Or I could hold Divorce Court in my basement.
September 21, 2005 7:50 PM   Subscribe

How can I speed up my parents' divorce?

My parents agreed to divorce around 1999. My mom finally moved out a few years later, but the battle is still raging on. I can't tell for sure, but it seems like my dad is stonewalling my mom's lawyers by not responding to letters. My younger sister still lives with my dad, and I'm worried that it's causing her a lot of trauma and stress.

There are a few hundred miles between them now, so I don't think I can get them together to talk, besides the fact that they wouldn't want to be in the same room together. Do I have a legal recourse? As the oldest son, can I somehow force them to settle the divorce? I think I just need something to come as a shock that "hey, btw, your kids are PISSED."
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total)
How is it causing you lots of trauma if they're living apart?

Maybe he's stalling because it's an alimony/child support thing?
posted by trevyn at 8:04 PM on September 21, 2005

Maybe you should just talk to him about it.

I don't think there's anything you can do, as a son, legally, to expedite things.
posted by bshort at 8:06 PM on September 21, 2005

i don't think it's a good thing for parents to get their kids involved with a divorce ... i don't think it's a good idea for kids to get involved with their parents' divorce

it's tough to watch and go through, but i strongly suggest you do not get involved in how or if they do it ... if you're worried about your younger sister, try talking to her about how she's doing

you do not want to be a go-between in this situation ... it's going to put stress on you and stress in your relationship with your folks
posted by pyramid termite at 8:20 PM on September 21, 2005

I agree it's not a good idea for you to get involved. They probably have a lot of feelings going on, but having their son step into the affair will probably shame them greatly if not worse. I can't think of any legal recourse.

What I'd suggest is telling them you won't speak to either of them until they resolve this. Everyone needs closure after a divorce, including you. I think for your own sake getting some distance would be a good thing, and if you let them know why you're retreating, it might help motivate them (as well as give them room to complete their proceedings).

If you're a minor you can dramatize this by petitioning for emancipation. That's about all I can think of.

Divorces always take longer than anyone thinks they will, longer than they ought to, longer than is healthy for anyone. I'm sorry. It sucks.
posted by scarabic at 8:40 PM on September 21, 2005

I agree it's not a good idea for you to get involved....What I'd suggest is telling them you won't speak to either of them until they resolve this.

This sounds suspiciously like getting involved.
posted by weston at 8:59 PM on September 21, 2005

Do I have a legal recourse?


As the oldest son, can I somehow force them to settle the divorce?

posted by WestCoaster at 9:37 PM on September 21, 2005

What I'd suggest is telling them you won't speak to either of them until they resolve this.

No, tell them you will not speak of the divorce until they resolve it. Anything under the sun ... but not the divorce.
posted by dhartung at 9:57 PM on September 21, 2005

Don't get involved? What do you think he is, independent? He's involved by virtue of being the son of the two parties of the divorce.

Only you can begin to know whether you can discuss this adult topic, in reasonable fashion, with either of your parents. You have to figure whether you can tell either of them this delay is making it harder for you and your sibs, without their freaking out.

Trouble is, and I imagine you realize it, when parents break up, they can be quite nasty to each other, and either or both rather selfish about how to split property, and figuring custody. You really don't want to hear the details, for your own sake.

What won't help is if you go doing things that will ultimately harm yourself or your future, in an effort to get your parents to take you into consideration, in their dispute. If your parents are being unreasonable, you have to be extra reasonable. Help your sibs deal as best you can.

Yes, this is a burden on you. But managing to deal with it responsibly will only do you good. Keep your life in order, help your sibs do the same.
posted by Goofyy at 10:28 PM on September 21, 2005

Flatly refuse to discuss the situation with either parent, but communicate with your young sister. NOT about the divorce, unless she really needs to vent - but if you live near her, take her to lunch or a movie. If you are distant, write to her, send her cards. Try to make up to her for the lack of family she is growing up with. If you are married, by all means include your wife for a female presence.
posted by Cranberry at 10:41 PM on September 21, 2005

One thing to remember is that, despite how celebrities behave, divorce is rarely quick and simple. What seems like "stonewalling" to you may simply be the tedious process of legal negotiation.

My own parents executed what may have been the world's most friendly and amicable divorce; nevertheless, they hit a sticking point negotiating over my father's retirement benefits. By the time they'd haggled out an agreement a few months later, the state had passed a new law that made their plan illegal! So back they went... Divorce lawyers, naturally enough, have no incentive to expedite this process, since they're getting paid by the billable hour.

You could ask each of your parents where they are in the process, but you're likely to get 2 very biased answers.
Mom: Your father won't respond to the papers my lawyer sends over.
Dad: You mother's lawyer keeps sending over these outrageous demands; my lawyer says if we wait a bit she'll get more reasonable.

You are not the person to handle these negotiations. In time, it will all be worked out. Keep the lines of communication open with your folks and especially your sister. Don't take sides in the legal process; each of your parents has a right to negotiate for what they believe is fair. Your need for closure is less important than their right to settle the marriage assets in an agreeable way for both of them. Try to get used to the idea that your parents marriage is over and finished, even if the divorce isn't final yet.
posted by junkbox at 6:09 AM on September 22, 2005

Legal recourse? No.

But if it was me, I'd call both parents separately and tell them that btw, their kids are pissed. This may be foolish and cause more negativity, rationalizations that would not necessarily stop me.

On the more constructive note, I hope that you already spend as much time with your little sister as possible, both in structured "on the first Sunday of the month we go to a museum" way and unstructured "hanging out" time. And be really reliable. If you live too far away, call her on a regular schedule and send her neat stuff in the mail.
posted by desuetude at 6:28 AM on September 22, 2005

I can't believe I'm going to be the first one to say this so clearly.

You need to mind your own damned business.

Yes, as others have said, you are involved by virtue of being associated with these people but what advice would you expect us to give a person who asked this question about his brother, friend, neighbor or co-worker, all people whose lives are also intertwined?

The divorce is their business and you should mind your own business not only out of basic human courtesy but out of proper respect to your parents. This is their relationship with each other and you shouldn't be playing a part in it. Being the child of divorcing parents stinks but that's not a blank check to meddle.

If they're spilling it on to you somehow - which you make no mention of - then you should tell them it's inappropriate to discuss one parent with the other and you're not going to talk to them about it. If they're piling this onto your sister - which you seem to have nothing but an fact-free concern about - you should speak to them about it only so far as to say you don't feel either of you should be involved in this.
posted by phearlez at 7:46 AM on September 22, 2005

Nag them. Ignore phearlez. It's weirdly become part of our culture that people have some kind of right "to their own business". As you know, and as anyone in your situation knows, the minute your business begins to affect my business, it's OUR business.

I would write letters to both of them. This is the easiest way to start a discussion about something that is highly charged.

Then, wait a week or two, and try to discuss the letters you wrote with them. Tell each of them you wrote to the other parent. Repeat your concerns from the letters in your conversation.

You are going to have to care for these people when they can't dress themselves, don't be shy about taking care of them when they can't face reality. Being part of a family is a mutual obligation and a mutual responsibility. Take care of each other means that you are a shoulder to cry on, a friend, and a person who asks the tough questions when it's time.

It's time.
posted by ewkpates at 12:25 PM on September 22, 2005

phearlez, it's his parents. This is an immediate family member. From the comment "still lives with my dad" indicates that this is a fully functional adult. The sister is not and is uniquely dependent on both parents in this legal limbo.

Legally, no, you cannot speed the process of divorce. I'm frankly shocked that this divorce is taking 6 years, the legal fees are enough to make me cry.
posted by geoff. at 12:59 PM on September 22, 2005

Yes, as others have said, you are involved by virtue of being associated with these people but what advice would you expect us to give a person who asked this question about his brother, friend, neighbor or co-worker, all people whose lives are also intertwined?

"Those people" are responsible for the fact of his existence and his upbringing. That's a little more than an association, in my book, and certainly a whole other ball o' wax than a brother, friend, neighbor, or co-worker.
posted by desuetude at 2:23 PM on September 22, 2005

Ask your sister directly how she's doing. The primary reason to get involved is your sister. tell both of them that the anger and lack of resolution is hard on her. Tell them they need to move towards a resolution. Tell them frequently and remind them that their child is being harmed.

When you talk to them, focus on what they need and want in order to move forward, not the usual laundry list of who did what to whom, is to blame, is a bad parent, etc. Focus on results and your sister's welfare.

Remind your sister, often, that it's not her fault, she is loved, etc.
posted by Mom at 7:16 PM on September 22, 2005

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