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Meredith McKell Graff
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Meredith Graff’s Answers

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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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  • When 2 teenagers have a baby and then they break up what rights does the father have?

    my 17 year old grandson and 17 year old girlfriend had baby in apr they are know broke up and i was wondering what rights my grandson has the baby carries his last name what rights do the grandparents have? and if she files for child support and ...

    Meredith’s Answer

    First, your grandson needs to acknowledge paternity, if he has not already done so. If he is not sure, he can buy an inexpensive DNA test at Walgreens or online. Then, he needs to sign the state form acknowledging paternity. From there, he needs to get a court order establishing him as the legal father. With that, he can ask the court for a parenting plan (visitation). The father's last name on the birth certificate is not proof that he is the father. Only a genetic test and a court order establishes that he is the father.

    Know that with the US Supreme Court case, Troxel v. Granville, there are no "grandparents' rights." Help your grandson get visitation and then he can bring the baby over to visit with you all when it is his parenting time.

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  • My ex personally "serves" court docs to me, but gets her relatives to FALSLY sign Return of Service form.... what can I do?

    I have 2 sep cases in Superior Court involving my ex w/ whom I have a child. 1 is our domestic case (I have custody), and the other is a civil case (protection order against my ex). Rulings in my favor have been challenged numerous times by my ex,...

    Meredith’s Answer

    Write a sworn declaration about all these instances. You can get the form at www.courts.wa.gov. It will be with the family law forms under "All Family Law Cases." It does not have to be notarized.

    That said, the court may only slap her on the wrist because you got "actual," if not "legal" notice of the hearings. Further, you only need to be personally served with a petition that starts a case and motions for an ex parte restraining orders and order to show cause. You do not have to be "served," with citations/notices for hearings, responses, financial declarations, other declarations, ordinary motions (such as motion for temporary orders). You only need to be given a copy of the documents filed with the court at least five court days (counts the court day but not the day you are given it) before the hearing. If you were given the documents after the five days, then, you can ask for a continuance because you were not given the proper amount of notice.

    It is frustrating when the other party does not follow the court rules. It is especially egregious in the "pro se" (do it yourself) court because, even though people are supposed to be held to the same standard as attorneys, they aren't, and most people don't have a clue what they are doing.

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  • My child is 18 and will graduate from High School in a few days. How do I stop child support payments?

    I would like to know what form I need to fill out and send to my ex to sign to stop child support without having to appear in court. What other documents do I need submit?

    Meredith’s Answer

    You should first get out your most recent order of child support and see what it says about how long the child support will be due. If it is until your child is "18 or graduates from high school, whichever is last," and he hasn't turned 18 yet, then you aren't off the hook until his birthday month (the last month of child support). If he is now 18, and will be graduating before the first day of June, you may want to call your Child Support Enforcement office. Often, there are administrative methods of dealing with child support issues, without having to go to court. To stop the collection of child support, given that there are no arrearages, this month should be the last, if your child is now 18. But, check with support enforcement to be sure!

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  • My ex-wife is in the Military and has orders to Florida, Do I have a fighting chance in court for custody of my son?

    On my divorce papers it says that I acknowlede that she is an active duty person and I give her permission to relocate my son out of CA. Do I still have a chance or am I screwed?

    Meredith’s Answer

    "Screwed" isn't the right word for it. You made an agreement and it is a good one. I am sure you were focusing on your son when you made that agreement. Nevertheless, if you former spouse has orders for deployment, you are likely to be named the temporary custodial parent by the court while she is deployed to a war zone.

    Something else to consider--why wait for high legal drama? Why not contact her and create anb agreed long distance parenting plan with her paying her pro rata share of the long distance transportation for your son to fly back to CA to see you on a regular basis (all weekends that have Friday/Monday holidays, Christmas Break, Thanksgiving, Spring Break, a chunk of time in the summer, for example, plus any time when you go to Florida to visit him there). Make a new long distance parenting plan and agree that if she is deployed that you will be the *temporary* residential parent and she will pay you child support (paid directly from her wages by DFAS). Since you still live in CA, CA will retain jurisdiction for an agreed modification of the parenting plan.

    Since you both focused on the child when you divorced, continue to do the same and be a resource to her (she is doing a job for all of us), and for your son. If you and she can do it peacefully, you and she can dance at your son's wedding! You don't have to be best friends, but you do need to be the best business partners in the business of raising your son that you each can be, individually and together.

    Forget the word, "screwed." You did the right thing for your son because you love him. He is the beneficiary of both your and his mother's love. Continue to do the right thing for your son and no one will be screwed, in fact, someday, your son will thank you for getting along with his mother for his sake.

    Best wishes :-) !!

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  • If my wife cheated on me can I get full custody

    she brought some man in my house and slept with him on my bed he was also a drug addict can she be deemed unfit

    Meredith’s Answer

    It may be possible. The question for the court is how your wife's behavior affects the "best interests of the child/ren." If this individual was seen by the children, used drugs in the presence of the children or was high around the children, or even, whether the children saw something inappropriate (that is, sexual) between the man and your wife, then these are all things the court needs to consider. You may be able to get the court to order the appointment of a guardian ad litem to investigate, talk to you, the wife, the kids, other witnesses, and make a recommendation to the court. You definitely want to talk to a Georgia licensed attorney about this and you should not consider representing yourself. Don't hire the biggest "pit bull" in the bar. Hire someone who is assertive and cares about protecting children. A former prosecutor in juvenile dependency will be very fine tuned to the effect this situation has had on your kids. Find one in private practice and take good care of your kids!
    They are counting on you to do the right thing!

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  • Just b4 the pre trial hearing,

    got a letter from a lawyer saying she is representing my wife for the trial and that i should get in touch with her to settle the case or name a mediator so as come to a conclusion. after all the drama for the past one year now she wants to mediat...

    Meredith’s Answer

    I am sure it is very hard to hear from the other side after over a year of legal drama (and perhaps high legal costs, if you have an attorney, also), that her new attorney wants to try to come to an amicable ending, either negotiated or mediated, when you have asked for this all along and were shut down.
    As an attorney who tries to resolve conflict peacefully whenever possible, I find myself in your spouse's new attorney's shoes quite often. The other side, the person in your situation, is naturally suspicious, and reluctant to let down his/her guard when it has been one legal steaming pile after another. That said, let me help you consider why you should take her attorney up on her offer.
    First, you have more control over the terms of the settlement if you negotiate or mediate. While you know you won't get 100% of what you want and neither will she, you understand it has to be fair--just as her attorney knows that too. It very often happens, when you explore goals and interests, rather than "bottom lines" and positions that you both can achieve your and her respective goals without causing the other person to have to give up something each of you want, because what the other side wants is not the same as what you want. That is what is called a "win-win" solution. The only way to find out if you could have this sort of result is to explore goals and interests. The court does not do this. It tends to divide things up like slices in a pie, and there is a "winner" and a "loser." In fact, some judges say that "if both parties are unhappy, then the court's decision is *just right.*" Yikes!
    If you are representing yourself and don't feel you can negotiate your own goals well yourself, or you agree to go to mediation but want to have an attorney you can consult with before the mediation and talk about it afterwards, consider hiring an attorney to "coach" you. Washington's "unbundled legal services" allows an attorney to break up all the things an attorney does and you can ask the attorney to only do certain specific tasks. These can be helping you with preparing documents, writing your interrogatories for you, reviewing documents drafted by another attorney, among other things, and it could even be a limited appearance in court if you don't want to argue to the judge on your own.. You only pay for the attorney time you use.
    I once mediated to a successful conclusion a divorce case where both parties had been fighting for over a year and had spent literally thousands of dollars. They fired their lawyers and came to me to mediate. It was not super easy, but it was in no way the hardest mediation I have ever done. When we got it all done, the written agreements signed, they said, "we could have done this from the beginning, right?" "Yup," I said. They had spent about $1500 with me and about $30,000 together for their lawyers. "I wish I had known about this sooner," they both said. "Why didn't our lawyers tell us?" they wanted to know. I told them, "Because your lawyers don't have reputations for resolving legal issues at the lowest level of conflict. They make their money fighting in cases where people don't even know they have a choice. The lawyers never tell them they have choices and even if they did, the lawyers don't offer coaching, mediation, negotiation, collaborative law."
    It is aggravating to see the other side finally offering to do what you wanted from the outset. But, is it more important for you to feel "right," that is, right from the beginning, or end the case on a peaceful note, with terms you had a hand in creating, rather than having someone *tell you* what the terms will be. Ultimately, it is YOUR and HER case, not the attorneys, not the court's, not the evaluator's, and so on. If you and she decide the terms on your own-- that is your right, as the parties, to settle on terms upon which you agree.
    I advise you to "GO FOR IT!" You have nothing to lose. :-) Best wishes!

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  • My ex is a felon and we are now going through a divorse. We both Filed on the same day.

    He wants the children and and is claim me to be unfit. He is in jail now and hasn't paid child support and has drug charges going back at least 15 years. I am on assitance do I need a lawyer or can I get by with a public defender.

    Meredith’s Answer

    Who filed first? The first to file will be the petitioner. If he is going to be the petitioner, you need to respond to his petition and ask the court for full custody based on him being in jail. If you can't afford an attorney, find out from your local bar association if your state allows an attorney to "coach" you to do it yourself, which keeps the costs down. You might also check in to legal aid and moderate means programs in your area.

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  • Is there a way to reverse order for arrears if proven not to be the father?

    I currently live in Beaumont, TX. I moved here from the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. I was proven not to be the biological father of a young child in Michigan. I was able to reverse the order of child support. However, the judge continued the orde...

    Meredith’s Answer

    It depends how old the child is, how long you lived with the child and supported the child. YOu need to talk to a Michigan attorney. to find out the process there!

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