Services

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This page contains an outline of our services and practice areas. The dropdown additional information sections may give you an idea of some of the issues. Please check the BLOG page for possible additional information or contact our office.

Guardian ad Litem (GAL)
Family law investigations, evaluations, and recommendations for parenting plans / visitation orders, modifications of parenting plans, relocation of children, and private termination of parental rights. Focus is on what is best for the children and reaching agreement between the parents when possible.

Adult guardianship investigations for initial determination of whether a guardianship is necessary and if so, then what rights will be retained by the incapacitated person or exercised by a court appointed guardian. I also can be appointed for an investigation during a guardianship to help the judge determine if there needs to be a reduction or termination of the guardianship.

Click for more information on Guardian ad Litem.

Additional detailed information can be found on the separate Family Law Guardian ad Litem Services page. It is VERY difficult to remove a family law guardian ad litem after he/she is appointed. You should get to know the philosophy, work expectations, billing practices (you may be shocked), and efficiency of the Guardian ad Litem prior to him/her being appointed. Please click the aforementioned link to learn more about hiring me as a family law Guardian ad Litem.

The Guardian ad Litems for adult guardianships are appointed on a rotating basis unless you have a specific need or circumstance. For example, I have extensive experience working with people with disabilities and communication difficulties and have been specifically appointed in cases with these aspects.The role of the Guardian ad Litem is to gather as much reliable information as possible and make recommendations based on what he/she believes is in the best interest of the alleged incapacitated person independent from the person themselves or other interested persons. The Guardian ad Litem, as an extension of the Judge, is expected to make a detailed report to the Judge in an objective manner with appropriate recommendations.

Additionally, I have been appointed as attorney for the alleged incapacitated person to advocate for their viewpoint. This is completely different from being a Guardian ad Litem because as attorney I will prepare a case and argue whatever are the goals and perspective of the alleged incapacitated person. Anyone who does not believe they need a guardian should have the opportunity to argue for retaining all their civil rights or as many as reasonable and safe.

Family Law:
Divorce (Dissolution of Marriage), Legal Separation, or Paternity
Child Support, extraordinary costs, and medical insurance
Spousal Support
Parenting Plans
Modifications (child support, parenting plans, other court orders)
Relocations (moving residence with children)
Property Disputes
Military Issues related to family law

Click for more information on Family Law

Family law cases where the spouses are not agreeing or cooperating are some of the more emotional and factually complex cases due to the personal nature of the disputes and often undocumented facts to support each side's position. When children are involved the issues are 10 times as complex, 10 times as emotional, and 10 times as important.

At the start of a divorce all the issues, requirements, time lines, and procedures are all new, strange, and overwhelming. If you are the Petitioner (the person filing the initial paperwork to start the divorce), then you will have more time to carefully consider your options, learn about the entire process, and consult with an attorney to review your legal documents or hire an attorney to create the required legal documents. If you are the Respondent (not the person filing the initial paperwork), then you may only have a week or two to accept what is happening, prepare your responsive paperwork, and go to court for temporary orders. While most of the paperwork is standardized and available for free at the courts' website and there are online self-help resources (see our RESOURCES page), it can be complicated to make sure everything is done and done well.

If there is any concern of violence or significant negative response by the other party, then a temporary and perhaps long-term restraining order may be necessary. There are methods to get this done with no notice to the other party, but only on a temporary basis no longer than 14 days, and then a full hearing where a commissioner or judge will decide if it should continue. If you are responding to such a petition, then it is critical to prepare a complete and aggressive legal packet (especially if the accusations are false). At the beginning of a divorce, either side can file motions with supporting declarations and other documents for possession and use of funds and personal property, determination of who continues to reside in the existing home, deciding who pays what bills, requesting spousal support, setting what visitation each parent will have with the children, calculating what child support will be paid, and other issues relevant for the first 6 to 8 months. Then there is the legal discovery, judge facilitated settlement conference, and if necessary a trial. During this time there are many other actions and issues with which to be concerned.

After a divorce there can be ongoing issues with spousal support, property division, transfer of titles, retirement division, and other issues between the divorced parties. If there are children involved there can be ongoing disputes over the parenting plan, decision making, child support, additional child related expenses, and other child related issues. Over time most people also petition to modify child support and sometimes petition to modify the parenting plan. A MAJOR issue is when one of the parents wishes to move the children (called relocation) and the other parent does not agree - this could result in temporary motions, legal discovery, a settlement conference, and even a trial.

All these actions have required procedures, required documents, and the need for a well organized and aggressive strategy to convince the opposing party and the court that your position is what is fair, practical, and in the best interest of the children. In addition to proper paperwork, there is the issue of speaking in the public courtroom in front of the commissioner or judge and being persuasive.

If you are one of those couples agreeing on a divorce, then having an attorney review your paperwork can make sure that your intentions are written on the court documents to avoid any misunderstandings and disputes in the future. Also, many counties are requiring that final paperwork be reviewed by a courthouse facilitator (clerical worker for the court) or an attorney. For such an important event, it is wise to get a professional's review, recommendations, and assistance before having the documents signed by the judge and finalized.

Disability Law:
Guardianships (establishing, annual/triennial reports, etc)
Social Security (SSDI, SSI, and SSA)
Discrimination (at work, in public places, or by government)
Retaliation (after exercising your rights or helping others)
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act violations)
Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD)
Workers' Compensation / Workplace Injuries (Washington L&I)
FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act violations by employers)
In-home care / AFH / Nursing home disputes
Special Needs Trusts (for life enhancement while keeping Medicaid)

Click for more information on Disability Law

Everyone has differing abilities. Everyone can have an unexpected event result in decreased abilities / disabilities. Everyone may need legal assistance related to their disability. I have spent years working in different vocations helping persons with disabilities (see my resume on the Guardian ad Litem page), and have extensive experience helping them get what the law and common decency requires.

I can help someone petition for guardianship for a family member, friend, or person who needs it. The process should be carefully considered and not entered into lightly since the result is to restrict the civil and legal rights of the allegedly incapacitated person. There are alternatives to guardianship that may be available and effective for the situation to avoid the loss of rights and strict requirements of court reporting and accounting. Even if a person is unable to manage their financial or personal affairs they may not need legal guardianship. However, the best way to legally protect someone from exploitation, neglect, and abuse is a court guardianship. Once guardianship has been established, I have been a Certified Professional Guardian in the past and can fully and completely advise the new guardian on what to do and how to do it, including record keeping and court reporting.

If you become disabled and wish to apply for Social Security, then you can hire me to help you prepare your application and records for the best chances of success at the first step (and avoid what can be a VERY long process of appeals and hearings). If you are denied, it is critical to contact an attorney immediately since the time limit is short to file for reconsideration or an administrative hearing. There are many steps to take and activities to perform to make sure all the available evidence is before the administrative judge for a favorable decision. Yet, if that is not successful we can file a review with the Office of Adjudication and Review and Appeals Council. Occasionally this is also unsuccessful and we can file a federal lawsuit against the Social Security Administration. It is recommended that you hire an attorney as soon as possible because if an attorney is hired after the insured period (for SSDI), then no new evidence will be allowed and going to the federal court can take about 5 to 6 years. One case lost at the administrative hearing, won at the Appeals Council who sent it back for a second administrative hearing, lost the second administrative hearing (same offended judge), lost the second Appeals Council review, and then filed a federal court lawsuit where the Social Security Administration and their attorney delayed for over a year; the case taking over 6 years. Sooner is better.

If you suffer discrimination because you have a disability, are treated as having a disability, or have a family member with a disability, then I can help you get justice and a change. There are many federal and state laws protecting people with disabilities from discrimination and retaliation. I can help you decide if you have a case and if you want to pursue a remedy. Some discrimination requires cooperating with or filing with administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Washington Human Rights Commission, or Office of Administrative Hearings. Each different venue has its own rules.

Small Business Law:
Pre-formation decision advice
Formation: limited liability company, partnership, sole proprietor, incorporation
Creation of business articles of incorporation, bylaws, procedures, handbooks, etc.
Contract creation, interpretation, mediation, lawsuits
Employee issues
Customer / client issues

Click for more information on Small Business Law

Every business has to deal with a myriad of legal issues. You could wait until a problem arises to consult an attorney, but by that time it is likely that the evidence is not complete or as favorable as if an attorney was consulted from the beginning. I can assist you with the very beginning phases of development and establishment of a business - including the legal formation and registration of your business. Not only have I researched many legal areas and issues important to small businesses, but I have also owned and run several small businesses over the years. I know the real day-to-day stress, obligation, obstacles, and practical issues.

Once the business is up and running (or has been running for a while), then there are issues related to contracts and customers, employees, government oversight, and lawsuits. If consulted early enough, I will help you avoid as many of these problems as possible; and when not possible to avoid them, I can help eliminate or limit the damage.

The purpose of owning a small business is independence, control, earnings, and longevity. You do not want any of those or other reasons you started your business to be overcome by legal problems. Work hard and smart by having an attorney as part of your team.

Personal Injury Law:
Automobile accidents
Injury on another person's property
Injury by another person's action or inaction

Click for more information on Personal Injury Law

If you are injured and it was the fault of another person, company, or government entity, then the law allows you to be compensated to try and put you back to the condition prior to the accident. You may receive reimbursement for the costs associated with the injury, such as: medical treatment, counseling / psychological treatment, medical insurance co-pays / deductibles, tow truck, rental car, repair costs to vehicle / property, lost wages, document charges, in-home care provider services, medical equipment, court costs, and any other actually paid item as a result of the injury. You may also receive payment for elements that you have not paid, but are a direct result of the injury and our legal system can only try to make better through an award of money (there currently is not a way to have someone take away pain with a magic wand), such as: physical pain and suffering, ongoing physical limitations, physical deformations, emotional pain and suffering, loss of the ability to give / receive affection and emotional connection with a significant other (consortium), future lost wages due to reduction in ability to earn money, future pain and suffering, and future reduction in enjoyment of life activities. A good attorney will create a full and complete picture of your life prior to the accident and after the accident to show the difference and ask for compensation.

Personal injury cases are often defined by the severity of the injury and expected recovery. However, many cases can also be categorized by the amount of attorney time and effort required. PBW Law Firm pllc will review your case and decide on a possible reduction of the "standard" contingency agreement where the attorney would get 33.3% if the case resolves up through a Superior Court trial, 40% if the case resolves after appeal to the higher courts, and 50% if the case requires post-court action for collection. I offer contingency fees starting at 20% depending on the ability of the client to assist with the case and complexity of the issues. You should be able to negotiate a progressive fee agreement with your attorney if your case will take little attorney time or if the recovery is likely to be very large.

Be aware that your medical and vehicle insurance companies will have a right to reimbursement if they pay anything toward the costs of your accident and you recover from the wrongdoer. They will usually work together with your attorney and reduce their compensation to help compensate the attorney according to your agreement, but sometimes they get full reimbursement. If your accident involved a vehicle there may be Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance and there are ways to use your primary medical insurance (to pay a lower rate to the medical provider than their "full" inflated rates) and use the PIP for co-pays, deductibles, and services your insurance does not pay. Combining your available insurances is often much better for you since it can extend the medical care available (be careful of medical providers who have a contract with your primary insurance but do not bill that insurance because they desire a higher payment).

Property Law:
Real estate purchase and sales (protect yourself instead of contracts provided to protect real estate agents)
Landlord / Tenant issues
Lease / lease-to-purchase agreements
Property insurance disputes
Property Damage
Construction disputes

Click for more information on Property Law

In many states the transaction of real estate requires an attorney to review the paperwork and advise the purchaser and seller. In Washington, no attorney is needed. Be careful since the standard purchase and sales agreement used by real estate agents have the primary goal of protecting the real estate agents and may not keep up with current case law. Also, those forms strike a balance between the rights and responsibilities between the seller and purchaser since the real estate agent will be on both sides of the agreement in different transactions (sometimes the same real estate broker is on both sides of the same real estate transaction). If someone profits from both sides, can they be aggressively protecting either side? Real estate sales and purchases are a huge item and event - both in regards to the overall amount of money, but also in the legal costs to resolve conflicts when they arise. There are many things an attorney can do to protect either the seller or purchaser in a real estate transaction, such as writing a completely new purchase and sales agreement or writing addendums to the standard real estate agent purchase and sales agreement. You should at least hire an attorney for a consultation before such a monumental financial, emotional, and legal tansaction.

In both commercial and residential rental situations there are conflicting goals between the landlord and tenant. The statutes involved in many rental or lease agreements need to be understood and followed when creating the rental agreement and during the rental period. Violation of those laws could have dire results. If one party does not fulfill their legal obligations, then there are strict procedures and time lines that need to be followed. It makes good sense to become aware of the rights and responsibilities of the landlord and tenant before entering into the agreement, but especially when a problem arises.

Anytime there is damage to real estate there will either be insurance involved or holding someone else accountable (intentional damage to one's own property is not recoverable). Unfortunately, in the majority of situations where home insurance (owners or renters) should quickly and easily pay for all repairs there are unnecessary delays and refusal to pay what is appropriate. You can attempt to resolve these disputes yourself, enlist the help of the Washington Insurance Commissioner, or hire an attorney. Washington citizens were so frustrated (as were the politicians) with insurance companies refusing to pay what was obviously covered and reasonable, that new laws were passed in 2007 to penalize insurance companies for their bad faith in unreasonably denying coverage and payment. You pay premiums in good faith, you need to hold insurance companies accountable for their bad faith (also known as ripping you off).

Prior to going to law school I worked in construction and know the many problems that can arise during initial construction and repairs and remodeling construction. Unfortunately, most people start a construction relationship with faith and hope, which is important, but not a detailed written contract, which is absolutely necessary to avoid later problems. Courts have allowed written contracts to both be interpreted according to the exact wording and interpreted based on the behavior of the parties (and to a lessor extent to whatever a judge thinks is fair). If you are only having a small construction project done (and not affecting the major systems in the real estate - plumbing, electrical, foundation, or load bearing walls), then it may not be economical to hire an attorney to review your contract (or write one in the first instance). However, if your project is worth a moderate amount of money or possibly affecting a major structural system where a mistake could lead to major problems, then hiring an attorney may help you think of the potential problems and avoid many of them.

There are many property disputes that may arise regarding real estate, having an attorney's advice is always worth the cost compared to the stakes involved and possible consequences of not understanding the rights, responsibilities, and procedures.

Probate Law:
Creation of Wills, Power of Attorney, Living Will / Healthcare Directives
Non-probate resolution of estates by declaration
Court probate filing and assisting the Personal Representative
Court contests to Wills, Personal Representatives, Accountings, Closing of estates

Click for more information on Probate Law

Probate is the legal procedures after someone dies; this is the court process to make sure that if the deceased person created a Will, then those wishes are carried out after death. If you have assets to determine what should be done with them or have children dependent on you, then you should have a Will and other probate documents. Not only can you determine what happens with your assets, but if both parents of the children are deceased (or there is only one parent with legal rights regarding the children), then the court will strongly consider your nomination of a guardian after you die; otherwise the court will have to choose a guardian based on who volunteers and has a closer relationship with the children, which is not always the person you would choose to raise your children. If you do not have a Will, then there are a series of statutes to determine who gets your assets (after liabilities are paid), but that too may not be consistent with your wishes.

You may wish to avoid most or all of the legal probate process. There are legal mechanisms where you can place your assets into a Trust where you are the Trustee (in control of everything until you die or become disabled and unable to manage the Trust), but when you die your nominated successor Trustee will simply take over and follow the written Trust document on what to do with your assets. This process can avoid the financial costs of probate but also avoid the often larger emotional costs of litigation between your heirs and beneficiaries. These beneficiaries do not need to be family members or even real persons - they can be organizations you support, friends, and even pets. If you do not create a Will or Trust, then these beneficiaries will most likely get nothing.

Probate also involves creating documents for you to determine what happens to you if you suffer an accident or health condition making you unable to intellectually make or communicate your desires. Through a power-of-attorney and healthcare directive you can instruct others in writing before a problem arises to make sure you are still in overall control of your autonomy and major life decisions.

If someone you care about dies with or without a Will and you are appointed as the Personal Representative (person managing the affairs / estate), then you can hire an attorney to help with the legal paperwork and time lines to meet the obligations of your new legal role. There are many required documents, communications with heirs and creditors, and other administration duties of the Personal Representative and having an attorney to walk you through each step is an emotional relief as well as saves time and money in the long-run. An honest person without professional assistance can make mistakes and be seen as breaching their duties leading to contested hearings. If someone you care about dies and you do not believe the person's affairs / estate is being properly managed, then you can petition the court for a review and accounting. This could be agreed to by the Personal Representative (person managing the affairs / estate), or hotly contested.

Social Security Law:
Appeals from denial of SSDI or SSI
Termination of SSDI or SSI
Overpayment notices for SSDI or SSI
Federal lawsuits for SSDI or SSI

Click for more information on Social Security Law

If you become disabled and wish to apply for Social Security, then you can hire me to help you prepare your application and records for the best chances of success at the first step (and avoid what can be a VERY long process of appeals and hearings). If you are denied, it is critical to contact an attorney immediately since the time limit is short to file for reconsideration or an administrative hearing. There are many steps to take and activities to perform to make sure all the available evidence is before the administrative judge for a favorable decision. Yet, if that is not successful we can file a review with the Office of Adjudication and Review and Appeals Council. Occasionally this is also unsuccessful and we can file a federal lawsuit against the Social Security Administration. It is recommended that you hire an attorney as soon as possible because if an attorney is hired after the insured period (for SSDI), then no new evidence will be allowed and going to the federal court can take about 5 to 6 years. One case lost at the administrative hearing, won at the Appeals Council who sent it back for a second administrative hearing, lost the second administrative hearing (same offended judge), lost the second Appeals Council review, and then filed a federal court lawsuit where the Social Security Administration and their attorney delayed for over a year; the case taking over 6 years. Sooner is better.

Consumer Law:
If you purchase a product or service you should get a quality product or service. Unfortunately, not all businesses look at it this way. Make sure you inspect and appropriately respond immediately to preserve your rights (call for a consultation if you are not sure). This includes retail purchases, leases, professional services, and unprofessional services (even "professionals" may seem unprofessional, but this refers to those persons not licensed in some way).

Click for more information on Consumer Law

The unfortunate fact is that many consumer disputes have been twisted by the large manufacturers and retail establishments to discourage legal action and recovery, but in the right circumstances it is possible to receive a fair result. The first option is to attempt a resolution through the manufacturer or retail store, which may be a contractual requirement to future litigation. If this does not result in a fair result, then you may be able to file a small claims action in District Court or file a request for arbitration (depending on the terms and contract). If you find yourself in a dispute with a small company or individual, then you are more likely to have all the weight of the legal system at your disposal. Don't forget that you are the consumer of medical services and insurance services and if those entities are cheating you or not providing you the services appropriate to your expressed or implied agreement, then you can exert your legal rights (this is separate from any personal injury for medical malpractice). You can always hire an attorney for a consultation to review the specific facts of your case and give you advice on the next steps. You will have to determine if the principles or financial amount at stake are worth hiring and attorney for litigation.

Personal Property Law:
When more than one person claims a right to personal property (vehicles, furniture, stock, art, tools, etc) there can be major disagreements. Find out how to get what belongs to you without getting into trouble yourself.

Click for more information on Personal Property Law

Personal property disputes arise in many circumstances, such as when two people agree to purchase something together or one person pays with the expectation of use of the item or reimbursement, but there was no evidence of an agreement (an oral agreement is still an agreement but harder to prove in court). I have handled a few cases where one person co-signs or co-borrows for a vehicle or item of furniture and the person with possession fails to make the required payments. The lender will then come after you, the nice person helping out a family member, friend, or acquaintance. It is nice to be nice, but if the person with whom you enter the agreement turns out not to be honest, then "nice people finish last" is a likely outcome.

Be very careful to any "self help" you may like to perform since you have to meet very specific legal prerequisites to help yourself to the personal property or payment against the wishes of the other person. It is possible that in trying to do what is fair, you end up with a criminal charge or civil lawsuit where you owe more than the original debt. Try not to allow your emotions to guide your legal decisions; if it is worth getting angry over, then it is worth a consultation with an attorney to find out your rights and methods to make it right.

Carefully consider what may be legally hiding that only an attorney can find.

Carefully consider what may be legally hiding that only an attorney can find.