How To Navigate Divorce With Children

How To Navigate Divorce With Children - Seattle Divorce Services

Children do make divorce harder.

Because they are so easily hurt by the divorce, we have to work much harder to create an outcome that will not only be positive for ourselves, but positive for them as well – and sometimes those two goals are not well matched.

For instance, you might feel your future would be happiest if you just never had contact with your ex again, but losing contact with their other parent could be extremely damaging to your children.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you want the best outcome for your children:

Work hard to protect their relationship with the other parent.

This may not be comfortable for you. You may be very angry with your ex, you may feel very hurt by them, you may think they are scum. But they are still the other parent to your children.

As a friend once said, even when you are no longer husband and wife, you are still Mom and Dad (or Mom and Mom, or Dad and Dad, or maybe even some other labels). Even if you do not think the other parent is a particularly good parent, having a relationship with both parents is extremely important to children. Therefore it is important to do what you can to preserve and support your children’s relationship with the other parent.

That means making sure they have significant time with both parents, and are assured that both parents love and care about them.

Protect them from the conflict.

Closely tied to preserving relationships with the other parent is the importance of protecting the children from the conflict between the two parents.

Don’t fill them in on the gory details of the divorce. Don’t badmouth the other parent (even if the other deserves it). Don’t leave divorce papers lying around where a child could read them. Don’t argue with the other parent in front of the children. Think about how a screaming match at a child exchange impacts the children.

And finally, don’t put the kids in the middle. This means don’t ask them to make choices. Don’t ask them which parent they would like to live with, or how much time they would like to spend with each parent. When you do this, you are asking them to declare their loyalty.

Having to choose to be more loyal to one parent than the other is an awful position to put a child in.

Develop the ability to co-parent while in different household.

Both parents will have different parenting styles and different rules. Part of co-parenting is recognizing that fact and supporting the style and rules of the other household as well as your own.

Just because the other parent handles a situation differently is not a reason to criticize that parent. Support the other parent’s decisions even if you do it differently in your household. Both parents should be able to tell the children that both styles and rules are valid, and support both.

If the two of you can talk from time to time about important parenting decisions, it will be much easier to present a united front to the children. This is not only for the children’s benefit, but yours as well. Without a united front, children will learn to play both of you off against the other, making parenting harder for both parents. If you can say “We have decided …”, the children will have much clearer boundaries.

Bonus Hint – Work with a child specialist.

A child specialist can help you develop a parenting plan designed around the children’s needs rather than your own desires. If possible, work with the specialist together. If your spouse can’t or won’t join you in those meetings, then still work with them yourself.

A child specialist should have a good background in child development and psychology, and can alert you to current problems or possible future issues that you may not be aware of. Kids are remarkably good at hiding their distress from their parents, especially when they perceive the parents to be in distress themselves.

The child specialist can advise you on strategies for effective co-parenting, suggest provisions to strengthen the parenting plan, and help both parents talk through any disagreements about how best to parent.

Can You Stop A Divorce After Filing?

Can you stop a divorce> - Seattle Divorce Services

At least here in Washington, and I imagine in any state, you can stop a divorce action before the divorce has been finalized if both parties agree to the dismissal.

A dismissal ends the case so that the divorce does not move forward. Also, if the other party has responded to the Petition for Dissolution, the party who filed can dismiss on their own.

To dismiss the case, you need to have the court sign an order of dismissal. This means you will need to file a motion asking the court to dismiss, and have an order of dismissal ready for the court to sign. If the other party has filed a Response to the Petition, then you will need to have them sign both the motion and proposed order, showing that they are in agreement.

The reason the other party needs to sign off on the dismissal is that as a general rule their Response to Petition includes a request for something from the court as well, such as granting the divorce, dividing property, etc. This request is what we call a counterclaim.

At this point both sides have asked for something, which means the court cannot dismiss based on one side’s motion without also dismissing the claim/counterclaim of the other party. Under the civil rules, in this situation the court cannot dismiss without the consent of both sides.

It should also be noted that the Respondent (the person who did NOT file the original divorce action) cannot bring a motion for dismissal without the agreement of the Petitioner, although I believe there would be an exception made in an unusual case such as where the Petitioner has died. In a case like that the divorce cannot go forward as there are no longer two parties.

Can We Divorce Without A Lawyer?

can I get a divorce without a lawyer - Seattle Divorce Services

It certainly is possible in Washington State to divorce without a lawyer, although as a lawyer I need to clarify that I do not recommend it. I have had clients spend a lot of money trying to undo mistakes they made writing their own court orders (remember the old car care commercial “Pay me now, or pay me later”?).

For those who are considering a divorce without a lawyer, there is a state website where most of the forms that you would need are available. Also, you should review the court rules. For some local forms, you may need to go to the superior court website for your county. Here are some links to King County forms, local court rules, and information about Family Court. Finally, you should also review the laws regarding divorce in Washington. [Read more…]

How is Property and Debt Split During a Divorce?

Property and Debt Split during Divorce - Seattle Divorce Services

In Washington the courts are instructed to make a “just and equitable” division of all property and debt, both community and separate.

Some factors the court is to consider include the nature and extent of the property, the duration of the marriage, and the economic circumstances of each spouse.

You can see that this gives the court a HUGE amount of discretion in terms of deciding what is “just and equitable”. Because the law is so open on this, we lawyers tend to come up with our own rules of thumb, based on our experiences and the experiences of other lawyers we talk to.

Settlement discussions are usually based on our common understanding of what is LIKELY to happen at court, because we cannot KNOW what would happen at court in a given case. [Read more…]

Who Pays for the Divorce?

Who pays for the divorce? - Seattle Divorce Services

Image by Cordell and Cordell – Background added

In Washington State, each party is responsible for hiring and paying their own attorney, including any initial deposits as well as any subsequent bills. So this means that each spouse pays for the divorce based on their personal choice of attorney. However, the court does have the authority to allocate divorce costs between the parties.

Typically such an allocation would happen at either a motion hearing on temporary orders, or at trial. [Read more…]

How Do I Get A Divorce Without My Spouse?

How Can I Get a Divorce Without My Spouse - Seattle Divorce Services Blog

You can get a divorce in Washington whether or not your spouse chooses to cooperate, but you cannot get a divorce without notifying your spouse that you are seeking a divorce. Notification means serving the divorce papers on your spouse (see my previous article on serving divorce papers).

Many people think that if the spouse won’t sign the the divorce papers, they can’t get divorced. However, at least under Washington law, the spouse’s consent is not needed for a divorce. If the spouse refuses to deal with the divorce at all, then you can obtain a default order after their period to respond to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has expired. [Read more…]

Serving Divorce Papers

Divorce Papers - How to Serve them - Seattle Divorce Services

When a divorce is started in Washington, the other spouse has to be notified of the divorce action.

This is done by serving him or her with a copy of the Summons and Petition, or ‘divorce papers’. ‘Service’ means delivering a copy to them, and there are rules around how this must be done. Once your spouse has been served, they have a set period of time to file a Response to the Petition. If they fail to do so, you may be able to finalize the case through obtaining an Order of Default.

The divorce papers papers need to be personally delivered, not just mailed, and must be delivered by someone who is not a party to the action (i.e. you cannot do the service yourself). Then a declaration has to be filed with the court stating the date and location of the service. Generally we hire a professional process server for this. [Read more…]

Removal of Spouse From Home During Divorce: Restraining Order and DVOP

Removal of Spouse From Home During Divorce: Restraining Order and DVOP - Seattle Divorce Services Blog

Unfortunately, at the beginning of a divorce case, it is sometimes necessary to have a spouse removed from the family home. This would most typically be in a high conflict divorce where the other spouse has some history of domestic violence.

If a divorce case has not yet been filed, but the home situation has deteriorated to the point where you feel you are in danger, you can file for a Domestic Violence Order for Protection (DVOP). Typically this would be based on either threats or actual acts of domestic violence having taken place. [Read more…]

Do I Need My Spouse’s Signature For A Divorce?

Do I Need My Spouse's Signature For A Divorce? - Seattle Divorce Services Blog

While it certainly helps to have a spouse sign off on a divorce, in Washington you can still get divorced even if your spouse is uncooperative. That can happen in several different ways, depending on the actions your spouse takes or fails to take.

If the two parties are able to agree to get divorced and as to the terms of the divorce, then it can all done by signature. We would ask your spouse to sign a document showing they received the initial papers (including the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage), or even to sign the Petition as a co-petitioner with you.

Then when we have the final divorce orders prepared, we ask both parties to sign the orders showing that they are agreed. [Read more…]

Seattle Divorce Services Supports Reign FC Women’s Soccer!

Seattle Divorce Services supports Seattle Reign FC Women's Soccer

Seattle Divorce Services has renewed its partnership with the Reign FC for 2017, Seattle’s professional women’s soccer team!

SDS’s support of women’s soccer stems in part from the enthusiasm of our business manager for the sport. She has played recreational soccer league for many years. At age 58 she is still playing several times per week (we can only hope to keep up with her energy level).

We also support women’s soccer because we believe participating in sports helps women improve their health and overall well being. Women’s sports are too often overlooked and inadequately funded. By supporting the growth of women’s professional sports, we hope to help promote sports for all women. [Read more…]