Divorce Process



Beginning

The court fee varies by county but is $280 in King County, WA for filing the Summons and Petition, unless waived.  The filing party (Petitioner) will get a Case Schedule including important deadlines and trial date.  Petitioner will also get FLO (Family Law Orientation) seminar information and Parenting Seminar info.  The filing party must serve a copy of the Summons and Petition, along with Case Schedule and seminar info, on the other party (Respondent).  91 days after both service and filing is the soonest the case can be completed by filing final papers to complete the case if everything is agreed.  If the case does not settle, you will get a court decision following trial.  Most cases settle, and the earlier the better.

Middle

In the early- to mid-part of the case, it is not uncommon to see temporary orders.  This is like a mini-trial, where you can get a temporary decision on things like the parenting plan, child support, responsibility for credit cards, etc.  The orders are temporary because they last until the case settles or there is a trial decision.  Several months after the case begins, there is a document "Confirmation of Issues and Certificate re:  Mediation" that the Petitioner must file, otherwise the parties must attend a "Status Conference" hearing to explain the progress of the case.  For many people filing the Confirmation document triggers the opportunity after a few months to mediate the parenting plan with a social worker and possibly settle the rest of the case at the same time.  For others, where the Confirmation document indicates domestic violence or child abuse, a parenting plan mediation is not appropriate and the case will be referred to a social worker for an "evaluation" which can be used as an aid to settlement or at trial.  If the parties are serious about settling, often they can avoid the "discovery" phase of a case, where factual information and/or documents are requested or exchanged to help a party evaluate the case and/or prepare for trial.  The parties may also hire a private evaluator, request the court to appoint a GAL (guardian ad litem) to represent the child(ren), petition for psychological testing, etc.

End

If the case gets to the trial preparation phase, witness and exhibit lists are due, a joint statement of evidence, trial brief, etc.  A few words about settlement:  a very high percentage of cases settle without trial.  And in most cases there is one or fewer attorneys involved.  If no attorneys are involved, you will need to set a hearing so that you can file your final papers that have been signed by the parties.

FLO

In Washington all parties filing a divorce or parenting plan modification action without attorneys must attend this information meeting where they will learn about the court process.  They must attend the meeting lasting about 1 hour within 30 days after they file or after they are served.

Parenting Seminar

  In WA within about four months of filing, all parties must attend the four-hour seminar explaining about the needs of the children of divorcing parents and about the legal system.  It will be important not to talk bad about the other parent in front of your child or otherwise improperly involve your child in the court case.  Try to pay attention to your child and show your child more love and support than ever.