Many people choose to stay in an unhappy marriage for the benefit of their children. This decision is extremely personal, and often admirable. However, as family law attorneys, we hope parties staying married for the sake of their kids consider these three things:
- Spousal Maintenance: the duration of the marriage is one of the factors the court considers when determining whether to award maintenance (known in other jurisdictions as alimony). As the length of the marriage increases, it becomes more likely that the court will award maintenance, and for a longer duration. In addition, while the marriage is intact the non-earner spouse (or lower-earning spouse) will not necessarily be preparing for having to support themselves financially, leading to them needing more time to prepare for financial independence after divorce. This can have an impact on the maintenance provided to that person.
- Quality and Quantity of Parenting Time: Many parents complain that during an unhappy marriage, their parenting was adversely affected by living with their spouse. In these circumstances, parents might find that their relationship with their kids actually improves after divorce. While children may not spend the night in your home every night as they do prior to divorce, many parents find that they have more quality time with their kids after separating from their spouse. A family law attorney can provide you advice on what a parenting plan might look like if you choose to divorce while the kids are still minors.
- Property Division: Washington is a community property state, meaning that property acquired during marriage is presumed community. In most circumstances, the longer a marriage continues the more shared assets and debts are acquired. In some cases, property is acquired that one spouse cannot afford on their own. This can complicate divorce and put both parties’ financial futures in jeopardy.
None of these issues for consideration are meant to encourage anyone to get divorced. Divorce is difficult for people mentally, financially, and emotionally. That said, some people are staying together under false assumptions or misunderstandings. Even if you do decide to stay married for the kids, it is often in your interest to discuss how to manage your affairs while you stay married. If you are concerned about your marriage, and would like to speak with a Seattle area family law attorney, please contact us.