The Conversation

“I don’t want to get divorced, it’s him (or her), not me.”

That’s the start of one of the toughest conversations I have with potential clients. It’s a conversation, by the way, that really shouldn’t be put off for any length of time. Options disappear quickly with time when you’re dealing with a legal issue.

I’ve heard variations on the ‘I don’t want to get divorced, but …” theme for what seems countless times, and yet they never seem to get any easier.  People come in for an initial consultation, introduce themselves, we share a few pleasantries about the weather or the Seahawks or the latest movie, and then they tell me they’re not in my office because they want to get divorced, they’re only here because their spouse–sometimes to their surprise–does.

That brings the comfortable part of the conversation to a halt. It was hard for them to tell me that, and I’ve heard it enough that I know the person across from me is in pain.

I completely understand.  Barring extreme situations–abuse, addictions, etc.–people generally don’t want significant relationships to end.  It just seems to happen.

I don’t want these relationships to end for my clients either, if it can be avoided. That brings up a very knotty question, one that books and countless daytime TV shows have been dedicated to: when can divorce be avoided, when can’t it, and how is anyone supposed to know?

From what I’ve seen, the question comes down to whether it’s past a point of no return, the point where there’s nothing the partners can do to save the relationship. The point where it’s obvious–at least to one spouse–that there’s nothing left to pursue or explore that can make a difference in saving the marriage.

The legal term for that point is dry but straight to the point: “The marriage is irretrievably broken.”

So, back to my conversation with the potential client who doesn’t see the relationship as truly over?. The person doing the “dumping,” or the leaving, can say it’s done, and has taken actions —like serving a summons and petition–to convey that, but it certainly doesn’t mean that the “dumpee” thinks it is. In fact, it usually comes as quite the shock.

Yet, the person in front of me, in pain, upset, shaken, has no choice but to respond. Where do I begin. First, here’s what I absolutely, under any circumstances, do not talk about – promises, how much alimony (called spousal maintenance in Washington) are you going to pay/receive, do you get to keep the kids 50/50, how much do you keep in your retirement plan, etc.

We are going to have a discussion about your options. That simple. There are more than you think. In there someplace, we’ll figure out a realistic plan to get you through this opening stage of the divorce proceedings.

There’s really only one truly important, have-to-do-this-immediately-or-else move when you find out your spouse wants to divorce. It’s also the easiest step: pick up the phone and call me.

Free Family Law Resources

There are many different intricacies that must be addressed when you are going through a divorce or some other family law matter, and the maze can be very confusing. We answer a lot of questions at the confidential consultations that we have with our clients, and we offer a great deal of very useful information right here on our website. This blog is updated regularly, and we also offer some additional permanent resources.

As we have stated, we do in fact respond to a lot of the same queries, so we have created a page that provides answers to frequently asked questions about family law matters. If you spend a little time digesting this information, you will come away with a solid foundation of knowledge to draw from going forward.

In addition to the frequently asked questions, our readers have access to a very carefully prepared, in-depth Washington divorce guide. This publication will provide you with some very valuable insight if you are going to be entering into the divorce process. One facet that it touches upon is the possibility that a divorce may actually be a very positive step for your family. It need not be looked upon as something that is entirely negative.

Our monthly newsletter is another source of ongoing family law information that you can receive in your inbox free of charge. You can simply subscribe here, and we assure you that you will be glad that you did, because family law matters evolve as time goes on. This newsletter will keep you up to date.

Many people like to obtain their information through the written word, and as you can see, we provide many different ways for you to do just that. However, some individuals prefer to watch videos to build on their knowledge, and we have you covered in this area as well. Our library of educational family law of videos can be accessed at any time, and you can gain valuable insight into a plethora of different topics if you watch these presentations.

All of these resources are invaluable, but there is no substitute for an in-person, one-on-one consultation with a licensed family law attorney. Tacoma residents can set up an appointment by phone right now at 253-272-9459, and you can alternately reach us through our contact page if you would prefer to get in touch electronically.


Legal Separation vs. Divorce: What’s the Difference?

There are a couple of different legal ways that you can separate yourself from your spouse. As we all know, a divorce or dissolution of marriage is one option. When a divorce takes place, arrangements are made with regard to the separation of property, child custody, child support, etc. At the end of the process, each person is once again single and unattached in the eyes of the law.

A legal separation is another possibility for couples who want to go their separate ways without severing the marriage knot. In some cases, the individuals involved are not entirely sure that they will never get back together again. However, in other instances, they feel as though there will never be a reconciliation. Why would a couple choose a legal separation over divorce if there was no hope of getting back together in the future? There are a few different scenarios that could make legal separation a better choice.

In some cases, a couple can realize significant tax benefits if they stay legally married, and this is one reason why a legal separation can be preferable. Health insurance is a basic necessity of life, and the couple may choose legal separation over divorce to preserve benefits if one party is covered under the other’s policy. Military spouses may be able to receive benefits if they remain legally married, so legal separation can be a good choice for some military couples.

There can also be Social Security implications that can tilt the scales in favor of a legal separation. If you have been married for least 10 years, and your own Social Security record would provide you with less than half of what your spouse is receiving, your benefit would be half of what your spouse is entitled to. Couples will sometimes choose legal separation so that they can reach this ten-year threshold.

Take the Next Step

We have provided a bit of basic information in this brief blog post. If you are a local resident who would like to explore this subject in more detail, we would be more than glad to assist you. We offer informative initial consultations at our Tacoma, Washington family law office, and you can set up an appointment right now if you give us a call at 253-272-9459.