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In divorce, the devil and criminal charges can be in the details

There has been a new development in an interesting divorce case out of Spanaway. A 34-year-old mother of three has pleaded not guilty to theft and forgery charges stemming from what the News Tribune is calling a fake divorce.

The woman and her husband, an Army ranger posted at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, apparently decided to split up. When he was deployed, she agreed to take care of the last details and to finalize the divorce. She did not.

She did, according to court documents, present paperwork to her husband that led him to believe the divorce was final; the documents carried both her and her husband's signatures. Believing the divorce was final, he agreed to pay her child support. Over a six-month period, she received about $9,000 in child support as well as money to cover daycare and other expenses.

Prosecutors believe she acted deliberately and with malice. Her explanation is a little different. She admits that she did not take care of the divorce while her husband was away, but she says she signed his name on the papers because she was afraid he would be angry with her. That anger, she says, could have resulted in him keeping her away from their children.

The husband's attorney discovered the divorce was not final after asking the court for a copy of the executed documents. None were to be found, because none were ever filed. The divorce finally went through in November, but not until after the husband and his new fiancée had been forced to change their wedding date.

With so little information about the couple and their relationship, we cannot guess what happened. We cannot know if the woman had reason to suspect her husband would keep their children away from her, or if her husband had good reason to wonder if she was the better choice for custody.

What we can say, though, is that they may have been able to avoid this situation if they had been working with experienced divorce attorneys.

Source: The News Tribune, "Spanaway woman charged with forging divorce pleads not guilty," Stacia Glenn, April 7, 2014

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