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The Facebook comment people still ask about...

The Facebook comment people still ask about...

Posted by Elizabeth Steen | Jan 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

It is so hard to go through a divorce. And women who are struggling often post in mom's groups asking for advice. This is a comment that was posted in a Facebook group last May (with slightly cleaned up formatting, a little additional explanation where parts weren't clear, and the removal of some swear words). It was intended to be helpful, although obviously it won't apply to everyone and reasonable people may disagree. I hope this helps someone else going through this situation.

Begin Facebook post: “Okay. I'm a lawyer. But you can't hire me to do anything I'm going to talk about. I only do Divorce Without Court. So lawyers often disagree. They may disagree with me. That's the whole job. But there's nothing in it for me in telling you this.I am just sick and tired of reading posts about women being screwed in their divorce. Lawyers in Washington State use the rules to kind of milk fees. They're not cheating. Exactly. But they know what to say to convince clients to pay for baloney that's not going to make a difference to their case. So believe me. Or don't. But I can tell you:1) You will not lose custody of your kids in Washington. There is no “custody” in Washington, to start with. Almost everyone will end up with a 50-50 split.2) You don't need to ask for more than 50-50 time to avoid paying too much in support. Of all the things I'm saying, this one is most likely to take an odd bounce in front of whatever commissioner. But generally guys do this thinking it will lower their support payment, and the commissioners see through it. You're probably going to spend more in lawyer fees than you'll save in support anyway. This fight over who gets more time is mostly just a lawyer money maker. Almost everyone ends up with 50-50 or close to it.3) Don't waste money on temporary orders. They only last for six months and it takes $4-8000 (and sometimes up to $20k) to get them. Don't. It's another lawyer money maker. Even if you get a high support payment in the initial temporary order, based on you being the primary caregiver, you're just setting yourself up for a lot more litigation (which will cost more than your support anyway). And the court is going to end up using the state's support schedule and a 50-50 calculation. Temp orders are at best, a very expensive way to get a temporary bounce in support. Don't do it.4) Whatever retainer you pay will disappear before you ever see court. That's a given. The lawyer will maybe make it thought the temporary orders with a $7000 retainer. Most of them waste it on discovery requests long before that. Every court hearing is about $4500 in fees. It costs what it costs because lawyers have to pay support people and configure office processes to work with the court administration. The court administration takes up a LOT of time. They send back orders asking for a signature in a different color of ink. They approve orders that are exactly like orders that were denied the day before. You never know. You can't plan. It ups your costs by a lot. The only way to avoid this is to stay in the agreed/uncontested orders division of the court administration. Anything connected to litigation is very expensive. 5) Don't pay for discovery. (Which is what it's called when you ask the other side in a court case to give you their financial information). It is insane - seriously everyone's employment data is online now. Your retirement accounts, your mortgage, your tax returns, your exe's tax returns, everything. It's just online and takes us ten minutes to check. But lawyers are still sending each other inch-thick stacks of requests that the other side has to fill out. It takes hours to make and print those requests. It takes hours to fill them out and return them. And all of it is completely unnecessary. We just check the online portal anyway. Because it's too hard to read the stacks of paper we all just filled out. Don't don't don't don't don't. Just stop paying for it. For the love of god.6) Don't worry about moving out of state. You can fight about it in court, but the rules that were adopted by the legislature allow almost everyone to move. All you have to do is show that you have a job or family support at the new location, or some other reason that the move would be good for the child. It's not hard. Almost everyone who fights about it in court wins and then moves. Any lawyer who tells you that you can't move, or that you can stop your ex from moving, hasn't been keeping up with the rules. 10 years ago you could stop your ex from moving. Now you can pay $22,000 for a trial before your ex moves, or just let them move. It's your choice. (This advice is not affected by the UCCJEA, which governs where your court case will be heard - the UCCJEA doesn't require you to live anywhere, just to stay with your child's home state court). If you think about all of this, it's going to seem obvious. Of course most families will end up with 50-50 visits and the support schedule that's mandated by law, in a very specific formula. Of course the state can find your income. Everything's online! Of course lawyers don't need to send each other stacks of paper to know what's in your retirement account or the balance on your mortgage. That's online too. But we all still do it.And the reason we are all still doing this is because of fear. It is terrifying to think of losing your child, or being forced to live in poverty. You are scared and alone and you want someone to trust. And lawyers are scared too. We are scared of other lawyers - the whole job is criticizing each other. We are hard on each other. The safest thing to do for a lawyer is to do exactly what everyone else is doing, and maybe even a little more. If everyone else is mailing a three-inch stack of discovery requests for information that's all online, well, we are worried we will look lazy if we don't. We may even add an extra inch. Just so the client gets some value 🙄 If everyone else asks for temporary orders then we should too.Lawyers are also afraid of losing their business. Big law is changing quickly. Lawyers can't get paid what they used to. The field is changing quickly. Technology is making us obsolete. Student loans are killing us. We are all worried every day about money. Even the big law associates know they most likely only have a few years before they get pushed out. And the lucky ones who make partner aren't going to get the split they used to. Litigation is hard - it's grueling and unpleasant and you're mostly dealing with stupid administrative problems like “this courthouse clerk wants you to separate the support schedule and file it under a new cover sheet” or “that judge wants everyone to address each other by last names.” It's dumb. And annoying. Only a certain type of person actually enjoys this kind of crap. And that's usually not a very enjoyable kind of person. The rest of them are there making money. So they're all either crazy or scared.I can't take all the fear out of litigation. My sense is that in five years or so this post will be obsolete because everything connected to your divorce will all be online. But who knows? The practice of law is still remarkably similar to what it was in the 1930s. Law changes slowly. So whatever you do. Just don't let your lawyer bill for asking your ex for their retirement portfolio. ITS ALL ONLINE.

About the Author

Elizabeth Steen

Elizabeth Steen is licensed in Washington State as well as Washington D.C. After work, Elizabeth enjoys making her West Seattle renowned flan recipe with her daughter, which she’s willing to share with favorite clients. She also enjoys hiking, yoga and chasing her family’s fantasy football league title every fall.

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