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Spokane Family Law Blog

Do grandparents have custody rights?

Washington state law recognizes that grandparents have some rights to see their grandchildren, but these rights are more limited than parental rights.

American courts have long recognized that the Constitution grants parents fundamental rights to make important decisions about the upraising of their children. This can mean that a parent has the right to decide their children should not spend time with their grandparents. However, Washington law recognizes that grandparents, and sometimes others, have rights as well, and courts can take these into account.

What is collaborative divorce?

When a married couple decides to end their marriage, the experience can be painful and emotional. Unfortunately, the legal process of divorce can sometimes make that worse, by encouraging an adversarial relationship. The traditional litigation model of divorce often pits one party against the other, with each side trying to get the better end of a deal. In many cases, this drags out the process longer, and leaves both sides unhappy. The result isn't great for anyone's mental health, but it is especially dangerous if the couple has children.

Most Washington divorces today are settled out of court through negotiation. This is typically faster and less expensive than going to court, and gives the parties greater control over their outcomes. However, negotiation doesn't always avoid the adversarial nature of a trial.

Do you have a claim to part of your spouse's military pension?

Marriage to a military service person can be quite difficult. Your loved one will have aspects of their job they simply can't share with you for privacy reasons. There is also the intense strain caused by prolonged absences. Still, it is possible for couples to work hard to maintain their relationship even during the stress of active military service.

Sadly, couples who successfully make it through their working years still married can find themselves considering divorce as retirement approaches or after your spouse transitions to civilian life. Retirement means spending a lot more time together every day. You may find that you and your spouse no longer have enough common ground to really enjoy your time together.

Substance abuse can play a role in child custody proceedings

Substance abuse is all too common across our country, including here in Washington. While drug issues can wreak havoc on an individual's life, substance abuse can also have a ripple effect that touches nearly every aspect of an abuser's life. This includes their children, which is why substance abuse issues often come up in the context of child custody disputes.

Of course, all matters pertaining to child custody and visitation are disposed of with the child's best interests in mind. This holds true for substance abuse issues, too. Therefore, parents who are dealing with a child custody dispute may benefit from putting forth evidence of another parent's drug usage and the effects that it has or might have on one's child.

Legal separation differs from divorce in the state of Washington

When we hear that a couple is separated, we may just assume that they are no longer married for all practical purposes. Legally speaking, however, separation is different from divorce. In the state of Washington, under RCW 26.09, you and your spouse may legally separate instead of dissolving your marriage, but you are not required to file for separation before you file for divorce.

Legal separation allows a couple to move forward with their lives by dividing up their assets and debts and making child custody and support arrangements, much like they would do in a divorce. Couples interested in filing for separation should also note that the process is very similar to filing for divorce. For a legal separation, you must first fill out a petition for legal separation, which you will find is similar to a petition for uncontested divorce. At the end of the legal process, a decree of legal separation will be granted. However, keep in mind that because you are not legally divorced, you cannot marry someone else.

Co-parenting tips to help you and your children after divorce

Life after divorce is sure to throw many challenges your way. As you navigate the murky post-divorce waters, it's critical to do your part in keeping your children on the right track.

These five co-parenting tips can help you and your children adjust after divorce:

  • Put them first: For the meantime, your children should come first in everything you do. They're going through a challenging time in their life, so they require plenty of attention. Neglecting to provide this attention could cause issues for them now and in the future.
  • Let your ex parent, too: This is what co-parenting is all about. If you keep your ex on the outside looking in, it will only result in additional trouble in the future. If you want what's best for your children, you'll stick to your parenting plan and work with your ex to provide a stable environment in which your children can flourish.
  • Maintain flexibility: Children suffer when parents argue about visitation schedules. Avoid this by keeping an open mind in regard to flexibility. For example, if your ex asks to alter the days they visit their children this month, see if you can accommodate the request.
  • Stay in touch: This doesn't mean you have to communicate with your ex every day, but you should have a system in place that works for the two of you. Regular, clear communication allows you and your ex to better co-parent, which benefits your children.
  • Don't compete: When you compete with your ex, you're only adding tension to an already volatile situation. Be mindful of your side of the street, so to speak. You have no control over your ex, so focus your energy on making the best life possible for you and your children. Competing with your ex is a game you can't win.

Washington receives 'C' in shared parenting report card

Divorcing couples with children often find it difficult to agree when it comes to the care and well-being of the children post-divorce. We've all heard the stories of parents arguing over which parent is best suited to meet a child's needs and how much time a child should spend with each parent. Even when a child custody agreement is reached, in or out of court, there can still be a lot of tension between the parents, which in turn affects the children.

Because of this tension, many states have implemented statutes that encourage shared parenting, where both parents are equally involved in the child's life post-divorce. The National Parents Organization recently released its 2019 report card, evaluating every state's shared-parenting statute based on a list of 21 factors. While many states have yet to reform their statutes to encourage equal shared parenting, the NPO found that there has been a lot of improvement since its initial report five years ago.

The benefits of a prenuptial agreement

Before you tie the knot, you and your spouse may consider signing a prenuptial agreement. While no one likes to think about the end of a marriage before it begins, a prenup can protect you and your spouse if the unthinkable happens.

A prenuptial agreement is essentially a contract, where soon-to-be spouses agree on how to split their debts and assets if the marriage ever ends. A prenup can protect one spouse from assuming the other spouse's debts upon divorce, as well as make sure that you can leave the marriage with the same assets you brought into the marriage. A prenup can also save you time and money during the divorce process, as the most complicated part of a divorce is often the property division process. If you are already married, you and your spouse can enter into a postnuptial agreement.

Military divorce: Get protection you need while on active duty

Going through a divorce is difficult, especially when you're also in the military. You have your own concerns to deal with on the job, and you may not be with your spouse often. The idea of having to make time for court may seem impossible.

One of the most important acts for military members who are deployed is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. It protects servicemembers' rights while they're deployed on active duty.

Explain divorce to your kids: All ages are different

When children are involved in a divorce, it can be a troubling time for them. Even when they're teens or adults, the idea of their parents splitting up can be frustrating, surprising and shocking.

For younger children, it's important that care is taken to explain the divorce in an age-appropriate way. If you aren't sure how to do that, then this might help you.

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