for people in Washington. You need to know date of birth. You will want to file these with the court, along with more information about how your daughter's mother exposes your daughter to risk. Are these people boyfriends? Girlfriends? How often are they at her house? What do they do there (drugs?) If any are sex offenders, that is very serious. Good luck to you!

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  • My ex and I are supposed to agree on all major decisions. He enrolled her in a new school w/o me agreeing. What can I do?

    In the past I have agreed for my daughter to attend school using his address since she has 2 siblings on his side. We both recently moved and are in different school districts. We have joint physical and legal custody, but he is listed as primary....

    Meredith’s Answer

    You definitely need to hire an attorney to bring all these things to the court's attention. First, he has violated the parenting plan by enrolling her in a different school than last year without talking to you first and the two of you agreeing. That would be a motion for show cause re contempt. Next, you need to ask to modify the parenting plan to reduce his time because he is not exercising it, his mother is. You need to show the court his instability by his moves (did he file and serve you with Notices of Intent to Relocate when he moved--I will guess he did not. You need to bring the issue of his suicide attempt to the court because this is behavior that put your kids at risk. I had a client try that during the middle of the case and her husband got primary custody, even though she went through inpatient and outpatient treatment. The judge told her he was proud of her and that is why she got unsupervised parenting time, but he said, because of her choices, that was why she was not named the primary residential parent. Good luck!

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  • Can adoption subsidy off-set child support obligation?

    I am doing research on adoption subsidy in Washington State and Arizona State. I have searched many websites and have contradicting information. I would like to get some clarity and would like to receive facts and advise. Thank you to all that ...

    Meredith’s Answer

    I have seen this done by the court, but you need to bring your case to the court to have a judge decide. The adoption subsidy is considered income to the parent with the children and added to his/her income on the child support worksheet and that parent gets to keep 100% of it.

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  • I have an uncontested divorce in North Carolina. How do I go about getting a mediator to help with Child Support/Custody issues

    I am not wanting to go to court if at all possible. There are just some Child Support and Child Custody issues that need to be resolved with my Ex wife. Any help would be much appreciated?

    Meredith’s Answer

    If you both agree to mediate, find a mediator on line. The best place to look is www.Mediate.com for a mediator in your area. Have your mediator write up a written agreement that you both can sign if you and she are able to come to agreements on your parenting plan/visitation issues. Child support is probably dictated by your state, so you may not have as much "wiggle room" there, but you may be able to make the child support guidelines work for you in a mediation setting (as opposed to fighting in court). Once you and she have made all your agreements, hire an attorney to put your agreements into the court documents for you, along with your uncontested divorce agreements. Best wishes!

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  • What happens if my 12 yr old was to stay with me in washington, and not go back to her dads in oregon?

    no parenting plan on record in either state He has custody in oregon,

    Meredith’s Answer

    When you say he "has custody in Oregon," I believe you mean, the child resides with the father in Oregon. What does the father want to do? If the two of can agree that the child should stay with you, you will need to wait until the child has been in Washington for six months, then you and the father can file an agreed parenting plan in Washington. Are you married to the child's father? If yes, you need to get divorced or legally separated. If not, did the father sign an acknowledgment of paternity when the child was born? If not, paternity will need to be established by the court and this can be done by DNA test or his acknowledgment that he is the father. With the order establishing that the father is a legal parent, you can go forward to get a parenting plan and child support order, whether it is agreed or not agreed. This can be done right now in Oregon, if the child has not resided with you for six months in Washington, or by agreement, you and the father can wait and do it Washington by agreement.

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  • I am married. I buy a property in WA. I hold the title in my name as my sole property. What happens if there is a dissolution?

    This is in WA State. I am married. I buy a property. I hold the title in my name as my sole property. If there is a dissolution of marriage, does my spouse still hold an interest in the property even though the title clearly states its my sole pro...

    Meredith’s Answer

    It might be your separate property but if you paid for it with community funds, it could be considered community. Titles on property are not proof that the property is your separate property. If you want to make it your separate property, you and your spouse should do a Community and Separate Property Agreement, which states what is yours, what is hers/his, and what is community (both of yours), and put in language that it is your intent that this property pass to your spouse upon your death (what about divorce?).

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  • What is the affidavit used for in court?

    I need clarification of what an affidavit is used for. Does an individual have to record with the court an affidavit when doing child support modification? If there are affidavit paperwork filed with the court - for a child support modification ...

    Meredith’s Answer

    For most court purposes, Washington uses a sworn declaration (the language at the end of your statement that says, "Signed at [city], [state] on [date]: I declare, under penalty of perjury, under the laws of the State of Washington that the foregoing is true and correct," rather than an affidavit that needs to be notarized (as in Oregon). Generally, as a family law attorney, the only affidavits I see are either a GR 17 Affidavit to state that the court document has more pages than what is written at the bottom of the court form (usually for faxed or emailed signature pages), or a Settlement Conference Affidavit (not notarized, but includes a sworn declaration) to advise the judge what is resolved in a case and what is not, along with the issues, to help the judge prepare for the settlement conference. Hope that helps! I was a teacher before I was a lawyer!

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  • What happens in the state of WA if a person cannot be found to serve divorce papers on?

    My husband and I are both non US citizens and I'm on a student visa. He's no longer in the US and is trying to file for a divorce remotely. He tried to serve me with papers but i wasn't home and I am leaving the US in 2 weeks. I wanted to know wha...

    Meredith’s Answer

    1. If he can't find you to serve you, he can get an order to publish notice in the newspaper and after the required period of publication, he can take a default order against you and get his divorce.
    2. If you are served, and don't respond, he can take a default against you and get his divorce. If you file a response, and do not settle with him as to the terms of the divorce, and move out of the country so you are not at the trial, he will get what he has asked the court for because you are not there.
    3. Whether you and he are US citizens is not an issue for the state court deciding the divorce. If you resided in that state during the marriage, it has the authority to enter a divorce decree.

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