Bifurcation means chopping something into two parts. Sometimes this can apply to a lawsuit, usually when you and the other side agree on some things but not others. It can be beneficial to both sides to bifurcate the issues in their divorce to simplify the case in the event it goes to trial. A judge would probably be happy to hear s/he only has to rule on a couple of issues, rather than everything that usually encompasses a divorce.

In a divorce case, sometimes people can agree on how to divide property and debts, but are miles apart on a parenting plan or child/spousal support. In that scenario, you can enter an order granting you a divorce that says “we will still decide (list disputed issues) at trial.”

Divorces (and other lawsuits) can be long, painful processes, which often make people feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel. In some cases, people feel physically and emotionally better when they are able to close the door on their marriage, even if there are still some issues in dispute that need to be decided by the court.

Bifurcation is worth discussion with your attorney, though it may not be possible in all cases; first and foremost, you and the other side need to AGREE to bifurcate. Feel free to ask one of our attorneys for more information on bifurcation.

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COVID-19 Pandemic Blues

Since the governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order put us into essential lockdown on March 16th, we have mostly operated remotely. Our doors are closed to in-person meetings until further notice until we can set up appropriate measures to maintain social distancing and sanitizing precautions.

The best way to reach us is probably text message using 360-399-6440 (texts only). We are doing our best to be up and running, but please understand that it is very difficult to operate “normally” due to the pandemic.

Skagit County Courthouse went into a very tight lockdown in March, and had almost no hearings (if any) between March 16th and April 17th. Anything that was not an emergency was cancelled by the Court, including civil trials.

The US Constitution protects a criminal defendant’s right to speedy trial, so a bottleneck of civil trials has built up, and continues to build, while all criminal matters are given priority to advance through the system. There is nothing we can do about this, and it is the case in all counties where we practice (Skagit, Snohomish, Whatcom).

A lot can be done via telephone and computer, and we encourage electronic contact to try and continue our work together. You can always reach out to us electronically, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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Restraining order violations stick!

Did you know that the criminal charge “violation of a no-contact order VNCO” sticks even if the restraining order is temporary, or is terminated before the criminal case is resolved?

A lot of people believe that any violations of restraining orders will go away as long as the temporary restraining order is terminated; this isn’t true!

Once you are served with a restraining order, it is in effect. If the order tells you not to go a certain place, and/or not to contact the protected party, you risk criminal citation if you do it anyway.

The protected party is NOT restrained by their own restraining order. If a restrained party may not go to the protected party’s home, and/or may not contact him/her, this has no effect on the protected party’s actions. S/he can text you, call you, or show up to your house, and s/he is NOT violating their own restraining order. (We would argue they may not need protection if they won’t leave you alone, though!)

Here is what we see happen regularly: Wife gets a restraining (no contact) order against Husband and he is served with the order. A week later Wife texts husband and asks him to come over; husband believes he has permission. A fight breaks out at the family home and the police are called; Husband gets arrested for violating the no-contact order. Two weeks later, Wife’s no-contact order is terminated in family court; Husband’s criminal VNCO is still pending.

Husband is going to have a hard time fighting this charge, as the evidence tends to prove he knowingly went to a location, and spoke to a person, he wasn’t supposed to, after having been served with the no-contact order.

Read your order and respect it. No judge will have any sympathy for you if you knowingly violate the terms of your order.

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When Facebook Attacks

Facebook is a double-edged sword when it comes to the Courts. More than once we have looked at public Facebook posts, printed them, and included them in a family case to prove our point, and more than once Facebook posts or messages have been used against our client.

The lesson to be learned is Facebook and text messages are printed in permanent ink, they never go away, and they can and will catch you behaving badly. The same is true for pictures.

Another lesson is that you shouldn’t write something down if you wouldn’t be comfortable reading it out loud in a packed courtroom; and don’t allow or take a photograph you wouldn’t want shown to a judge in front of your mother.

Don’t forget that everyone everywhere has a recording device in their pocket in the form of their cell phone, which can take pictures, and record audio and video.  You never know who is watching and you should be more aware to protect yourself.

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Outrageous Government Conduct

George was featured recently in the Skagit Valley Herald after he managed to achieve a dismissal of all charges against a felony client due to outrageous government conduct. Read the full story here.

This marks only the second time an attorney in Washington State has successfully won a dismissal on these grounds. The first time was in 1996, after a lengthy appeal of the original case’s 1993 verdict on an arrest from 1991. Click here to read the opinion of State v. Lively (1996).

The case is up for an appeal on April 9, 2018, and we are certainly hoping the Court of Appeals affirms George’s hard-won victory.

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Dept. of Licensing vs. Missing Witness

If you are charged with a DUI or other similar driving offense, you may be subject to sanctions imposed by the Department of Licensing relative to suspension of your license to drive in the state of Washington. You can request a hearing to dispute the suspension, and it is generally a good idea to do so if there is a chance the suspension can be overturned.

In my client’s recent case, the department’s police report had some inaccuracies, and a witness subpoenaed on the client’s behalf failed to appear. The department granted our appeal, and my client maintained their license pending any sanctions that may be requested by the district court.

DOL hearings are tough to win; for every 100 you request, you might prevail in 15. It is your choice to appeal the suspension, and it may or may not be the best course of action for you. Feel free to talk to me any time about a DOL hearing, I’d be happy to give you some advice that may be helpful.

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Frivolous Request to Double Child Support

A statutory increase in support as a child gets older is normal, but in this case the opposing parent wanted to increase child support by under-representing their income, and over-estimating my client’s income. The moving parent provided no data to back up the request; no pay stubs, no tax returns, no bank statements. This parent wanted a huge bump in support and didn’t give any good reason for the change!

We had a telephone hearing with DSHS and they denied the moving parent’s request due to lack of information to support the proposed award.

If you need to ask for more child support, make sure you submit proof of the numbers that will be used to calculate it. It could make your request easy to grant, if the numbers are true, or it could help you deny a request that is unwarranted.

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