A ruling by the Washington State Court of Appeals* on September 23rd may drastically change how divorcing parents deal with the issue of child support for college. The court held that if the matter is not resolved in the initial divorce process, but rather is reserved to be dealt with later, then the parent requesting support for college may have to engage in a costly and time consuming process. Currently parents have been able to file a motion to adjust child support but the court ruled that the proper procedure is a Petition for Modification of Child Support. A modification procedure is typically more expensive and time consuming than a motion.
If you have this potential issue in your family law case it would be an excellent idea to immediately review this with your attorney. Delays could cost you the college education support.

*In the Matter of the Marriage of Kelly S. Morris v Gregory Charles Morris, 69430-8-1, Division One Published Opinion


The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) has recently been put under the spotlight due to a lawsuit involving child custody. As with other provisions meant to prevent race-related abuses, it can be difficult to know where to draw the line – for example, with various affirmative action measures, as well as the Voting Rights Act which was struck down just last month.

The ICWA was passed in 1978 to protect Native American children from getting removed from their families. This was in response to alarmingly high numbers of Indian children who were taken by both public and private agencies from their homes. A recent case has brought this provision into question.
The case involves a young child, Veronica, who was put up for adoption by her biological mother after the biological father, Dusten Brown, relinquished his parental rights via text message. Brown is a member of the Cherokee Nation, and Veronica is 1.2 percent Cherokee.

Veronica was adopted by a non-indian couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, from Charleston, South Carolina. They raised Veronica until December of 2011, when Brown took custody of her and moved her to Oklahoma. She was 27 months old.
Overturning a vast amount of precedent, the Supreme Court found that Brown did not have the right to take Veronica from her adoptive parents.

Reactions are mixed in regards to what this means for those affected by the act. The Capobiancos, understandably, are thrilled to be getting Veronica back, and expressed hope that the decision will prevent further tragic disruptions of other adoptions. The Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation feels that the child’s interests would be best served by staying in a loving home with her biological father.
The executive director for California Indian legal Services, Dorothy Alther feels that the decision is devastating and strips tribes from being able to intervene in parental disputes.

Whatever the impact on future cases, everyone can probably agree that the difficulty of the decision will have the greatest impact on little Veronica – who will once again be uprooted from her home and everything she knows, to live with her first caregivers who have at this point become strangers to her.
The legal world is uncertain, and it is a valuable reminder to us all that in a country that strives for justice, court battles remain risky.


We often receive calls from people who have already been divorced but are having trouble enforcing the terms of the divorce or property settlement agreement. Sometimes, after an agreement has been made or a court has issued an order, an ex-spouse decides not to obey the final order or agreement. The result is that one party may become burdened with a community debt that is not being paid as agreed or with liability on a real estate mortgage that is not being paid as agreed or real estate that is not being sold as per the terms of the agreement. Credit scores can be ruined or the ability to obtain loans impeded.

In order to protect our clients, when we represent someone in a divorce we include language in any agreement or stipulation assuring that our client will be indemnified for any debts or liability that the other party is assuming. Language that protects a client when the spouse receiving real estate fails to pay is essential as well as language that requires mortgages to be refinanced or modified to release our client from liability within a certain amount of time is also important. In cases where our firm is assisting after a divorce is final, usually the recourse for resolving a post-decree dispute is to either attempt to settle the dispute through mediation or to bring a motion in court to enforce the prior agreement.

Regardless, knowledge and understanding of potential future issues are key to avoiding preventable harm.


This week, 29-year-old intelligence operative Edward Snowden released files to the Guardian, revealing the secret and vast data collection program by the US National Security Agency. The program uses dragnet surveillance techniques to collect cell-phone metadata, as well as e-mail content and other online material of US citizens. This mass collection occurs with apparently minimal political and legal oversight.

He states that his reason for releasing the files is that something of this nature should not be kept secret but should be open to public discussion: it should be up to the people to choose whether or not they forego their privacy. Personally, he is not okay with such a system and said in an interview with the Guardian, “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”

He gave up his life in Hawaii, where he worked for Booz Allen and made $200,000 in order to release the top secret files.

Some feel the leak was inappropriate and that Snowden is a traitor, while others call him brave and a hero – someone who gave up his comfortable life in paradise in order to benefit the American people.

As he awaits his fate in Hong Kong, ready to fight any attempt of extradition, we in America are left with some questions. Is this spy program effective at making us safer? Are we willing to give up our Constitutionally-protected privacy?

Two Senators, Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, are asking for evidence that the NSA’s collection of records has actually helped to thwart any terrorist attacks. NSA director, General Keith Alexander testified Wednesday on Capitol Hill that maintaining a database of millions of Americans’ phone records was essential to preventing “dozens” of terrorist plots. Wyden and Udall, though, stated that every plot that Alexander mentioned seem to have been discovered using collection methods other than NSA’s dragnet surveillance.

Essentially, we need more information. But in the meantime, the revelation of the program should make Americans self-reflect and think for a bit as to where we should draw the line. Are we willing to give up Constitutional rights in the name of security if we are not certain that such security is resulting from our sacrifice? And if not – what actions do we take?


On December 6, 2012, Initiative 502 went into effect – enacting the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana in Washington State. The law decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana (up to an ounce) for adults age 21 or older. It has been projected that since 1986 there were at least 240,000 arrests for the possession of marijuana by adults in Washington, which cost taxpayers more than $300 million. Washington’s Office of Financial Management has estimated that legalization could bring in about half a billion dollars each year to public funds, which does not include money saved from a decrease in arresting, prosecuting, and jailing marijuana users.

I-502 provides that this money be distributed to areas such as health care, youth drug prevention, public health education about marijuana, as well as the general fund of the state and local budgets.

But it should be noted that while adults may possess marijuana, it is not yet legal to purchase it. By December of this year, the State Liquor Control Board will decide on a system in which the production, processing, and sale of marijuana may occur – and retail stores (similar to liquor stores) will be opened. There will be a 25% tax on the drug.

That said, according to the US Controlled Substances Act, it is still illegal to grow, sell, or possess any amount of marijuana under federal law. State attorney Jenny A. Durkan has said that it is still the duty of the Department of Justice to enforce this act.

In hopes of bridging this gap, Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado has introduced an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act in an attempt to exempt state marijuana laws. Until any type of change like this occurs, it is still possible to be charged with a crime for possessing marijuana.

At this point it is better to be safe than sorry.