New divorce law signed, advocates say it ultimately protects kids

By John Knicely

OLYMPIA, Wash. —

Advocates celebrated what they call a new, more civil divorce option on the Capitol steps Friday after Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Uniform Collaborative Law Act.  It allows couples to agree on terms of their divorce without going to court.

“This is a very big deal,” said Cynthia First of the Port Gardner Law Group.  “I have been doing family law litigation 25 years and court is no place for families.”

Advocates stress there are no winners or losers in the process.

“Nobody’s going to sign anything unless they’re both in agreement for it,” said Kristin Little.  She used a version of the process in her 2009 divorce before this new state law gave it more legal weight.

Through the process, Little and her ex-husband each had their own attorney.

Mental health professionals and a child specialist also worked with them to craft the terms of the divorce and the parenting plan.

As a licensed child therapist, Little found the process to be so beneficial that she decided to focus her practice on collaborative law divorces.

“So you’re helping people to be good parents through the divorce,” said Little.  “And so you’re actually preventing a lot of the damage that can occur during the divorce.”

First said a key element of the new law is if the process falls apart, none of the information shared can be used in court.

“Later they don’t have to worry about somebody going on the stand and saying, ‘Oh they offered me this in mediation or that in the collaborative process,’” said First.

Little emphasized that collaborative law divorce doesn’t remove the intensity or emotion during the process, but it makes it easier to co-exist after.

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