By Souphavady Bounlutay
The holidays are especially difficult for families who are in contentious relationships, where there is abuse or a power struggle. Stressful family relationships get magnified as families spend more time together. The holidays seem to be a time where people involved in high conflict relationships reach their breaking point and things blow up.
I help families resolve issues around divorce, child custody, spousal maintenance, and division of property. I meet and interview potential clients to determine whether we are a good match. When hiring an attorney, it is important to chose someone who not only has the legal skills, but can understand your family relationships, family culture, background, values, and long term goals. You will need more legal protection in some areas than others.
When someone calls the office, they are asked to provide basic contact information and if there is a court deadline they are trying to meet. This lets us know whether they need to meet with me right away. If we have no conflict in taking the case, we then schedule them for a consultation. By the time our first meeting is over, I will know the underlying conflicts and will decide whether to jump in the ring with you. If an attorney-client relationship is created, you will have no doubt I will be on your side.
In mediation, you go to a mediator (usually another attorney who practices in the same area of law). You and your attorney are in one room and your ex-spouse and his/her attorney are in a different room. The mediator goes back and forth between the two of you and tries to get you to come to an agreement on various issues in your case. Going through mediation can save a lot of time and money. However, it rarely works when you are in a high conflict divorce. In Washington State the court requires the parties to mediate before going to trial.
I am the only Lao speaking attorney in the State of Washington. Opposing counsels often tell me they want me to be co-counsel on the case, but I had already submitted my notice to appear for the other side. Justice depends on your ability to clearly and precisely communicate to the Judge what is important to you and your family. When you are Lao, having me as your attorney is not only practical, it puts you ahead of your legal battle. A stronger, more authentic, and powerful voice will always come from someone who speaks Lao and has your cultural life experience.
My family came to the US as refugees in the early 80s. My father swam across the Mekong River with two of his friends. A few months later, my mother and I left Laos and joined him at the refugee camp in Thailand. We stayed in Thailand for eight months and ended up in southeastern Idaho. We were one of three Lao families in our town. Every few months, we took a four hour drive to Boise to stock up on rice, canned bamboos, and fish sauce.
It was very difficult growing up in Idaho. I set aside my heritage and cultural background and focused instead on surviving in my new environment. What kept me going was my sense of duty to family, a compelling need to make a difference, and a conviction I was part of a greater purpose. I left Idaho when I went to the University of Puget Sound for college. I then returned to Idaho for my law degree. I wanted to be a trial lawyer and have been focusing my legal training on learning trial skills.
My purpose is to help and empower women. There was a time when I considered packing everything up to go volunteer with the Peace Corps. Becoming a lawyer was a practical option because of my family obligations. Like many women, I am learning and discovering how to integrate my work and personal life. Through the support of family and friends, I professionally and personally journeyed to Wise Woman Law PS.
For more information, visit:
Wise Woman Law PS
2775 Harbor Ave. SW, Suite D
Seattle, WA 98126