Bellevue Family Law Frequently Asked Questions

Making important decisions about your family's future can be difficult -- and learning about the legal avenues that can make those changes happen can also be hard. This page of Bellevue, WA, divorce frequently asked questions is here to help those who are learning about Seattle family law issues such as divorce, child custody, domestic violence, and divorce mediation.

Do you have a question that isn't addressed below? Contact us today to talk to an experienced Seattle family law attorney.

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  • Can I Terminate My Parental Rights and Stop Paying Child Support?

    Relinquishing your parental rights is a somber matter, one that cannot happen without the input and approval of a judge and the custodial parent. Even if you were to have your parental rights terminated, it would not eliminate your obligation to pay child support and other financial responsibilities unless it was in conjunction with an adoption by someone else, not necessarily a remarriage.

    The bottom line: if you are wondering, "Can I terminate my parental rights?" know that although there are some limited circumstances in which you could, you cannot easily end your responsibility to pay child support.

    Determining the Best Route for You

    Each case is different, and every individual and family has different needs and circumstances. What works well for one family, may not be advisable in your situation.

    The following cases especially need strong parental leadership.

    • Abuse
    • Estrangement
    • Adoption
    • Chronic hardship

    It’s important to know what your rights and responsibilities are so that you can make decisions that are in alignment with the law and that best suit you and your children.

    If you have questions about the termination of parental rights, you are encouraged to call our office to schedule a consultation. Once we evaluate your case and understand your story, we can help you decide if and how to move forward. There may be additional options and factors that you’ve yet to consider, so avoid taking legal action until an attorney has reviewed your case.

    Termination of Parental Rights in Washington

    Like so many other areas of child custody law, judges in Washington State base their decisions on what is best for the child in question. It rarely benefits the child to have his or her mother or father give up all contact and legal responsibility just to avoid paying child support. Even if you do manage to terminate your rights and stop future payments, you will owe past child support payments.

    Before giving up your parental rights under any circumstances, it is vital to understand the lasting legal repercussions of such an act. You will not have the right to see, contact, or spend time with your children. You would also not have any input on how to raise your children. Completely relinquishing your rights to help determine the best path for you children is a dramatic, life-altering, long-term decision that is not to be taken lightly or hinged upon finances.

    Request review of your child custody arrangement

    Do you have a legal question about the termination of parental rights or Washington State child custody laws? Speak to a Seattle family lawyer at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today by calling 425-460-0550.

  • Can I Complete the Divorce Process Without an Attorney in Washington State?

    Yes, you can absolutely file for a Washington State divorce without the help of an attorney. However, while this is a good avenue for a small minority of couples, many others will benefit from hiring an experienced family law attorney to make certain that their divorce process is handled fairly and that their rights are protected.

    Filing for divorce in Washington State requires filling out a number of documents, many of which are available online. After these documents are complete, you must file them and serve them to your spouse. If you and your spouse come to a divorce agreement, your divorce will be finalized within 90 days.

    Good candidates for filing for divorce without an attorney are those who have been married for a very short time, those without significant assets, those who have a strong understanding of the legal divorce process, and those who are largely in agreement regarding the divorce. You should absolutely not file for divorce without the help of an attorney if your spouse would like to go to trial, if you have substantial assets, if you have children and child custody concerns, if you are intimidated by your spouse, if your marriage involves domestic abuse, or if you have been married for a significant amount of time.

    A Seattle divorce attorney can help you make sure you and your children get what you deserve during the divorce process. To learn more, contact Molly B. Kenny today by calling 425-460-0550.

  • When it Comes to Washington Divorce Mediation, Why Is Self-Determination Important?

    Self-determination is defined as the ability to make decision and take action by yourself and without outside pressures or compulsions. More simply put, self-determination is the freedom to make your own choices without force from others.

    Self-determination is the foundation of divorce mediation and family mediation. When you take your divorce to court in Washington State, a judge makes the final decision for your and your family – and you have to accept those decisions. When you use the process of divorce mediation, only you and your spouse have the power to agree on a settlement, on property division and on child support and parenting plans. While a mediator and mediation attorney are involved in the process, no one excepts you and your spouse will make final decisions. Everyone else involved in mediation is simply there to facilitate the conversation, inform the two participants, and provide support.

    If you and your spouse believe that divorce mediation may be the right choice for you, and the self-determination is a concept that appeals to you, you may wish to speak with a Seattle mediation attorney. Call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today to learn more and to schedule an appointment with an experienced mediation lawyer.

  • How Can I Help My Adult Child Through a Divorce?

    You spent 18 years helping your child through every conflict and obstacle in his or her life – and helping your child grow into an independent adult. Now that your child has announced his or her divorce, it can be difficult to know how you should reach out and help as well as how much space you should give your child.

    Before you take any actions, be sure to find out his or her needs. Everyone is different and the best way you can know what you should do is to ask. Your child may need a place to stay, someone to talk to regularly, a shoulder to cry on, or help with the kids. On the other hand, you child may ask for some distance and privacy.

    Whatever you do, be sure to be supportive but neutral. This is not the time for you to voice your opinions on your child’s spouse or the time to engage in any type of family drama. This is also not the time to show your support through negative actions or words. Give love to your child, stay neutral but respective of his or her spouse, and spend time with your grandchildren. Try to reign in emotions and judgments – and remember that this is not your relationship.

    Have more questions about divorce in Washington State? Contact Seattle family law attorney Molly Kenny today.

  • What Are the Potential Warning Signs That a Partner Could Become Abusive?

    There is no way to tell whether a potential partner is a future abuser or that a boyfriend or girlfriend could become abusive in the future. Abusive partners could appear perfectly normal to others and there is no definitive way to pick them out of a line up. However, there are some common warning signs that may help you avoid an abusive situation:

    • Abusers often want to quickly escalate a relationship – they want to move in together or get engaged on an accelerated timeline.
    • Abusers may be very charming and charismatic at first – and may use this time to gather sensitive information about you.
    • Abusers often display controlling behavior, perhaps related to how you spend your time, who you see, or how you spend your money.
    • Abusers are often jealous. While this jealousy may at first seem like concern or caring, it can morph into control and jealous rages.
    • Abusers often try to isolate the victim. In early stages, this may involve wanting to spend large amounts of time alone with the victim.
    • Abusers may display sudden shifts in mood and personality – charming one moment and frightening the next.

    Domestic abuse can be extremely harmful – and domestic violence is just plainly illegal. If you are navigating a divorce or child custody case that involves domestic violence, you may wish to speak with a Seattle domestic abuse attorney. Call Molly B. Kenny today to schedule a private consultation.

  • What Is the Role of the Divorce Mediator?

    A divorce mediator is very different from a courtroom judge. A mediator does not make decisions for the couple and does not settle arguments for the couple. Instead, a mediator is there to guide you through the divorce mediation process, to promote constructive communication, and to provide an environment that is conducive to cooperation and agreement.

    A mediator will be neutral and unbiased throughout your sessions. He or she may suggest routes to a possible solution, share how other couples have talked through issues, and encourage listening, compromise, and empathy. A mediator often has extensive experience and can offer you useful information and tools that can help you find your way to a workable and amicable solution.

    Also during each session, the mediator will document the meeting and the decisions you have reached. At the end of the mediation process, the mediator may draft a divorce settlement for you and your spouse – a document that should be reviewed by you and your attorney before finalization.

    Do you have further questions about the divorce mediation process, or do you need a Seattle divorce attorney to stand at your side through the mediation process? Contact the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today at 425-460-0550 to speak with a lawyer.

  • Will moving in with my new boyfriend or girlfriend affect my child custody case?

    Washington State divorce and child custody cases can take months and even years – and it is not surprising that some move on to new romantic relationships during the divorce proceedings or during the child custody proceedings. In some cases, divorcees wonder if they can cohabitate with their new partner and if this move would affect their chances of receiving custody rights or visitation rights.

    As with all cases, the answer to this question depends on the unique details of your individual case, as all child custody cases are different. And as with all cases, child custody is decided largely based on the best interests of the child. That means that the only way that cohabitation during child custody will affect the outcome is if your new boyfriend or girlfriend adversely affects the life of the child. For example, if you have an unhealthy relationship with your new partner, if your child voices issues with the partner, or if your partner has an unhealthy affect on the relationship, it will affect your case outcome. Absolutely do not move in with a boyfriend or girlfriend who suffers from a drug or alcohol addiction, who has a history of domestic violence, or who has a serious criminal history.

    Do you have other questions about your Seattle child custody case? Contact a Washington family lawyer at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today.

  • Is there such a thing as a “good divorce”?

    You’ve probably heard the myth of the good divorce: the couple who mutually decided that their marriage wasn’t working out, had an amicable talk with their lawyers during an easy divorce, and now play racquetball together once a week and go on family vacations together with their kids.

    While these divorces probably do exist in small numbers, it’s important to understand that your focus shouldn’t be on a good divorce, it should be on the best divorce process possible for you and your kids. A “good divorce” requires certain behavior from both spouses – you can only control your behavior and your choices. For many, the focus should be on a fair, fast, and equitable divorce that offers you a new start and nothing more.

    Keep in mind, too, that “good divorces” don’t always start off as good divorces. Divorce is usually a painful time filled with change, confusion, and uncertainty. A new study has shown that many ex-spouses are able to improve their co-parenting relationship with their ex-partner in time, with the help of good communication, growing maturity, and the realization that their kids need them to get along.

    A “good divorce” might be elusive, but a good divorce lawyer doesn’t have to be. At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, our Bellevue divorce attorneys make certain that your divorce is as just and efficient as possible. Call today to schedule a private appointment.

  • Is Divorce Mediation Only for Couples Who Want to Get Back Together?

    Absolutely not. Many people hold the misconception that Washington divorce mediation is about couples getting marriage counseling and working out their issues. This is simply not the case. Divorce mediation is an alternative to court that allows couples to work out the details of their divorce, property division, and child custody plan with the help of an unbiased mediator and their attorneys.

    Although divorce mediation is often ideal for couples who are still able to openly communicate and cooperate with one another on some level, it is in no way an avenue for divorcing couples to rekindle their feelings or decide to work out the problems in their marriage. Couples who wish to give their marriage a second change or to speak about the issues in their marriage with a professional should seek the assistance of a marriage counselor or family therapist. Couples who wish to work on their marriage instead of seeking a divorce should not enter the mediation process.

    Divorce mediation can sometimes be confused with marriage counseling because it takes place outside of the courtroom, because it involves an unbiased third party, and because it often involves couples opening up, realizing their differences, and looking for mutually agreeable solutions. However, couples in mediation are focused on how to fairly complete their divorce, while couples in counseling are focused on their personal relationship.

    Is mediation the right choice for you? Speak with a Bellevue divorce mediation attorney at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today to learn more.

  • What is considered a property or asset during a Washington divorce?

    When you file for divorce, you and your spouse must separate your lives and your finances. This can be particularly difficult if you have been married for a significant number of years or if you have a significant number of properties and assets. But what is considered an asset when you divorce?

    An asset is essentially anything of value – from a car that you use to get to work to a piece of art that you bought together to a 401K that you have been contributing to for the last decade. Even the most amicable divorces can be strained during the division of property, which can include the consideration of the following assets:

    • Retirement plans and pension plans
    • Stocks and investments
    • Homes, vacation homes, land and other property
    • Cars, boats, and other vehicles
    • Checking and savings bank accounts
    • CDs
    • Some businesses, such as a family business
    • Art, antiques, jewelry, and collectibles
    • Cash and bonuses
    • Any other item or account of value

    Browse our legal articles about asset division for an in-depth look at how to divide these assets.

    Especially if you have a considerable number of properties or assets, and even if you are splitting just a few important items such as your home and vehicle, it is important that you receive your fair share during the divorce process. A Seattle divorce attorney can help you better understand the division of property and how to secure the assets that are most important to your future and comfort.

  • What are the special considerations associated with an interfaith divorce?

    If you are in an interfaith marriage, you likely understand that there were special considerations when you married and when you started a family – where to have your ceremony, how to raise your children, and which traditions and holidays to celebrate. You won’t be surprised to know that interfaith divorce also comes with unique challenges.

    By far the biggest concern with interfaith divorce is the religious upbringing of the couple’s children. Disagreement about the child’s exposure to different religions or cultures could lead to a spiritual custody dispute, while questions about the child’s primary physical custody could further complicate the issue.

    Another important issue surrounding interfaith divorce is religious divorce – some religions, like Judaism and Catholicism, offer a religious divorce ceremony in addition to a legal divorce. In some cases, this may be important to you or your spouse. In addition, you may consider changes to your religious beliefs, spirituality, or cultural traditions in the wake of divorce, especially if you converted before or during your marriage.

    At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we understand the unique issues that can accompany an interfaith divorce, especially when young children are involved. Our Seattle divorce attorneys can guide you through these issues and others – to learn more about our legal services, call us today at 425-460-0550.


  • What is spiritual custody? What is religious custody?

    If you followed the celebrity divorce between actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, you have no doubt also heard the phrase, “spiritual custody”. But what does it mean, and how are spiritual custody disputes resolved?

    Spiritual custody disputes sometimes take place between an interfaith couple with children who have filed for divorce. Whether or not the couple had previously agreed on a way to raise their children spiritually or teach them about religion, it is possible that they could disagree on their children’s spiritual upbringing during the child custody process. For example, one parent could refuse to take their children to a certain church or temple, while another parent may have their children participate in religious ceremonies without the other parent’s approval or knowledge.

    Spiritual custody disputes are often extremely sensitive matters. When and if the issue goes to court, a judge should approach the matter without favoring any particular religious or spiritual tradition. Instead, a judge will, as with all other aspects of child custody, consider what is in the best interests of the child. Usually, the best interests of the child involve the child continuing whatever religious upbringing he or she has had so far and the child being exposed to both its mother’s and father’s religious beliefs as long as they do not mentally or physically harm the child.

    If you are in a Washington State spiritual custody dispute, you may wish to speak with a Seattle child custody attorney about your case.


  • Should we delay divorce to pay off our debts?

    During the recent recession, divorce rates plummeted. This trend wasn’t because couples were getting along better during hard economic times, it was because many couples didn’t want to separate until their financial situation improved. Some wanted to stay in their home until the housing market recovered, some wanted to pay off debt before starting a new life, and some simply didn’t want to switch to single incomes in an uncertain climate.

    When it comes to delaying divorce until your financial situation improves, only you and your spouse can make the right decision. Paying off debt before divorcing could make the separation process easier and more amicable, but stalling a divorce can also stall your fresh new start and cause more tension between you and your husband or wife.

    Another option to consider before stalling a divorce for financial reasons is choosing a low-cost divorce – by using divorce mediation and by working with your spouse to avoid arguments that can lead to high legal fees.

    Do you worry about delaying your divorce as well as your current and future financial situation? You may need the help of an experienced Bellevue divorce attorney. Give us a call today to schedule a private consultation.

  • Should we delay divorce for the sake of our children?

    Several studies have shown that very young children are often more affected by divorce and the consequences of divorce than older children and teens. However, this does not necessarily mean that you should delay a divorce simply for the sake of your children.

    Delaying a divorce that you know you want could also affect your children negatively. If you no longer love your spouse, your children will grow up without an accurate idea of what a caring, loving partnership looks like. Even worse, if you and your spouse continue to argue or even fight in front of your children, the emotional effects could be considerably worse than if you had simply ended your marriage when you were ready.

    It is still important to understand that younger children can suffer long-term issues tied to their parents’ early divorce if the divorce is not handled in a healthy manner. You can use the information learned from these studies to be extra aware of your children’s thoughts, feelings, and emotional needs before, during, and after your divorce. You can also use these facts to help both you and your spouse approach your divorce in a mature, even-tempered, and even caring manner.

    Do you need a Seattle divorce attorney? Molly B. Kenny is here for you during this difficult time. Call today to speak with an experienced family law attorney at 425-460-0550.

  • What Is Discernment Counseling?

    Discernment counseling is an emerging form of marriage counseling developed for couples that are considering the option of separation and divorce.

    Discernment counseling was developed recently by counselors who noticed that “mixed agenda” couples—couples in which one person wished for divorce and one person wished to work on the relationship—were not benefiting from traditional couples counseling. Instead of assuming that both partners wished to work on the marriage and fix their relationship, discernment counseling encourages couples to consider all of their options for moving forward, including divorce and separation, with the best interests of both of those involved at heart.

    Discernment counseling is not a great idea if both of you want to avoid divorce or if both of you are sure that divorce is the right choice. Discernment counseling is not yet widely available. While there is not yet enough data to gauge the effectiveness of the new type of counseling, the response from couples and counselors has been positive.

    Do you need legal help from an experienced Bellevue divorce attorney? Molly B. Kenny is here to guide you through the process quickly and adeptly. Call our office today at 425-460-0550 to learn more about your Washington divorce and get your questions answered. 

  • Will I get alimony as part of my divorce?

    Alimony or “spousal maintenance” is never a given in divorce; there are a lot of factors that the courts will assess when making an alimony determination.

    If you are contemplating divorce, or are in the midst of one, and are concerned about how you’ll make ends meet, it’s in your best interest to talk to a family law attorney for help planning how to meet your financial needs. Your attorney can help validate your need for alimony to the judge and negotiate with your spouse’s attorney for a fair agreement for spousal support.

    What Factors Determine If I Will Get Alimony?

    Unlike child support, there is a so set formula for determining alimony amounts, nor is there one simple answer to whether or not the courts will award one spouse maintenance. “Maintenance is based on financial and economic factors, not whether one of the spouses is at fault. Instead, if there is a big economic difference between the spouses, maintenance may be ordered to help achieve financial independence,” explains the Washington Courts.

    There are several factors a judge can consider when hearing a request for alimony, such as the following:

    • Age, health, and earning capacity of both parties: If one party is disabled or has a serious health condition, alimony may be necessary
    • Duration of the marriage: Spouses who’ve been married a short duration usually can’t justify alimony
    • Each party’s prospective financial future: The judge will consider how long each party has been in the workforce and built their careers, what their education and training levels are, etc.
    • Paying spouse’s ability to pay alimony: Each spouse will have to submit a financial affidavit to give the judge a clear picture of all of their finances.
    • Amount of property and assets each party will have after the divorce
    • How long it will take the recipient spouse to gain education or training to become self-sufficient: If you need to start from scratch, the judge may award you alimony for the duration of your schooling, plus a couple of years afterward while you obtain a job
    • The lifestyle the couples had during the marriage: Did you live in a house in a safe neighborhood, own your own vehicle, etc.? The judge will try to award support in a way that narrows the gap between each spouse’s economic standing

    Obtaining the Support You Need ASAP

    You do not have to wait until after the divorce is final to get a court order for maintenance. It can be exceptionally hard to get your place, take care of your kids, and try to make ends meet when you’ve got little to no income and have yet to build a career. The court understands that support is sometimes a crucial, pressing issue that can’t wait.

    Our Bellevue Attorneys Can Help You Seek Alimony

    For help securing temporary and future spousal support you need so that you can get back on your feet and walk more confidently toward the future, contact family law attorney Molly B. Kenny today at 425-460-0550.

  • Should I Change My Last Name After My Washington State Divorce?

    Many women struggle with the option of changing their name in the wake of a Washington State divorce – should you keep your married name, revert to your maiden name, or pick a new surname to start your new chapter of life?

    Here are some issues to consider:

    • Do you have children? You may consider what their last name is and whether you’d like to share a last name with them.
    • Have you had your name for very long? Changing your name may be easier after a short marriage than after a few decades with your married surname.
    • Would a name change affect your professional life? If you have been published or if you are well recognized and established in your field of work, you way wish to keep your married name for business or career reasons.
    • Do you want to do the paperwork? Changing your name will take a bit of effort and involve your bank accounts, drivers’ license, credit cards, and other accounts.
    • Do you see your name as a symbol? Some woman may see a name change as a chance to let go of their relationship and let go of the past.

    The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny can assist you with your divorce, child custody, or domestic violence case. Call a Seattle divorce attorney at 425-460-0550 today.

  • Does My Child Get a Say When it Comes to Washington Child Custody Laws?

    Whether or not your child gets to help with the decision of his or her custody depends heavily on the individual details of the specific case. In some cases, a child’s feelings may be weighed heavily by the court and his or her parents. In other cases, a child may be placed in a home against his or her wishes.

    In all cases, the court will decide custody based on the best interests of the child. Sometimes that means that a child is placed with a person the child prefers, but sometimes it means the opposite.

    If a child is mature enough to add input to the situation, his or her wishes could be considered. Likewise, if a child has obviously bonded with one parent over the other, many judges will consider the emotional damage that would occur if the child and parent were separated.

    If a child wishes to live with a parent who suffers from substance abuse issues, who has a violent criminal history, or who does not look after the child’s basic needs, a judge may decide to place the child in a different home against his or her wishes.

    Do you need the counsel of a Seattle child custody lawyer? Call Molly B. Kenny today.

  • What Are Monitored Exchanges or Supervised Exchanges?

    A supervised exchange or a monitored exchange takes place when a third party assists with the child visitation transitions from the home of one parent (or legal guardian) to another. Supervised exchanges help ensure that parents going through a difficult divorce or child custody battle do not have to have contact with one another – and that their children have a positive experience during the exchange.

    A supervised exchange can either be handled by a mutually-agreed upon monitor (such as a relative, a friend of the family, or a child care provider) or by a trained professional (such as a social worker).

    The goal of a supervised exchange is to smoothly transition children from one household to another without conflict. If both parents are present at the exchange, conflict, arguments, or even domestic violence could take place, exposing children to unhealthy experiences. A monitor at the exchange can help keep the environment neutral, child-centered, and under control.

    Do you have a Washington child custody case that necessitates a Seattle child custody lawyer? Contact Molly B. Kenny today to schedule a meeting with a family law attorney.

  • Should I Sign a Prenuptial Agreement?

    While the initial idea of a prenuptial agreement can be unromantic at best and offensive at worst, it can also be seen as an opportunity for both parties to protect their interests and assets in the case of a divorce down the road. Even if you don’t have assets to protect, a prenup can be an opportunity to settle the division of property and avoid a costly legal battle in the event of a divorce.

    However, before you sign a prenuptial agreement, it is extremely important to be open and honest with your spouse – and it is extremely important that you agree with everything written in the document. Don’t agree to an unfair prenuptial agreement because you don’t think you will ever need to use it. Be wary of fault clauses or agreements that don’t expire or change after a certain number of years after marriage.

    A prenup may force a tough discussion (or series of discussions) between you and your betrothed. However, it may well be easier to have these talks now than later after your relationship as turned sour.

    Do you have questions about a Washington prenuptial agreement or about Washington State divorce? Contact Seattle divorce attorney Molly Kenny to schedule a private consultation.

Molly B. Kenny's Bellevue family law office is conveniently located on Lake Bellevue Drive, making it easily accessible to those in the greater Seattle area. Our divorce and child custody lawyers help men and women get the information, guidance, and compassionate representation they need.
Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny