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What is Venue, and How Could it Affect My Family Law Case?

If Washington State has jurisdiction over a dissolution case and the involved parties, the next question is usually which county to file the dissolution petition in.  While Washington State law applies to all cases, regardless of the county of filing, there are times that people want to choose one venue over another.  Sometimes a choice of which county to file in has an easy answer.

For example, if both parties to a family law case live in Island County, the case should be filed in Island County.  But what happens when one party lives in Pierce County, and the other is in King County?  In these cases the rules of venue become especially important.  RCW 26.09.010(2) permits that proceedings may be filed in the superior court of the county where the petitioner (the party filing the petition) resides.  However, if the petitioner does not reside in the county where he or she files the case, the respondent may have an absolute right to have the venue changed to the county in which the respondent resides.

This also means that the first person to file will probably get to have the case heard in their county of residence.  This can be a big benefit because it will be easier for that person to get an attorney that is both close to their home, and accustomed to practicing in that county.

It is important to note, if the petition is filed in the wrong venue, and the respondent requests a move to the proper venue, the petitioner may be held responsible for the other party’s attorney’s fees.  RCW 4.12.090.

If you have questions about what the proper venue is for your case, or if you have any other family law question, please contact us today.