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Washington State. My ex doesn't honor the parenting plan and is trying to poison my kids against my new girlfriend

Lacey, WA |

My ex acts like a 2 year old child when my girlfriend is at my house. She refuses to allow the kids to come home (I have 50/50 custody). She constantly tells me in front of them that she is going to sue me for emotional stress and take me back to court to get my custody time taken away.

Her back ground. She is unstable. I have the kids 80% of the time. I buy everything for them, attend their school conferences, their sporting events and take them to the doctor. We have been divorced for 5 years. I'm in a serious relationship. I am a good father and a stable person. I'm tired of being manipulated and threatened by her. I need some help. I haven't wanted to go back to court, as I didn't want to put my kids through this (the ex acts out), but I can no longer stand this dysfunction.

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Attorney answers 2


Luckily, there are good family law attorneys in Thurston County. Rick Bartholemew is my favorite referral as he is calm and will rationally explain how this works to you. But first you have to decide to quit taking legal advice from your ex. You need to look at your plan to see if there is a dispute resolution program that you have to follow before going to court, or not. Mediation can be an excellent tool to get everybody's expectations aligned without the expense and stress of court.

I agree with you that your ex sharing information in front of the kids is vile and should not happen. You cannot control what happens at her house but you can refuse to pass messages through the kids. If the kids tell you what Mom said, just ask them how that makes them feel, let them vent, and then drop it. If you need to have a discussion with the ex, don't do it through the kids. She has no cause of action for emotional distress! In order to reduce your time, she would have to be able to demonstrate a substantial change in your circumstances and/or the kid's circumstances that is so serious that the disruption of the change is outweighed by the harm she seeks to avoid. You being in a serious relationship is not grounds, unless your S.O. is a registered sex offender or something like that.

It is easier to change a 50-50 plan than it is to change an 80-20 plan. But the moving party (your ex) still has to demonstrate adequate cause. Petty sniping is not adequate cause. She could wind up with you having 80 and her having 20 if you can demonstrate the alienation that is going on.

You can move for contempt if she isn't following the parenting plan. If the plan says the kids are with you on Tuesday (or whatever) and that isn't happening, then keep track and ask the court to find her in contempt for refusing to follow the plan. The leading case in WA is Marriage of Rideout. That would be a good read for you.

But what I really hope you hear me saying is that an hour of Rick's time would do you a world of good. Hope this helps. Elizabeth Powell


I agree that you need good legal advice. Clearly, you are not able to resolve the issues without some intervention. If your dispute resolution process is not effective, and a modification petition is filed by either one of you, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem for your children. That person will conduct an investigation and make a recommendation to the court. Any court action is going to be emotionally difficult for you and your children, as well as take time. It is also going to be expensive. However, many people are able to manage their own cases, Pro se. Representing yourself works best when you also have an attorney coach. When you research attorneys, be sure to ask if that attorney is comfortable giving advice without full representation.