Frequently Asked Questions

Legal issues are stressful. Our knowledgeable attorneys are here to help!

General

How much is a consultation?

Varies depending on your issue and the attorney that you are meeting with.

How do I prepare for my consultation?

Depends on your matter, however generally you will want to do the following:

(1) make an outline of all the questions you have for the attorney,

(2) bullet point notes on the most significant issues/facts that you want to make sure to tell the attorney about, and

(3) bring in any documentation that is related to your matter (i.e. completed questionnaire, timeline of events, list of witnesses, any written correspondence, etc.).

What are your hours?

Monday – Friday
9:00 am – 5:00 pm

excluding holidays

We can sometimes accommodate other times upon request.

Is there parking?

Yes, there are metered parking spots right out front that are usually available for easy parking.

Family Law

Does it matter if my spouse cheated on me?

It is always difficult when a spouse cheats on you, but unfortunately Washington is a no-fault state. This means that it legally does not matter if your partner cheats on you. However, if your partner is using marital funds to perpetuate another relationship, that would be something to discuss with an attorney.

If I'm not married do I have any rights to our stuff?

Yes, so long as your relationship qualifies as a committed intimate relationship - in a nutshell, if it looks and acts like a marriage, it may be treated very similar to a marriage. This means if you are in a committed romantic relationship and you are living together, potentially you will have joint interest in all property and debt acquired during your relationship regardless of whose name it is in.

Can I get sole custody of my child?

Probably not in the way you are thinking, but it completely depends on your facts. The typical terms for a custody matter are primary parent and non-primary parent. In most parenting situations, one parent is named the primary parent, and the other parent is the non-primary parent, but given visitation. In extreme circumstances a parent might not be given any visitation at all. If a parent’s rights are terminated, then it would be possible for the other parent to have sole custody.

If I am not the primary parent, do I still have rights to my child's health and school information?

Generally yes, but it completely depends on your facts and circumstances. In most cases, so long as a parent is not abusing the information or using the information as a form of control over the other parent, both parents will be granted access to the information. However, access to the information does not necessarily include involvement with the setting or attending of appointments.

How long does divorce take in Washington state?

The length of time it takes to complete a divorce depends on many factors. If the parties are in agreement on all the issues like separation of assets and debts, spousal and child support, and the parenting plan, then the parties can enter agreed orders. There is a mandatory waiting period of 90 days between the date the Petition for Dissolution (Divorce) is filed and served on the other party or date it is filed if the other party has agreed and signed the Petition and the entry of final orders for the divorce. If the parties don’t agree on all issues, the matter must go to mediation or a settlement conference and / or trial, which takes time and is dependent on the trial judge’s schedule and when the parties set the notice for trial. In most cases, the divorce should be resolved within 1-2 years if it goes to trial, based on the cooperation of both parties, but if heavily litigated can take longer.

How much does it cost to file for divorce in WA?

Currently it is $314 to file a Petition for Dissolution (Divorce) in Clark County. Other counties may have different fees or may charge a fee to file a Response to the Petition for Dissolution. If the filing fee is a hardship, you can apply for a waiver of the fees when you file your case by completing additional forms which require review and approval by a Judge.

Does it matter who files the divorce first in WA?

Generally no, unless there is a request for a restraining order due to safety issues. In Clark County, when a case is filed, the courts issue an automatic temporary order that is served with the rest of the divorce documents on the other party which orders parties not to sell, hide, or transfer accounts and funds, or remove the children from their natural home.

Is Washington state a 50/50 divorce state?

Washington state is a community property state, which means all property and debts incurred during the marriage are jointly owned or owed. When the court divides up the assets they will consider all property and debts of the parties and determine if they are community (jointly owned) or separate (solely belonging to one party only). Separate property usually consists of things owned or owed before the marriage or acquired separately such as an inheritance, even if during the marriage. There are specific rules on how the courts divide up these assets and debts based on how they are categorized, so it is important to consult with an attorney if you have specific questions about your assets or debts.

What is the fastest way to get a divorce in Washington State?

The fastest way to complete a divorce is to do so by agreement. Both parties can sign the initial Petition for Divorce and agree on the final orders to be entered after the 90 day waiting period expires. Most counties require a hearing to finalize your divorce, but some counties like LIncoln and Wahkiahkum do not, so many people file their agreed divorces outside of their county of residence for that reason.

Is it illegal to cheat on your spouse in Washington state?

The fastest way to complete a divorce is to do so by agreement. Both parties can sign the initial Petition for Divorce and agree on the final orders to be entered after the 90 day waiting period expires. Most counties require a hearing to finalize your divorce, but some counties like LIncoln and Wahkiahkum do not, so many people file their agreed divorces outside of their county of residence for that reason.

How long after divorce can you remarry in Washington state?

You can remarry in Washington at any time after you are divorced. There is no minimum waiting period.

How many years do you have to be married to get alimony in Washington?

There is not a set number of years or months that you have to be married in order to get alimony. Alimony is determined by a variety of factors in Washington state, such as financial resources of both parties, job history, age, health, standard of living during marriage, length of marriage, need and ability to pay. If the court determines that someone in a divorce proceeding is in need of maintenance, then the longer you were married usually means a longer period of alimony. 

Can you date while legally separated in Washington state?

Yes. The only thing you can’t do is get married to another individual when you are still married to someone else. You can date at any time.

How long do you have to be separated before divorce in Washington State?

There is no specific period of time that you have to be separated before pursuing a divorce. You can pursue a divorce at any time. However, once you file for divorce you won’t be able to finalize the divorce for a minimum of 90 days after the date of filing and service on the other party. 

How do I start a divorce in Washington State?

There are four main pleadings you need when you file for a divorce: 1) Summons, 2) Confidential Information Form, 3) Certificate of Dissolution, Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage, and 4) Petition for Divorce. Once you are ready to file, you take an original set of these pleadings, plus two sets of copies to the Clerk’s Office to file. You pay the filing fee, give the original set of pleadings to the Clerk, and stamp your two sets of copies with the case number and copy stamps. You have officially started your divorce at this point, but there are other steps you need to take to make sure your divorce moves forward.

How does adultery affect divorce in Washington State?

Washington is a no-fault state, which means you can get divorced for any reason, or no reason, at all. The only time adultery comes into play in a divorce is when it affects the children in some way, or marital assets are used in the affair.

How is child support calculated in WA state?

Child support is calculated according to a state mandated schedule. The state has calculated how much it takes to raise a child each month based on the parents’ combined incomes, so the standard child support calculation is based on those amounts. The court may consider a deviation in child support if the non-custodial parent has the child a substantial amount of time, the child has extraordinary expenses, or a parent has extraordinary income.

Should I file for divorce or let him?

Whether or not you should file first depends on the specific circumstances in your case. The attorneys at Navigate tend to like filing first so the holistic proposal is included in the initial pleadings. It also becomes more imperative to file first if temporary orders or a Restraining Order are needed.

What forms are needed to file for divorce in Washington State?

There are four main pleadings you need when you file for a divorce: 1) Summons, 2) Confidential Information Form, 3) Certificate of Dissolution, Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage, and 4) Petition for Divorce. If children are involved, then additional pleadings will be necessary. These pleadings are necessary to start a divorce, but there are a number of other pleadings that may be needed throughout the course of the divorce. 

Who can serve divorce papers in Washington state?

Any person aged 18 or over who is not a party to the case. You can hire a professional, in some cases you may have a sheriff deputy serve the papers. You just can’t serve the papers yourself. 

Is there a cap on child support in Washington state?

That depends on the facts of each situation. The varying factors include, the parent’s combined income, the number of children between the parents, any other dependent children of either parent may have from prior relationships, and how much residential time a child spends with each parent.

Can you waive child support in Washington?

This depends on if the child is enrolled for state benefits or if a parent is enrolled on temporary assistance for needy families (TANF). Even if the child or family doesn’t receive state benefits, if parents have costs associated with health insurance, uninsured medical expenses, and certain other child related expenses these cannot be waived. 

How do I file for child support in Washington state?

You may request child support in a marital dissolution petition, a parenting plan petition, and a paternity petition. You will need to provide your income information for the last couple of years as well as proof of current income.

Employment Law

What is the difference between an employee and independent contractor?

The answer depends largely on the area of law. For tax purposes, many people think that if you use a tax form 1099, that the person will automatically be a contractor. This is not the case. Contractors should have their own tax identification number, form their own corporation, use their own equipment, set their own hours, and service more than just one corporation. If a worker is misclassified as an independent contractor, but the employer has not paid workers’ compensation premiums, unemployment premiums, or paid the worker minimum wage, the employer could be liable for state penalties, and in some circumstances double damages plus attorneys’ fees and costs. Make sure to speak with an attorney before classifying a worker as an independent contractor.

I heard that Washington is an at-will state, does this mean I can be fired for any reason?

You can be fired for any reason in Washington as long as that reason was not wrongful. In order to be wrongful, you must either be a member of a protected class (such as race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, etc.) or engaged in protected activity (such as reporting illegal activity, reporting safety concerns, taking medical leave) and you received adverse treatment, such as being fired, for being a member of that protected class or engaging in that protected activity. If you are fired for one of these reasons, make sure to speak to an attorney.

I think I might get fired, what can I do?

The most important thing you can do is control your narrative and speak to an attorney before you are terminated.

An attorney will want to see evidence of wrongdoing. This means you need to document what is going on that you believe is wrongful or illegal. Report your concerns in writing to HR or a supervisor and document your concerns in writing. If you meet with someone, take contemporaneous notes and try to bring a witness to a meeting that is neutral or can substantiate the substance of the conversation. If someone has an oral conversation with you, follow up with an email to that person in writing stating “Just to reiterate what you said…” The more you document, the clearer your case will be.

You will also want to keep hard copies of crucial information. For example, often, when employees are fired, they are cut out from their work email or messaging. As such, if you are worried about being fired, you may want to print out important emails that may substantiate wrongdoing by your employer.

I just got fired, what can I do?

If you are fired, make sure to speak with an attorney as soon as possible before you make any big picture decisions. For example, make sure not to sign anything before you have it reviewed by an attorney. In some cases, the law requires that you are given several weeks to review documents before you sign them. You have a right to speak with an attorney before signing anything. Do not be bullied into agreeing to something that may be detrimental to your rights or your future.

Additionally, under Washington law, you may request a copy of your personnel file and a letter stating the reason for your termination. In some circumstances, it is a good idea to request these items as soon as possible.

You may also want to file for unemployment. Ask your attorney about the impacts of their termination on unemployment and whether you are eligible. If you believe you were wrongfully terminated, make sure to speak with your attorney about how to handle the unemployment process so as not to negatively impact your case.

Business Law

I think my business partner is embezzling or stealing from the business we own together. What do I do?

Speak with your attorney on how to handle this situation. Your attorney will need copies of your bookkeeping data (such as Quickbooks) and review your business’s bank transaction history. Your attorney will also need to review your business’s formation documents such as your bylaws for your corporation or your operating agreement for your LLC. Reviewing your tax returns also helps to determine where those funds are going. In some cases you will need to sue your business partner or report them to the authorities. Make sure to speak with an attorney before you make any decisions to take action.

Do I need an LLC or an S-Corp?

The difference between an LLC or an S-Corp is not actually a question of which type of business entity to use, but rather a tax question. Both LLCs and corporations may elect to be taxed under Subchapter S, which may have certain advantages and disadvantages, depending on your specific finances and corporate structure. However, both corporations and LLCs can help shield business owners from personal liability for the debts of the business, regardless of the tax election. In both cases, as long as you are able to maintain the legal structure of the business properly, you may be able to limit your individual liability exposure. Talk to an attorney if you have further questions about liability shields and what it means to elect to be taxed under Subchapter S.

What do I need to know before I start a business?

Forming a business requires advanced planning. First, consider the type of business and geographic location where you want to operate. If you plan to operate in multiple states, it may be necessary to register with multiple secretaries of state. If you have a special trade, such as construction or food preparation, additional licenses and registrations may be necessary. Also, be sure to know who all of the owners of the business are, and make sure to discuss whether and how much of their initial contribution to the company is a loan or an investment. Be sure to discuss in detail the roles, if any, that each owner may have in the decisions of the business. Additionally, consider whether you want to form a limited liability company (LLC), a corporation, or another type of legal entity. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages regarding taxation and liability. Talk to an attorney if you would like to know more.

Can I be sued personally for my business?

Depending on the legal structure of your business, you may be sued personally for the debts and other obligations of your business. For example, sole proprietors (common for those who do not have a separate legal entity like an LLC or corporation) will be personally liable for the debts of the business. Furthermore, even though having a separate legal entity such as an LLC or corporation can limit your liability, it cannot eradicate it. One of the best ways to avoid being sued for the obligations of the business is to make sure you treat the business as a “person” separate from yourself. That means making sure you maintain proper corporate records, keep a separate bank account, make sure the business is adequately funded, and never co-mingle assets between yourself and the business. Finally, keep in mind that if a business owner commits a negligent tort, even as an agent of the business, the business owner may be personally liable.

Construction Law

What if a contractor charges me more than I was quoted?

Contractors have different ways of charging for their services. Different jurisdictions also have several legal requirements for providing quotes, getting change orders approved, and how payments are handled. Make sure to have a written agreement for the work that you wish to complete. If you request any changes to the work, or the contractor says that more work needs to be done, make sure to document the changes in writing. Keep a timeline of the work being performed. If you believe that your contractor is trying to take advantage of you, speak to an attorney, they may be able to help.

My contractor required a down payment and left without completing the work. What can I do?

If this happens make sure to speak to an attorney. You may be able to recover damages for your contractor’s errors. Some contractors will ask for large sums of money before starting work, and then leave without completing the work. Again, take photos throughout the work being completed, and document any defective work. Keep a timeline of the project. In some cases, you may be able to recover from the contractor’s insurance company or recover from the contractor’s bond.

Cannabis Law

Can I sell CBD interstate?

Because of the recent changes in the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD derived from hemp is no longer listed under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. However, CBD derived from recreational marijuana, even if it is legal in the state of Washington or Oregon, is not legal under federal law because it is still considered “marijuana” rather than “hemp.” Interstate commerce of recreational marijuana-derived CBD is illegal. Talk to an attorney if you are concerned about the legality of the product you’re transferring in or out of the state.

Do I need a license to produce hemp?

Yes. The 2018 Farm Bill created new requirements for hemp farmers to comply with the US Department of Agriculture and the various state departments of agriculture. Fortunately, both Washington and Oregon have clear guidelines and processes for who must apply and how to do so. Speaking with an attorney about which licenses and registrations are needed is highly recommended.

Do I need a license to produce recreational marijuana? What if I want to grow medical or recreational marijuana for my own home use?

Recreational marijuana, whether produced commercially or for home use, is illegal under federal law. Nonetheless, both Oregon and Washington have a licensing process for commercially produced recreational marijuana, and both states provide for growing certain types of marijuana for home use, subject to significant restrictions. For example, medical marijuana for home use may be available in Washington, but recreational marijuana is not. To qualify for growing medical marijuana in Washington, a grower must meet the requirements specified in Washington’s medical marijuana laws. Conversely, in Oregon, you may grow up to four household recreational marijuana plants, but they may not be sold commercially. In both cases, additional fact-specific restrictions apply, so it is recommended to speak with an attorney before you begin planting.

Estate Planning

Do I even need a will?

Even for people with modest-sized estates, having some type of estate planning in place is advisable. In addition to stating who is to receive your assets, your will appoints the person you wish to administer your estate when you pass away. If you die without a will, the state’s default rules govern who is to receive your probate assets, which may not reflect your wishes. It is especially important for people with minor children to have a will because a will states who is to handle inherited assets for a minor child and who you would want as your child’s guardian. Additionally, having a will can save on some expenses of administration and can reduce the possibility of disagreements among beneficiaries of the estate.

Do I need a trust?

The main function of a trust is to avoid probate, which is the court supervised administration of an estate. Generally, if you die with a will (or without a will), your estate may have to go through the probate process before probate assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries. Setting up and properly funding a living trust avoids probate, which has the potential of easing the burden and cost of administration. However, an estate plan based around a trust is generally more expensive than a will-based plan and takes more work to maintain.

 

Does my estate have to pay estate taxes when I die?

In Washington, estates worth over approximately $2.2 million are subject to estate tax. In Oregon, estates over $1 million are subject to estate tax. Generally, with married couples, there is no estate tax owing at the first death if the surviving spouse is the sole beneficiary of the assets. However, at the death of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse’s entire estate, including inherited assets, is subject to estate tax. Estate tax can be reduced or avoided with proper estate planning.

Estate & Trust Administration

What is probate?

Probate is the court-supervised process of administering a decedent’s estate. If the decedent died with a will, probate proves the will to be the last will and testament of the decedent. If the decedent died without a will, the state’s default rules govern the distribution of the estate assets. There are several steps to administering an estate that a personal representative must complete before the assets of the estate can be distributed. These steps include giving notice to the correct persons, identifying and notifying creditors, locating and securing assets of the estate, paying any debts of the estate, and filing all required tax returns. 

How much does a probate cost?

The cost of each probate varies greatly depending on the complexity of the issues involved. Generally, attorneys bill on an hourly basis and the attorney’s fees are paid out of the estate.

How do I administer a trust?

The trust administration process involves several steps. Unlike a probate administration, a trust administration generally does not involve court supervision, but the trustee has several important duties he or she must abide by. The first step is to review the trust agreement and all documents relating to what type of assets are in the trust and the value of those assets. Other steps include taking custody of trust assets, choosing how to invest trust assets, giving proper notice to beneficiaries and creditors, paying debts, taxes, and final expenses, and distributing trust assets.

Consumer Law

How do I stop debt collectors from calling me?

Tell them to stop. If you tell a debt collector to stop calling you, make sure it is documented. Either take notes of when you told them to stop calling you on the phone or send them a letter (or both). If you tell them to stop calling, and they continue to call, make sure to document every call because they may be breaking the law. Keep in mind that if you tell a debt collector to stop calling, they will be required to stop, but it may make them more likely to sue you for the debt.

What do I do about a fraudulent report on my credit report?

ou can and should challenge every questionable line-item on your credit report. All of the major credit reporting bureaus have ways you can do this on their websites. You can also send them a letter telling them that the information on your report is not correct. You have to tell them the exact line-items that are wrong. This will require the credit reporting bureau to investigate the issue and see if a mistake has been made. If 30 days has gone by and the information has been removed and put back on your report, or was never taken off in the first place, you may have a very good case against the reporting bureau. In that type of a scenario, the reporting bureau may have to pay for your attorney to force them to remove the line-items as well.

 

Can a mechanic keep my car until I pay my bill?

Sometimes. Mechanics can file a lien on your car if you don’t pay your bill, but there are several things they have to do before that. For example, in most instances if you didn’t receive a written estimate before the mechanic started work, they will not be able to file a lien. You should talk to an attorney if you are going through a situation like this – there are several other things mechanics need to do before they can legally file a lien on your car and try to keep it.

Medical Debt

I've already paid some of my debt, can I get a refund?

Certain medical debt can be refunded, certain medical debt cannot. It depends on the hospital, which vendors they used, your income, and your family size. We can quickly determine if you are eligible to get money refunded, and often can pursue that money on a contingency fee (which means we don’t get paid until we get you the refund).

I can't afford to pay my debt what can I do?

Most major hospitals are non-profits, and as non-profits they have to provide a community benefit. That often means forgiven medical debt for people who can’t pay. We are very experienced at handling these issues, and helping clients convince hospitals that their debt should be forgiven given the circumstances.

I have a bill from last year, can I still see if I qualify?

Yes. In Washington, there is no “deadline” for when you need to apply for hospital financial assistance. In other states, including Oregon, the analysis is a little more complicated, but in some instances, you can pursue financial assistance even if the bill is a year old or older.

Criminal Defense Law

What do I do if I get arrested?

Do not talk to anyone in law enforcement. Even if you are completely innocent, it will NEVER help you to explain anything to a police officer or prosecutor. Police officers don’t necessarily investigate cases, they build cases. If they are alleging you committed a crime, they are not trying to determine whether you did or not, they are building a case against you. If you try to explain your innocence, they will assume you are lying and twist your words against you. The police are also allowed to outright lie to you. They will tell you they have evidence against you that they do not have. They will tell you that if you talk now, they can help you out – which they often cannot. They are very good manipulators and you will start to feel like you want to explain yourself to them. Do not fall into this trap. If you get arrested, you should only say four words to the police – I want a lawyer. That will preserve your constitutional rights and prevent law enforcement from asking you further questions until they have given you a lawyer.

Can I record a conversation without telling them?

Washington is what is referred to as a “two party consent” state. This means that all parties to a conversation must agree to be recorded. Oregon, however, is a “one party consent” state – which only requires one party to the conversation to agree to record it.

Can I get a conviction off my record?

It depends on several factors. The main factors are what you were convicted of, how much time has passed, how old you were, and if you have any other convictions on your record. You should speak with an attorney to determine whether the conviction qualifies to be removed.

Traffic Ticket

Can I get out of my traffic ticket?

There are several issues that could lead to a ticket being dismissed. First off, you may not have committed the infraction! If that’s the case we’ll work to prove that. If you might have committed the infraction, that’s okay. The State doesn’t just get to march you through to a fee and a blemish on your driving record. They still have to prove every element of the infraction under the statute and comply with several court and evidence rules. If the State made a mistake (which they often do), we’ll find it, and use it to your advantage.

Tax Law

Can I deduct spousal maintenance?

It depends. Currently under the new tax law spousal maintenance court ordered after December 31, 2018 is generally not deductible by the party paying the spousal maintenance. However, there are exceptions if you are modifying a previous order entered prior to January 1, 2019.  

How far back can the IRS audit me?

Generally, there is a three-year statute of limitations on IRS audits. However, there are some exceptions to this depending on your circumstances. If you are concerned about being audited it is important to speak with a tax attorney.

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