Frequently Asked Questions
Cost and Timeframe
“Like most family law attorneys, I charge by the hour. The total cost can vary widely, anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a simple uncontested divorce, to several thousand dollars or more for complicated and contentious cases. A refundable deposit is required in all cases, and is generally between $500 and $5,000. I accept credit cards, and sometimes will accept half the deposit at a later date. If your income is significantly less than the other parties’ income I can request an award of attorney’s fees if we end up in court.” Call me if you’re curious how much your case will cost.
“Divorces take anywhere from the statutory minimum of 90 days to a year or more. Other cases can be resolved with one hearing, or even earlier by agreement. Understanding the stress and strain my clients are under, I strive for an expeditious result whenever possible. When not possible, patience and perseverance may be required in order to achieve your desired outcome.” Contact me to discuss the time frame for your case.
“Not only can you stay out of court, but you can also save yourself the time, money, and unnecessary animosity so often associated with litigation. Some issues simply can’t be resolved without court intervention, while other issues may be amenable to agreement and compromise. A good attorney knows the difference and can steer you in the right direction.” Call to see how inexpensive your case might be.
“Family law cases sometimes require Temporary Orders, especially when dealing with children or lack of income. I can typically put together a Motion for Temporary Orders within a matter of days and then secure the earliest hearing date available, which in Pierce County is usually two to four weeks out. For more urgent emergencies an Order can be secured within hours if necessary.” Contact me about Emergency Orders.
Emergencies and Domestic Abuse
“If it’s a medical or life-threatening emergency call 911. Otherwise, pick up the phone and give me a call. We can discuss your needs right then and there, or set up a quick free consultation. In emergency situations Protection Orders or Restraining Orders can be obtained immediately.”
“An immediate Domestic Violence Protection Order can be filed without also filing for divorce. Alternatively, an emergency Restraining Order can accompany the filing of your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. If you’ve been wrongfully accused of domestic violence, give me a call so we can talk about how to effectively defend you in court. Domestic Violence Protection Orders can have a profound impact on a pending dissolution of marriage, so get in to see John Maier before it’s too late.” Contact John Maier.
“Yes, I can help you—but give me a call before you do anything. If you’re seeking custody of your children, don’t leave home without them. We will discuss your options, whether it’s you moving out or getting an emergency Restraining Orders removing your spouse from the home. Emergency Restraining Orders can be used to keep you and your children safe, secure financial accounts, keep insurance in place, and any other necessary relief.”
“Previous Court Orders that have not been appealed or modified are “the law of the case,” and must be adhered to. Noncompliance can be addressed in various ways, not all of which require further litigation and legal expenses. Call me so that we can discuss your options. We can file a Contempt of Court action for failure to pay child support or maintenance. Contempt is also available if the other parent is withholding your right to visitation. In many cases, if Contempt is found, the other party will be ordered to pay your attorney’s fees.” View my Contact Page to set up a free consultation.
Custody and Visitation
“The short answer is no. But as children get older they will generally have a larger say in who they should live with—as long as they’re mature enough to express a reasoned preference independent from parental influence. In cases involving allegations of neglect, drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, criminal history, etc., the court is very likely to appoint a Guardian ad Litem to do an investigation and report back to the court with their factual findings and recommendations. They will speak with the parents, the children, and any other persons having firsthand knowledge of important facts concerning the children’s welfare.” Contact me for your free one-hour consultation.
“Although I’ve heard this many times from clients, I’ve got stacks of files that suggest otherwise. I’ve assisted numerous fathers in gaining primary custody of their children. Washington law makes no distinctions between fathers and mothers with regard to parenting children. This general misconception arises from the fact that mothers are often the primary caregivers, especially for very young children, and judges are reluctant to make a change absent compelling evidence that the children would be better off with the other parent. If you’re not married, find out if you signed a Paternity Affidavit. If you don’t know, give me a call and I can find out for you. If there is no Paternity Affidavit and the mother won’t acknowledge you as the biological father, then we’ll need to obtain a DNA test pronto so that you can start exercising your parental rights.” A consultation can be set up for free.
Grandparent and Third Party Custody: My grandchild is living with me (or in a dangerous situation). Can I obtain legal custody?
“Parents have strong Constitutional Rights to parent their children as they see fit. Nonetheless, in exceptional circumstances, usually involving serious drug or alcohol addiction, multiple criminal convictions, incarceration, child abuse and neglect, or death of a parent, the court can grant custody to the child’s current care-giver (oftentimes grandparents or other relatives), or remove the child from the parents, if it can be shown that the parents are unfit or unable to appropriately care for the child. If you want to gain legal custody of a child in your life, contact my office to set up a free one-hour consultation, where we can discuss the various ways of dealing with the situation.”
“There are many factors that go into determining which parent should be the primary residential parent, and what the other parent’s residential time should look like. The court focuses on “the best interest of the children,” and will want to know who has been primarily responsible for raising the children, and if either parent has issues such as drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, criminal history, dangerous mental health concerns, or anything else that could comprise one’s ability to parent well. These issues will be considered as to both parents, and may lead to limitations on the non-custodial parent’s residential time with the children. Joint custody, or something other than the typical “every other weekend” schedule, can be negotiated or requested as well. It is imperative—if you expect a custody dispute—to consult with an experienced family law attorney to better understand what you should or shouldn’t do, what you can expect, and how best to present your case so as to maximize your chances of a favorable outcome. John Maier offers a free one-hour consultation—see our Contact page.”
“Child support in Washington is a mechanical calculation based on the combined monthly incomes of both parents and the ages and number of children involved. If one of the parents is legally determined to be “voluntarily” unemployed or underemployed, income will be “imputed” to that parent so as to not unfairly burden the other parent. The parents will also be responsible for their proportional share of daycare and uninsured healthcare expenses. An upward or downward “deviation” may be sought based on other variables, such as children from other relationships, special needs children, shared custody, etc. Post-secondary educational support can also be ordered. Call me and I can give you an idea of what to expect with regard to child support.”
“Maintenance is not calculated with a handy dandy income chart as with child support. The main statutory factors used to determine “how much maintenance and for how long,” are the length of the marriage, the historical standard of living, the disparity between the parties’ incomes, future earning potential, and employment limiting disabilities. There are of course other factors, but those are the most common. Without a thorough understanding of the above factors it is difficult to estimate maintenance. Go to the Contact page if you would like to set up a free one-hour consultation with John Maier to discuss maintenance, as well as the other aspects of your divorce.”
Awarding Attorney’s Fees: I can’t afford an attorney, but I can’t afford not to have an attorney. What can I do?
“Unlike criminal law, there is no Constitutional Right to legal representation in family law cases. But don’t despair if you can’t afford a lawyer, because reasonable public policy regarding fairness and access to legal representation has been incorporated directly into various family law statutes and cases. Although the statutory language has changed, the concept of “need and ability to pay” is still a helpful way to think about whether the court will award attorney’s fees to the party in “need,” to be paid by the party with the “ability to pay.” If my client can’t afford my legal services, and the other party has the ability to help out, I will request an award of attorney’s fees. It’s also important to keep in mind that you may be entitled to child support and/or maintenance which may provide you the means to pay for an attorney.” Call me to discuss your case.
“Absent a Restraining Order to the contrary, either party is entitled to access joint bank accounts and credit cards. Nevertheless, the court will look unfavorably upon a party who has taken advantage of this to the other party’s detriment. Although all cases are different, generally speaking it is usually fair to divide bank accounts evenly between the parties. Any use of credit cards after the parties have separated will be the responsibility of the party incurring the new debt. It may also be prudent in some situations to open a separate bank account and cancel credit cards. All cases are different. If you have questions just give me a call.”
Property and Debts
“Washington is a community property state, which means that all assets and debts acquired between date of marriage and date of separation are owned equally by both spouses, unless acquired through gift or inheritance. This includes vehicles, houses, retirement benefits, tax refunds, bank accounts, personal property, loans, credit cards, medical bills, etc. The court is charged with making a “just and equitable” division of the property and debts. If the parties are equally situated financially the division will almost always be 50/50. If not equally situated, the division could favor the disadvantaged spouse.” Call me if you want a better sense for how the court will handle your case.
Documents and Evidence: I don’t fully trust my spouse handling all our financial affairs, what should I do?
“Before you separate be sure to gather or make copies of as much information as you can find regarding assets, debts, income, and expenses. I will need to review those documents in order to properly evaluate your case. If you are unable to gather this information—don’t fret—I can initiate Legal Discovery and require that your spouse turn over those documents in addition to answering questions under penalty of perjury. I can also subpoena records from financial institutions, employers, etc., especially if you think your spouse is selling, hiding, transferring, or otherwise disposing of assets. If you suspect that your spouse may raid the bank account, run up credit cards, or may be hiding, selling, or giving away money, property, or financial accounts, you should call me right away. We can discuss your options over the phone or set up a free consultation. We can enter an immediate Restraining Order to prohibit such conduct.”
“If there are children involved and they have been raised in the family home, the custodial parent will usually be allowed to remain in the home with the children, at least while the case is pending. Oftentimes the court will allow the custodial parent to utilize the family home until the youngest child graduates from high school. Keep in mind that a house purchased during the marriage is part of the entire community estate, which means that if one party is awarded the house the other party is likely to be awarded assets of equal value, so as to arrive at a just and equitable division of the entire community estate. It’s important to keep in mind that an award of real property does not affect the joint liability on the underlying mortgage, the ramifications of which should be discussed with an experienced attorney.” Contact me to set up an appointment.
“Retirement benefits earned between the date of marriage and date of separation are community property, and will be apportioned as part of the entire community estate. Having said that, if there are other assets of equal value, such as your spouse’s own retirement, you will probably be allowed to keep your own retirement benefits. If your retirement benefits cannot be offset with other assets, up to half of your retirement benefits may be awarded to your spouse. Proper valuation and apportionment of retirement benefits is critical and should not be undertaken without the advice of an experienced divorce attorney. Contact me for your free one-hour consultation.”