A Brief Tour of the Seattle Divorce and Family Law Court
Divorces in Seattle and the greater Puget Sound area that makes up King County take place at the King County Superior Courthouses in Seattle and Kent. It’s where Seattle divorce and other family law cases are filed and ruled on by family law court commissioners and judges. The Seattle King County Superior Courthouse can be an intimidating and confusing place for family law clients.
The following “brief tour” is intended to provide basic information on where to go and what to expect at the courthouse.
Where is the Seattle King County Court Located?
The Seattle King County Superior Courthouse is located at 516 3rd Ave., Seattle Wa 98104 in the heart of downtown Seattle.
Additional information regarding contact information, directions, hours, and ways to get there is available here:
As noted above, there are actually two King County Superior Courts where family law actions are heard – the main courthouse in Seattle and a second located in Kent called “The Maleng Regional Justice Center”.
The Seattle King County Superior Court is assigned family law cases filed in King County north of Interstate 90 and including all of the I-90 right of way, including Seattle, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Issaquah, and North Bend.
The Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent is assigned family law cases filed in King County south of the Interstate 90 (except for those areas assigned to Seattle) including Kent, Renton, and Federal Way.
Our attorneys represent family law matters under the jurisdiction of King County in both courts, as well as Snohomish and Pierce Counties.
Entering The Seattle Divorce and Family Law Court and Security Check
Upon entering the courthouse, the first thing you’ll notice are the security guards and courthouse security check, including screening of items and a metal detector. The check is very similar to an airport security check. Prohibited items include any firearms and weapons, sharp instruments including knives, tools, and certain chemicals.
Seattle Divorce and Family Law Courtrooms
Most family law litigation, including family law motions (i.e., requests for court orders prior to the trial date including temporary child support and parenting plan orders), adequate cause hearings on parenting plan modifications, and hearings on child support modifications, take on the 2nd floor of the Seattle King County Courthouse.
The second floor lobby is a large oval shape with elevators on each side. As you step out, the first thing you’ll notice are the large computer screens listing that day’s family law motions to be heard.
Family Court Check-in
Family court check in just down the hall in front of Room W-291. This is usually where family law lawyers, including the attorneys at Weintraub Law Office, meet the clients prior to the motion.
You and/or your attorney will need to check-in with the family law clerk at W-291 before the hearing so that the court knows you have appeared to avoid a default and automatic loss on the motion. The clerk will ask you to verify your case is on the court calendar, whether your are the petitioner or respondent in the case, and inform you of the specific courtroom your hearing will be heard in.
After Check-in – Family Law Hearings in Seattle
After checking in and obtaining the courtroom number for your hearing, you enter the courtroom and sit down until your name is called.
Entering the courtroom, oddly enough, may the most nerve wracking time for experienced family law attorneys since that is when they find out which commissioner will be ruling on the case. While the trial judge is appointed when a divorce case is first filed, the commissioner ruling on pre-trial hearings is not known of beforehand. The commissioner may have years of experience, in which case an experienced attorney will be assured of a predictable result based on prior rulings, or may, though certainly qualified, be new, or even a “pro-tem” or temporary commissioner who’s “day job” is being a Seattle family law attorney. In the latter two cases, the court result may be less predictable due to lack of precedent – though remaining, of course, consistent with reasonable interpretations of Washington family law.
After your name is called, you and your attorney will stand either on the petitioner or respondent’s side of the lectern, depending on your status. Depending on the type of hearing, the attorney or pro se (unrepresented) party who has filed the motion is provided a certain amount of time to make their legal arguments, the opposing attorney or pro se party an opportunity to respond, and the initial attorney a brief opportunity to reply to the response. The legal arguments will summarize the facts and legal arguments made in the motion pleadings filed with the court in advance. While a party’s or witness’s testimony may be offered on certain occasions (most notably, protection order hearings), pre-trial family law hearings tend to be limited to each side presenting their case based on oral argument alone.
King County Family Law Mediation – Referral by Family Court Services
Every divorce case involving minor children filed in King County is automatically referred to mediation to try to settle disputes over parenting arrangements. Mediation of parenting disputes through King County Family Court Services is not required, however, if a final parenting plan order has already been filed, if the parties have appointed a parenting evaluator or guardian ad litem as part of a court ordered investigation of parenting matters, if the parties have waived it, or if, due to alleged domestic violence or other issues, mediation is not a safe or appropriate option to resolve disputes. Failure by both parties to respond to mediation questionnaires will result in the mediation being dropped.
These meditations are held on the second floor of the Seattle King County Courthouse in Room W-280.
Mediation through King County Family Court Services is to be distinguished from King County’s requirement to engage in alternate dispute resolution. All divorce cases must attempt to use alternate dispute resolution, i.e., mediation and/or arbitration, approximately one month prior to trial to try to settle ALL matters remaining in dispute – not just parenting issues. Mediation attempted as part of this requirement involves use of private mediators, typically ex-judges or experienced attorneys with mediation training. Please see Mediation at Weintraub Law Office for mediation services we offer.
Seattle Divorce Trials
Between 90-95% of divorce cases are settled before trial. Going to trial is a rare event, and, when parties are represented by attorneys, generally limited to either highly volatile custody disputes or high-asset complex divorces with significant amounts of money at stake.
Divorce trials in Seattle do not involve a jury. The assigned Judge determines the findings of fact and issues their ruling. A trial requires substantial preparation and typically involves placing each party and their witnesses on the stand to testify, subject to direct and cross examination. It is the culmination of 11 months of initial filing, family law hearings and issuance of temporary orders, extensive fact gathering though discovery, and inability to settle by use of mandated use of mediation.
We hope this article has been informative. At Weintraub Law Office, we welcome the opportunity to serve as your divorce attorney. Please call Weintraub Law Office at +1 425 374 4045 or contact us online to learn the scope of legal services we provide and schedule a low fee consult.