Renton Washington Family Law Criminal Defense and Estate Planning Attorney

Serving Renton, Kent, Seattle, Bellevue, Federal Way, Burien and south King County.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Valuation of Assets

A frequent question that comes up in divorce cases, is what date do we use to value assets. The short answer is the court will want to use the date of trial, however for settlement purposes, we will use the date of the settlement. There are always exceptions to the rule however.

For a house, the court will usually use the date of trial fair market value, and also the date of trial balance on the mortgage to calculate the equity. Frequently the person living in the house will have been paying down the mortgage during this time. The court usually assumes that that is offset by living in the home "rent free" during that time.

A more difficult issue can be 401(k)'s or IRA's. The asset at separation is community property. Earnings after separation are separate property. Therefore, contributions after separation (either by the employee or employer) are separate property. The difficult issue to determine, is if the value goes up, what portion of the increase is due to increase in market value (which would be community) versus increase due to contribution (which would be separate). If we have all of the data, we can calculate this, but sometimes it can be difficult or time consuming to do it (especially if there have been changes in investments).

If bank account have not been touched, they would be valued at trial. Typically however, someone has had the use of the checking account, and have made deposits and written checks for bills. In that case, we typically use the date of separation value.

Automobiles are typically valued at trial. An exception would be if you get in an accident or have mechanical problems after separation. Then we would use the value at separation before the problem (as that is the individuals responsibility, not the community's).

Valuing assets can be a difficult challenge, not only in determining the value, but in deciding the timing to do so. A good family law attorney can help you navigate through this process.

The Renton law firm of Mogren, Glessner & Roti, represents clients in a variety of family law cases. Please visit our web page at Bellevue Divorce Lawyer for more information.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Importance of Service in a Divorce

Why is service in a legal action so important? We have a constitutional right to due process. That means you have to have notice of a legal action against you so that you have the right to respond and contest it. The way you get notice is by being personally served. If you ignore that service, then the moving party can take a default judgement against you, receiving what they petitioned for. In Washington, the summons requires you to respond within 20 days (60 if you are being served outside of the state). If you appear, the moving party cannot take a default against you without giving you notice first. The proper way to respond is to file a Response to Petition with the court, and serve a copy on the petitioner or their attorney. Do not ignore service of process.

There are a variety of ways to be served. The best way is to get personal service on the other party. They must be served by someone other than a party to the lawsuit, and they must be 18 years of age and of sound mind. They should file a Declaration of Service in the court file, verifying that it has been done. You can also get substituted service, by serving an adult who lives in the house with the respondent. In some cases, if you cannot locate the respondent, you can get court permission to serve them by mail or by publication in a local newspaper. If the other party was not properly served, and did not have notice, and you take a default, you run the risk of them coming back several months later and moving to vacate the default, and starting the action all over again.

The Renton law firm of Mogren, Glessner & Roti, represents clients in a variety of family law cases, both contested and uncontested. We have 4 attorneys for you to chose from. Please visit our web page at Washington Divorce Procedures for more information.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How to Prepare for a Settlement Conference

Frequently in a divorce, the parties engage in a settlement conference prior to trial in hopes of settling the case and avoiding a trial, saving the financial and emotional cost of trial. Settlement conferences usually have a settlement master who is independent (often a retired judge or practicing family law attorney) and assists the parties in reaching a settlement. The following are some ideas that help the parties reach a settlement at a settlement conference.

First, do your homework in advance. Complete all discovery so that everyone knows all the facts. Next, present this information to the settlement conference master in an organized fashion. This should include a cover letter that gives the background of the case, and all the necessary information on all the relevant issues (parenting plan, incomes of the parties, child support, spousal maintenance, property and debt division, restraining orders, etc.). You should include a spreadsheet of the division of the assets, and documentation showing the value of all assets. You should income income verification and Child Support Worksheets. You should include your proposed Parenting Plan.

You need to organize and present all the information necessary to prove your case. While it is not a trial, you need to document your position. All of this information should be submitted to the settlement conference master (and the opposing party/attorney) at least 2 days in advance of your settlement conference. You should also receive the other party's documents and letter at the same time. This will give you some time to understand their position and prepare arguments and find documents against it.

Once you have submitted your documents, you then need to prepare yourself mentally for settlement. This is not a trial, and to settle a case, usually both sides must do some "give and take". It is also important to try to understand what your objective is and what the other sides objective is. Sometimes there are emotional issues that are more important than the dollar amount. If you know what they are, and are willing to "think outside the box", sometimes you can be creative and find a solution that meets both sides objectives.

One of the most important suggestions is to listen to your settlement conference master. He will have read both sides information and will be approaching it objectively as a trial court would. You need to listed to his opinion, because if the case goes to trial, chances are the trial judge will read the case the same way the settlement conference master did. You and your attorney are biased in your favor. The other side is biased in their favor. This is your opportunity to hear a neutral opinion on the case prior to trial. Listen and be willing to settle.

Finally, figure out what the differences are between the two sides, and what the dollar value of that is. Compare that with the cost and risk of trial. Is it worth it to go to trial? It may be, but don't assume that going to trial means that the judge will agree with you. After hearing the case, the judge may agree with the other party, and you would have done better with the results of the settlement conference. What will your attorney charge you to prepare for trial, and to go to trial. Trials can be very expensive (more than the value of what your are arguing over). Realistically evaluate the risks.

The Renton law firm of Mogren, Glessner & Roti, represents clients in a variety of family law cases, both contested and uncontested. We have 4 attorneys for you to chose from. Please visit our web page at Washington Divorce Settltement Conference for more information.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Office Remodel

Please excuse our mess during our office remodel. We have just signed an extension of our office lease, which comes with tenant improvements, including new carpeting and paint. Unfortunately, that means we have to move out of the office space for a long weekend, while they come in and paint and re-carpet. They have started doing some of the work, like stripping the wallpaper in our lobby. At the moment, things look a little sparse (pictures off the wall) and dirty (paint in the carpet). The office is still functioning fine, it is just a little inconvenient for our clients and not as aesthetically pleasing. Hopefully when the process is complete, it will be enjoyable for all. Thank you for your patience.

The Renton law firm of Mogren, Glessner & Roti, represents clients in a variety of family law cases, both contested and uncontested. We have 4 attorneys for you to chose from. Please visit our web page at for more information.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Contempt - Jail

Court Orders are serious matters. They are to be complied with. If a person does not obey a court order, the other party may bring a Motion for Contempt. Contempt is not designed to punish a person, but to coerce them to abide by and follow the Court Order.

When the Court is faced with a Motion for Contempt, they want to know why the person did not comply with the Order. Did they know about the Order? Did they have the ability to comply with it? Was there a reasonable explanation as to why they did not comply? If the person did not have the ability to comply and explains it to the Court, they may not be found in contempt. If they had the ability to comply and simply chose not to do so, they need to be prepared to face the wrath of the Court.
When there is contempt, the Court will usually impose sanction to encourage them to follow the Order. This may start small and include the costs and attorney fees of the other party, and may include financial penalties. Ultimately, if the party refused to comply, the Court can and will impose jail time. This is usually the last resort, but it is used to get the party's attention. The court may impose one day of jail, with an order to comply in a reasonable amount of time (one week). If they fail to do that, the Court can then have in place an order for additional jail time.

Again, the purpose of the jail time is not to punish, but to get compliance with a Court Order. Typically, jail will do that to a person. Last week, i had the Court impose jail time against an opposing party who refused to obey a Court Order in favor of my client. It was a sobering experience.
The Renton law firm of Mogren, Glessner & Roti, represents clients in a variety of family law cases, both contested and uncontested. We have 4 attorneys for you to chose from. Please visit our web page at Washington Divorce Lawers for more information.