Whatcom County Divorce Attorney

Roy Martin is a divorce and family law attorney in Bellingham, Washington.

His practice is devoted to domestic relations issues such as divorce; legal separation; paternity; child custody, including the establishment and modification of parenting plans; relocation; non-parental custody; child support; spousal maintenance, prenuptial, postnuptial and cohabitation agreements; domestic partnerships; protective orders and the rights of grandparents.

Compassionate Approaches to Divorce

Mr. Martin believes his job is to thoroughly address legal issues in the most efficient manner possible. For this reason, he is committed to alternative dispute resolution techniques, such as Mediation and Collaborative Divorce, with their emphasis on negotiated resolutions. These approaches can lead to

the highest quality settlements while avoiding the conflict, expense and stress of litigation. With experience in Collaborative Divorce and Mediation dating to 2001, Mr. Martin is a seasoned mediator and one of the most experienced Collaborative Divorce attorneys in Bellingham.

Fire Fighting

Think of it this way. People going through divorce are almost always basically good folks facing one of the most challenging experiences of their lives. As a result, they often behave in ways they would never react if they weren't so stressed. When both spouses are responding to the other out of challenging emotions like fear and anger, things can easily get out of hand fast.

When a home is on fire, the firemen rush to the scene and jump out of the truck to fight the flames. But they don't pull out flamethrowers. Divorcing spouses are often like firemen trying to fight fire with fire (which is ridiculous because it doesn't work). But if one can bring a little empathy, a bit of understanding, some kindness and a perhaps willingness to listen in response to a spouse's anger, that's like fighting fire with cool water and it works like magic. Of course remaining calm in the face of provocation is far easier said than done, and that's precisely why the approaches set forth on this website exist. Mediation and Collaborative Divorce are each designed to provide containment and space for people to slow down and respond not in the heat of the moment but with a clear understanding of the larger picture, which includes an appreciation for the pain and fear that your spouse is in (and for the pain and challenges you're up against too).

Mediation is like a single open fire hose trained on a burning building and Collaborative Divorce is like a bunch of them, all coming down on the fire from different angles. The best approach is that which is adequate to cool things down so that you and your spouse can make calm, rational decisions about what's best for your children and yourselves.

Benefits of Working Together

  • Less Costly Than Litigation
  • Less Time Consuming Than Litigation
  • Reduces Stress on the Entire Family
  • Prioritizes the Needs of Children
  • Maintains & Restores Good Will
  • Allows For Creative Solutions
  • Leads to High Quality Settlements
  • Parties Themselves Retain Control
  • Maximizes Privacy

If you think there’s a chance that you and your spouse might be able to work together amicably, I suggest you take a few minutes to watch this Collaborative Divorce Video. Then ask your spouse to watch too. Even if you plan to negotiate your own divorce or attempt to reach settlement through mediation, the video will be worth viewing because it illustrates so well the experience of working together amicably.

Nuts & Bolts of Working Together

Efficient resolution of legal issues means helping clients separate what’s truly important from that which merely seems important in the heat of the moment. It’s easy for people to lose sight of what really matters. That’s how they find themselves caught up in those nightmare cases one hears about that dissipate savings, take years to resolve, damage children and destroy any possibility of preserving (or restoring) good will, leaving nothing but scorched earth behind.

For this reason, it’s crucial that clients separate those issues that will seem important years from now, when they look back on the case, from those which will seem trivial. Once emotions have cooled, things like the well being of children and making sure one received a fair share of resources will typically stand out as having truly mattered. Those are the sorts of interests that must be addressed carefully, thoughtfully and thoroughly.

However, given that attorneys are expensive and litigation can take months or years to unfold, it’s equally important to resist the temptation to get hung up on that which is not important, even if such concerns seem compelling in the moment.

The best attorneys will do their best to guide you to:

  • Place the needs of your children first
  • Make efficient use of your financial resources
  • Never lose sight of the emotional costs of divorce – for both you and your children

When both spouses are willing and able to act in good faith, keeping things non-adversarial is usually the best approach because it:

  • Allows for the most efficient resolution of conflict
  • Encourages parents to work together in raising their children while prioritizing the children’s needs and interests
  • Maintains and restores good will between the parties, reducing the chances of future conflict
  • Permits the spouses themselves to make important decisions rather than turning them over to a judge who, no matter how well intentioned, is still a stranger who cannot fully understand your needs or those of your children
  • Minimizes the emotional impact of divorce, which is particularly important for the well being of children
  • Minimizes the financial expense of divorce so that you can devote your resources to your needs and those of your children
  • Allows for creative problem solving, often leading to win-win settlements that a court would not have considered
  • Expedites the process so that you can get on with your life
  • Maintains privacy for both spouses and the children

Unfortunately, there are times when one spouse, for whatever reason, is not willing and able to work with the other. In those cases, litigation may be the best avenue by which to address the needs of your family. Typically, this will require you to expend more funds and time to achieve a less optimal outcome than would have resulted had both spouses worked together effectively and in good faith. However, you can only control your choices; not those of your spouse.

The court is analogous to the hospital emergency room in that each is a painful, terrifying and expensive place to be. No sane person wakes up on a beautiful day and says, "I hope I wind up in the emergency room today." But if you were seriously injured, you would want to be in the emergency room as quickly as possible – even though it’s an expensive, frightening and painful place. Similarly, in the event you should need to protect your interests or those of your children from a spouse acting in bad faith, it might be wise to expeditiously get yourself and your case into court.

An attorney’s job is to resolve legal issues effectively and efficiently

Regardless of the approach, whether non-adversarial or litigious, the goals of representation remain the same: To achieve the highest quality result while preserving as much of your financial and emotional resources as possible.

The Bottom Line

Mr. Martin’s bottom line is a commitment to the highest quality and most efficient resolution of legal issues. It is his goal that clients should never need to see him again once their case has been resolved.


Roy Martin is a Bellingham divorce and family law attorney and mediator serving clients throughout Whatcom County, Washington. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact him at: (360) 746-0400.


Collaborative Divorce Video


This story was produced and aired in May, 2004 by Public Broadcasting affiliate, KUAT.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce is a way to transition families through the end of marriage while minimizing the many stresses this entails. In this process, each party is represented by an attorney trained in non-adversarial conflict resolution techniques. Everyone (both parties and their attorneys) agrees that the case will be resolved outside of court. The process focuses on identifying and meeting the needs of all family members. It's a way of making the divorce process compassionate and emotionally safe for everyone involved, including the children.

Do I need an attorney to represent me if I select the Collaborative Divorce process?

Yes. In fact, you need an attorney who has been specifically trained in collaborative law as well as in family law itself. The representation is limited to collaborative negotiations and the formalization of the divorce settlement. You are not retaining an attorney to litigate the case or who will take you to court. Thus, it's a very different experience from retaining a conventional divorce attorney. The collaborative process is designed to take the fear out of divorce. There's no posturing and no threats. Most of the negotiations take place in meetings around a table, with both parties and both attorneys present. The attorneys guide the process, helping their clients to express what they want and need authentically and without pulling punches, but at the same time respectfully. The attorneys also help the parties to hear and understand the wishes and needs of the other spouse. The parties are responsible for shaping the terms of their settlement agreement. At all times, the needs of children are kept front and center. Read More