Should I read this?
You are a parent thinking about ending your marriage or domestic partnership
You and your partner are thinking about making your relationship permanent and/or having children
You are interested in improving your parenting skills
Visit our website, WashingtonLawHelp.org, to learn more about the divorce process, and to find court forms and instructions. If you have questions about your situation, talk to a lawyer.
What can I do before I even have children?
You both should have talked about such things as:
If and when to have children
Your values about raising children
Your ideas about parenting
How to divide responsibility for raising your children
If you disagree on those issues, decide before you get married and have children how you will work out parenting and other disagreements in the future.
Can you sit down and talk together?
Does family counseling help?
Can a clergy member help with those issues?
*If there is domestic violence in your relationship, do not use these methods of resolving conflict. Call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-562-6025 to find out more about how to protect yourself and your children.
Before having children, make sure your relationship with your spouse or partner is healthy and stable and you have good skills in place for resolving conflict. Having children means:
We fight all the time. It seems like divorce would be only a good thing for my children as well as for us parents.
Maybe, maybe not. How divorce affects children is complicated. Divorce puts adults and children under a lot of stress.
Some experts believe the stress and changes divorce causes make your parenting skills worse. Some studies report children of divorce may be more likely to:
Have poorer health
Do poorly in school
Abuse alcohol and drugs
This is not true for all children. About 75% of children of divorce are okay. They may need time to get to this point after finding out you are breaking up.
If you separate, or end your relationship, you must make more decisions at a time when you may have bad feelings about the other parent. Be ready with good conflict-resolution skills. Know how to find help if you cannot settle things on your own. This will make things easier for your children.
What can I do to protect my children from any negative effects of my divorce?
Work with your spouse or partner. Make sure you both have strong, positive relationships with your children and you both are involved in parenting while you are together. You must help support the children’s relationship with the other parent.
Washington law supports children having strong relationships with both parents. The law also recognizes there may be cases where a court should limit a parent’s time with a child because of:
How can we keep our children out of the middle of our divorce?
Make sure you have a support system. Encourage your spouse to have one, too.
*Do not use your children for emotional support.
Your children’s well-being depends on the well-being of both parents. Anything you do that harms the other parent also harms your children.
Should we talk about the divorce with or around the children?
Decide how you both will communicate and settle disagreements about the children after the divorce or separation. Do not use the children as go-betweens or messengers. Do not involve them in conflicts about parenting, child support, or other issues related to your divorce.
Can the divorce process help?
Yes. If you separate or file for divorce, make sure there is a good child support order in place so the children have enough support in the homes where they are living. If you are the parent paying support, pay your child support regularly and on time.
Get Legal Help
Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help.