How do I file for divorce in King County?
In King County, you may file your initial divorce pleadings electronically through the clerk's office. Attorneys who practice in King County are required to e-file, so if you have retained a lawyer, this is your only option.
You may also file documents in the traditional way, such as mailing the documents to the clerk's office or hiring a process server to hand-deliver documents to the clerk's office.
The court clerk's address is: King County Superior Court, Clerk's Office, 561 Third Avenue, E-609, Seattle, WA 98104.
When the clerk's office receives your summons and petition, you will be issued a case schedule, which sets forth all the relevant dates and deadlines.
Your case will also be assigned a “Seattle” or “Kent” designation, depending on where you reside in King County (Seattle if you live in the north, Kent in the south).
In practice, whether you have a Kent or Seattle case will have little impact, given that you attend most hearings remotely. But if you do appear in-person, make sure you go to the right courthouse.
How much does it cost to file for divorce?
As with most counties in Washington, the filing fee in King County is $314. This does not include the costs of serving your spouse, and attorney's fees.
Can you electronically file documents in King County?
You can e-file documents in all family law cases in King County. This includes divorce, modification, child relocation, and appellate proceedings.
Before you can e-file documents, you must first register with the King County clerk's office.
Can I appear for court remotely?
You can attend court hearings via Zoom. In King County, you an appear for almost every type of proceeding remotely, even trial.
Unlike some jurisdictions, such as Snohomish County, you do not need advance approval to attend your hearing remotely.
When are family law hearings held in King County?
Unlike most counties, which hold family law hearings one or two days per week, you can schedule a hearing in King County almost every day. Typically, hearings start at either 9:00 am or 1:30 pm.
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.
How do I schedule a court hearing in King County?
King County Superior Court offers an online platform (the Family Law Motions Scheduling website) through which to schedule motions before trial.
If you want to schedule a motion for temporary orders, for example, you'll need to use this tool.
Because King County is by far the most populous county in the state, you won't be able to get a hearing right away—sometimes, you'll have to wait at least a month or longer, and two months is not out of the question during the holidays.
In addition to filing your motion, declarations, and exhibits, you will have to file a Notice of Court Date, which tells the clerk's office when you want to schedule the hearing. You must file the court notice. If you don't, the clerk's office will cancel your court date well before the hearing.
If you don't think you can wait until the next available date on the Family Law Motions Scheduling website, you can file a motion to overset, in which you ask the Court to schedule your motion on n date that is already full. Courts rarely grant these motions, unless you have a really compelling reason, but it's always worth a try.
What are the deadlines for filing my documents?
King County has detailed instructions for filing and scheduling family law motions. You can find all of them in the King County Local Family Law Rules (LFLR).
You must file your motion and supporting documents at least 14 calendar days before the hearing. In response, your spouse must file his or her pleadings no later than five (5) judicial days before the hearing. Then, you may file reply documents no later than three (3) judicial days before the hearing.
Important: “Judicial days” do not include weekends or holidays. Two (2) judicial days, for instance, may mean a lot more than two regular day.
Example: Your temporary orders hearing is set for January 2, 2024. Your reply documents are due on December 28, 2023. Because December 30 is a Saturday, December 31 is a Sunday, and New Year's Day is a holiday, December 29 is considered the first court day and January 2 is considered the second court day.
Is there a limit to how many documents I can file?
For any motion, you cannot file more than 25 pages of declarations. This means your initial declarations and your reply declarations cannot exceed 25 pages total. If you are the responding spouse, you cannot file more than 20 pages.
Will I be able to testify at the hearing?
Given the volume of cases, the court does not have time to hear testimony from the parties. Each party (or attorney, if you are represented) will get about 5-10 minutes to summarize your arguments before the court rules.
Normally, the court rules on the basis of the written declarations, affidavits, and exhibits that the parties have filed in advance.
My spouse has already filed for divorce in King County. How do I get copies of what my spouse filed?
By law, your spouse must serve you copies of the summons, divorce petition, in addition to any subsequent court pleadings. However, if you think are missing something, you can access your case documents through the clerk's office via KC Script.
How long does the divorce process take?
Court proceedings will take at least 10-11 months. When you file your divorce petition, the superior court will issue a case schedule, which lays out all the important dates and deadlines during the process. You will get assigned a trial date and an assigned judge. This doesn't happen in many counties, such as Clallam, Grant, or Snohomish counties.
Do my spouse and I have to engage in mediation before trial?
Yes. Technically speaking, you and your spouse need to participate in “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR). This can be a private arbitrator or mediator. The deadline for engaging in ADR is usually about a month before the scheduled trial date.
You also have the opportunity to have a settlement conference with one of the full-time King County judge. Mediating with a sitting judge has benefits and drawbacks. Because judges preside over family law trials, they understand how their colleagues will decide issues like child support and child custody.
On the other hand, because judges are busy, you won't get nearly as much time to work with a judge, whereas you can pay a private mediator up to a full day or longer to try to hammer out the disputed issues in your case.
Will I have a jury trial?
In King County, as in all divorce cases, you do not have a right to a jury trial. A judge will preside over your case. In rare cases, a court commissioner will hear your case.