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Articles Tagged with procedure

When a person is served with a divorce petition they are often left feeling afraid and unsure of what to do next. There are a few things that should be done within a few days of being served with divorce papers:

  1. Read every word of every document you are served with.
  2. Repeat step number one until you feel like you understand what the documents mean.
  3. Make an appointment with a family law attorney in your area. Be sure to advise the person you are setting your appointment with that you were served with a petition (and any other documents that were included). Provide the appointment-setter with the date you were served, and when you must respond to the petition by. It will usually be twenty days from the date you were served.
  4. Spend the time between when you are served and your appointment going through all your affairs. Make copies of documents related to your assets, debts, children, income, and your spouse’s income. Keep the copies well organized and ready for reference at your first appointment.
  5. Create a list of questions you want to ask the attorney at your first meeting.
  6. At your initial meeting with an attorney you will want to discuss the three (more likely only the first two) options you have in responding to the petition: (a) you may respond with a response to petition; (b) you can respond with a counter-petition asking the court for different relief than that requested in the petitioner’s petition; and (c) you can do nothing. In most cases, this is the worst choice you could make. It can result in a default judgment in favor of the petitioner without the court hearing your side of the story.

As you can see you do have options when you are served with divorce papers. You can choose to hire an attorney, or choose to represent yourself. You can choose to complete a response to the petition or a counter-petition. In most cases, the only thing you shouldn’t do is nothing. If you do nothing you may lose rights and benefits you didn’t even know you have. The effects of having a judgment entered without your input are likely to be detrimental and enduring.

If you have been served and you want to discuss your case with a Seattle family law attorney, please contact us.

Jurisdiction is the power of a court to make decisions regarding an issue or case. In family law, questions of jurisdiction can be very simple, extremely complex, or somewhere in between. For example, if the parties (to a family law action) have children and all involved parties and children live in Washington (and the children have been in the state for six months), Washington courts will have jurisdiction. Unfortunately, things are not always this simple. Family law actions are often precipitated by one parent and/or spouse moving out of the state. So where is the proper place to file if the parties live in two different states?

Jurisdiction over most family law cases is governed by RCW 4.28.185. This permits Washington courts jurisdiction over nonresident parties (i.e., parties living outside the state) if the nonresident party may have conceived a child in the state, lived as a married couple in the state, agrees to jurisdiction in Washington, or if the petitioning party still lives here or is a member of the armed services stationed here. Please note, even if the court does not have personal jurisdiction over the nonresident party, the court may still dissolve the marriage of the parties, but it will be unable to divide property and liabilities.

Jurisdiction in cases involving child custody is governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. This act requires that jurisdiction over initial custody determinations be made by the child’s home state. (The home state may  decline jurisdiction if Washington is deemed a more appropriate forum.) The home state is the state where the child has lived for six months prior to the filing of the action. (If the child is under six months of age then the child’s home state is where the child has lived since birth.) The issue of jurisdiction can be further complicated if the child and both parents are no longer present in the state that would otherwise be deemed the child’s home state, but the child has not been in a new state long enough to create a new home state.

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