Does Jefferson County have jurisdiction over my divorce or family law case?
In Washington, you can file for divorce if you are a resident of the state at the time you file your divorce petition or child custody case.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not necessarily have to reside in Jefferson County to file your family law case in Jefferson County.
How do I file for divorce in Jefferson County?
You must file your initial divorce pleadings (the summons and petition for dissolution) with the superior court clerk's office.
Compared to most counties across the state, Jefferson offers several alternatives for filing for divorce:
In-Person: You can file your documents in-person at the clerk's office (second floor of the courthouse) Monday through Friday, between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm, excluding weekends and legal holidays. You may also hire a process server to file documents.
The Court's address is 1820 Jefferson Street, Room 210, Port Townsend, WA 98368.
Electronically: You can file electronically through the county's web portal called Liquidfiles. To register to use this service, contact the chief deputy clerk, Lori Bailey, at [email protected] for instructions.
By Mail: You can file the documents via first-class or certified mail (certified mail is preferable, so you can get confirmation).
The court's mailing address is Jefferson County Superior Court Clerk, P.O. Box 1220, Port Townsend, WA 98368.
Fax: You may also file by fax, so long as you include a cover sheet and facsimile affidavit, along with pre-payment.
For every court filing, you must pay $5 for the first page and $1 for each subsequent page.
(My recommendation: although fax is preferable to filing in-person or by mail, it more cumbersome than filing electronically).
What documents do I need to file in Jefferson County?
At a minimum, you must file a summons, a petition for dissolution, a case information cover sheet, and confidential information form.
If you have minor children, I also recommend you file a proposed parenting plan and a motion for temporary orders.
Do I have to file a proposed parenting plan in Jefferson County?
You do not have to file a proposed plan when you start the divorce process but you will ultimately have to file one if your case goes to trial.
How much does it cost to file for divorce?
As with most counties in Washington, the filing fee in Jefferson County is $314. This does not include the costs of serving your spouse and the costs of hiring an attorney.
What happens after I file for divorce?
First, you must serve the divorce papers on your spouse, if you have not done so already. (I recommend you serve before you file. Filing is easier. Serving can be more challenging).
Upon receiving your summons and divorce petition, the court will enter automatic temporary orders. As part of these orders, you and your spouse cannot transfer or dispose of any of your marital property and bank accounts.
These temporary orders remain in effect until the court enters final orders after trial, or you and your spouse / other parent settle the case beforehand.
Second, you will have to attend (either in-person or remotely) a mandatory status conference. The court sets this conference approximately eight (8) weeks after you have filed your case.
At this conference, the court makes sure that the other parent / party has received your court pleadings and that the other parent has filed his or her responsive pleadings. The court will schedule a second status conference if necessary to ensure compliance.
What steps should I take first after I file?
If you have minor children, you should register and attend the mandatory parenting seminar. You will have to take this class regardless of what type of family law case you have filed, be it a divorce, relocation, or child custody, or modification proceeding.
You can take this 4-hour class online at online.divorce-education.com. The class is known as Children in Between and it costs $73.45, though you can request a fee waiver if you are indigent.
Failure to attend the mandatory parenting class can subject you to contempt. At a minimum, if you fail to complete the class within 90 days, the Court will not allow to present or receive any final parenting orders.
You also have to exchange discovery with the opposing party. That is, you have to provide the following information and documents to the other party before the initial status conference. Here is the mandatory discovery:
Your tax returns for the past two (2) years, including all paystubs, W2 and 1099 forms.
Paystubs for the past six (6) months or equivalent evidence of income
Monthly or quarterly financial statements for all relevant financial accounts for the past two (2) years
A completed and signed financial declaration
How do I file and schedule a motion in Jefferson County?
You can file and schedule your motion online through the clerk's office. You have to file your motion and all supporting documents with the clerk's office no later than 7 calendar days before the hearing.
After receiving your motion, your spouse / the other parent must file a response no later than 12:00 pm, two (2) days before the hearing.
You then have the option of filing a reply to the response no later than one (1) day before the hearing.
Finally, the moving party (i.e. the party who filed the motion) must confirm the motion. To confirm the motion, you must contact the court administrator by phone at 360-385-9395 or email at [email protected] no later than 12:00 pm one (1) court day before the hearing.
These deadlines, as well as detailed instructions for filing and serving family law motions, can be found in the Jefferson County Superior Court Local Family Law Rules. You can find the family law rules on pages 25-32.
Can I appear for court remotely?
Of all the counties in Washington, Jefferson may be the most remote-friendly court. At this time, you can appear for all family law hearings via Zoom.
Do we have to engage in a settlement conference before trial?
In Jefferson County, the parties must appear at a mandatory settlement conference (in-person or via Zoom). A court commissioner presides over this conference.
You cannot get a trial date until you have participated in this settlement conference in good faith.
Does Jefferson County schedule a trial date when I file for divorce?
The court will schedule your trial date at the conclusion of your mandatory settlement conference, assuming the parties do not reach an agreement.
When are family law hearings held in Jefferson County?
Family law cases are generally heard Friday afternoons at 2:00 pm. However, protection order hearings are heard most days of the week in the morning.
Which judge will preside over my hearing?
Unless and until your case goes to trial, a court commissioner will preside over your court hearings, including any temporary order hearings.
A court commissioner is a full-time judicial officer who supports the judges in managing their family law caseload. Although they are not technically judges, they exercise the full power and authority as a judge.
If you are unhappy with the commissioner's decision, you have the right to file a motion for revision. This is a special type of appeal in which you ask one of the full-time judges to review the commissioner's hearing. The judge may modify or change the hearing based on further argument.
Under RCW 2.24.050, you have up to 10 days to file a motion for revision.