King County Divorce & Family Law
KING COUNTY DIVORCE AND FAMILY LAW PROCEDURE
This is an overview of how the legal system works in King County, for family law and divorce cases. This is just an overview; if you are trying to do a case, this will be helpful, but do not depend on it for everything. The links to King County Superior Court and to the State’s Website are in my Resources section. You will also need to read the King County Local Rules and you can find more advice in the King County Family Law Section.
New Cases. When you initially file a divorce, or any new action, you need a Summons, a Petition, and some other files, depending on what kind of case you are filing. I have attached samples of these in the Family Law Resources section (here) and you are welcome to use them. These are samples only; they are not guaranteed to work for your case. The forms are also on the State Website; but as you can see, they are not user-friendly.
Once you have the forms filled out, you need to file them. You can (1) set up an account with King County E-Filing (here); (2) go down to the Clerk’s Office (here) and file them personally; or (3) mail them in, along with the filing fee. The fee schedule is here. (If you use my services, of course, I take care of all that; I file everything electronically.)
If you are filing them in person, take a copy along with you; you will need to stamp it at the clerk’s office with the case schedule.
When you file the case, the clerk will assign a case number. That number looks like this: That is the number the clerk’s office will use to track your case forever after.
Just filing the case does not start the divorce, legally, You still have to serve it on the other side. If they are cooperating, they may well sign an Acceptance of Service. (Here.) If not, you will need to have them singed. You cannot serve them; but anyone else can. (Friend, neighbor, mother…) You can serve anyone living at the place the other side is living in; or you can have them served personally. A Return of Service form is attached here. You need to file that form with the court when they are served.
A divorce – or any action, for that matter – does not formally, legally start until it is both filed and served. If it is a divorce, the 90 day clock starts to tick the later of the filing date or the service date.
Once the case is filed, King County has a pretty good case management system. The clerk assigns a judge when they issue the case schedule. For 90% of the issues that come up (who pays what bills, who gets the kids when) the Family Law Court will make a decision. The judge normally does not get involved until the end of the case. (See the section on motions procedure, here.)
There are a number of forms that you have to have filed, by the suspense dates in the Case Schedule. If you are doing this yourself you need to pay attention to these. They are:
Confirmation of Issues (KCLFLR 4(c) (1)(B): a document which certifies to the court clerk that everyone has been served; everyone’s addresses; whether or not the parenting plan has been settled; etc. A sample form (which I use, and which has been condensed down from the form on the court’s website) is here. If you DON’T get that filed, then you have to show up at the Status Conference and explain to the judge why.
If You Don’t Have An Attorney. If you are not represented, King County requires that you go to a 4 hour seminar (called the Family Law Orientation) on how the process works. There is a fee for this seminar ($20), and you have to go in the first 30 days. If you have an attorney (like me), then you do not have to go. If you do not go, there is a $30 fine that King County sends you a bill for – but it does not hold up the divorce. The seminar page is here.
If you have children: both parents need to go to a parenting seminar, called What About The Children. You need to go before the Confirmation of Issues deadline. This is a low fee, but paid, seminar. It lasts about 4 hours. The seminar website is here.
Disclosure of Possible Primary Witnesses. A sample is attached here. List everyone you can think of who you might want to testify at trial. This is filled out by both the Petitioner and the Respondent. If you do NOT disclose witnesses, the court can deny them testifying at trial. (Which is why you list everyone you can think of, on both sides. You may never call any of them; but you want to make sure they are listed.) You need to file it with the court, AND give the other side a copy.
Deadline for Discovery Cutoff. Any discovery you send out, has to be due back by this date.
Deadline for Engaging in Alternative Dispute Resolution. Otherwise called mediation or a settlement conference. King County (like Snohomish County) requires that everyone in a divorce go through mediation before going to trial. This is different from Family Court Services mediation; that only addresses the parenting plan. You can hire a mediator; or you can use the King County Volunteer Panel. (Here.) Most divorces settle without going to trial. But if you do settle it, you will sign something called a CR 2A Agreement; and you can’t then back out of the agreement. So (1) go into mediation with the entire list of all the issues; and (2) be prepared to live with any agreement you come up with. Courts do NOT like to let you out of a signed Agreement.
If you didn’t settle the case, these become important:
Deadline For Exchange of Witness Lists and Exhibits. This is the date by which you have to have the list of witnesses that you actually plan to use, and a list of exhibits, to the other side. (These are from the witness list you filed earlier.) You need to supply complete, legible copies of all the exhibits as well. A sample Witness and Exhibit List is attached here.
Joint Statement of Evidence: Sample is attached here. This is a form that you are both supposed to work out, as to what witnesses you both plan to use, and what exhibits you will both agree to. The basis for that (what the Rules of Evidence allow) is beyond the scope of this section; but generally, in divorce and family law cases, the court will let in almost any document but a declaration. (Which is hearsay.)
Trial. See Section on Trials.
Entering Final Orders. There are basically four orders which have to be done and signed, if you settle the case. They are: a Parenting Plan (here); Child Support Order (here); Findings of Fact (here) and Decree of Dissolution (here). These are samples which can be printed out; they may work for you, but they may not. There are a LOT of variables in these things.
If you are a pro se, then you need to file a Note for Calendar (here); and file it with the court. You need to serve it (mail it) on the other side, and set it at least 14 days out. It has to be at least 91 days after you filed and served the divorce Petition.
Fill out the top part of the Note for Motion Calendar with the date you want to enter the final orders. Send this in at least 14 days before the date you set. Call the ex parte clerk two working days prior to the hearing to make sure the motion is noted on the calendar.
On the day you set, at 1:30 PM, take all of the forms back in to Superior Court, to the Ex Parte courtroom. In Seattle, it is the courtroom on the third floor of the courthouse; in Kent, it is on the first floor, off to the right as you go through the metal detectors. Take the whole file, and make sure you have the originals of:
- Parenting Plan (with certificates of attendance attached for both of you)
Make sure that all of these are signed by both of you, and that all pen-and-ink changes have been initialed by both of you. Fill in the blank dates in the Decree, the Findings of Fact, and the other forms that call for a date on the day you take them down, so that the date is correct (Just in case you have to re-schedule the date at the last minute.) Take two copies of all the final papers. Take about $10 in cash to make copies afterwards.
The clerk will sign you in. Tell them you are there on an uncontested dissolution. The Commissioner will ask you some questions; answer them all; he will then sign the papers and you are divorced.
Ask the clerk how to conform the copies. If they will let you, take the signed copies of the divorce decree, the parenting plan, the order of child support, etc up to the second floor and get a certified copy of each for future reference. At a minimum, make a copy of the signed orders on the copy machines (it runs .15 per page). Send a set of copies to your ex-spouse.