The Seattle Divorce Process – How Does Seattle Divorce Work? Seattle Divorce Attorney Amanda DuBois


Well, this is the Divorganize session on the
divorce process. My name is Amanda DuBois and I’m a practicing
family law attorney, and as you know if you’ve been watching this series, I’ve put together
a series of videos to teach basic legal principles about the divorce process. And we start each
session by me reminding you that I can’t give you legal advice and this isn’t intended to
be any kind of legal advice, this is intended to be an educational session to help you realize
what issues you need pay attention to as you’re heading into the divorce process. So um, the way I’m approaching this is with
issue spotting — and what issue spotting means is — that’s what they teach lawyers
to do in law school and that’s how we study for the bar exam. We don’t necessarily know
how it’s going to be played out in any particular state, but we know what the issues are. So
because your state might be different from my state might be different from Kentucky
or Illinois or California — all the states are very different in exactly how they implement
divorce laws on the specifics. But the principles are basically the same — the legal principles,
and that’s what we’re talking here — and issue spotting is one way to approach this.
So we’re going to talk about different issues that you’re going to have to alert to in your
particular jurisdiction. And today we’re talking about the divorce
process — and this is just an overview. So, let’s just talk about the divorce process
— you’re entering into it. We’ve already done a session on how to prepare to file for
divorce — I’m not going to go into that at length and we’ve done a session on what
do you do if your husband has served you with papers — where your husband has filed for
divorce against you. So the first thing that has to be determined
in most states is called venue — and venue is what county or jurisdiction you have to
file your papers in. Because in most places –and- like I said, because states are very
different — it’s going to be your responsibility to either consult with a lawyer in your state
or jurisdiction or to do some research by going to your state website or by going to
a website in your county that’s set up for people representing themselves. And those
people are called pro se which is p-r-o s-e and it’s pronounced “pro-say”, and if you’re
going to go through your divorce without hiring a lawyer, which you may or may not want to
do — and we actually have a session on “Lawyer Yes or No” — but if you’re going to do it
without a lawyer, then you’re going to be held to the standard of understanding what
forms have to be filed, and how they have to be filed. In most counties — or most states have — um
— websites set up for people or at least they have an educational packet, maybe at
the courthouse that you can go down and pick up, that tell you the steps that you have
to take. And some courthouses and some counties actually have a seminar that you can take
or in some places — in our jurisdiction, you’re actually required, if you’re pro se,
to go and sit through a class so at least you know how file your paperwork with the
court and you know what forms your pleadings have to be, and pleadings are those — um
— papers that look legal with the numbers down the side and the caption on the top. So all those things — there’s court requirements
in most place you have to do exactly how they want it or they’ll throw you stuff out. So
like I said, you might be pro se, you might um work with a lawyer as a consultant — you
know — just go in and get the advice you need, work on your own, come back to the lawyer
and get some more advice and have them review your paperwork. Or you might want to hire a lawyer to represent
you for the full divorce. So there’s different ways that you can use
lawyers and there’s different ways you can use resources and it depends on your budget,
on how contested your situation is, and the complexity of your case. But, just be advised that there is a proper
county for you to file your divorce in, and there are going to be requirements in your
state that are probably going to be set out in your statues, or on a website through your
courthouse — not on some web site you just go on — you can’t rely on a website just
put together by a lawyer or some online legal service. Which — those could be fine, but
if you want to get the information, you should go to your state or the county website. So — first of all you have to figure out
where you have to file, and which county you have to file in and it’s usually has things
to do with where you live, where your children live and how long you’ve been there. In fact,
some states have requirements that you can’t file in a certain state unless you’ve lived
there for a certain period of time. So you have to take a look at the residency requirements
of the state, and you have to figure out what venue — what county to file in inside of
your state. So once you’ve figured out that you can file
in the certain state where you live, and if there’s a question about that you really have
to talk to a lawyer because they’re — people who are in the military or people who have
recently moved might have some challenges about which state to file in. So — figure out whether you have residency
requirements, figure out what state is appropriate, figure out what venue, which is the county,
and then you have to file what is called — in some states it’s called a complaint for divorce,
and in some states it’s called a petition for a divorce. And those are the two phrases
that I’m familiar with — but that really covers most states. If you’re in a state where you have to file
a petition for a divorce, then typically the person who files it is called that petitioner
— so if you’re the one’s who’s filing, you’re the petitioner. And the person responding
to the petition is usually called the respondent. And if you’re in a state who calls your initial
filing is filed by complaint, then typically the person who files the complaint is called
the plaintiff; and the person who responds to the complaint, or defends against the complaint
is called the defendant. So whether you’re filing a complaint or a
petition, you need to understand what are the requirements in your state for filing
a petition or a complaint. And like I said, the best thing is to talk to a lawyer and
we’re talking here just about the process. So, the initial, that’s called the pleading,
any time you file something with the court it’s called a pleading. So the initial pleading
is filed, let’s just call it a petition for purposes of our discussion. The petition is
filed, and that gives the court — and the court can — has jurisdiction over your case
as soon as the response has been filed. So. Petition, response. Petition, which has
to be served on the respondent, in the proper manner according to your jurisdiction. Some
places, you can mail it, with a certificate of mailing, and other places it’s necessary
to actually serve it with a process server or a third party. So file the petition, serve
it on the respondent, let the court know that you’ve filed — that you’ve served it, so
there’s usually some sort of pleading that’s like a confirmation of service, or a confirmatory
pleading that says we’ve served it, then the respondent, who’s the person who’s received
the complaint has to respond, in most states or jurisdictions, there’s a time frame in
which you have to respond. So, going back to the petition, depending
on your state there’s going to be certain required information that has to be included
in your petition. And some of those things have strong legal implications, be sure to
get some legal advice about that, to make sure that that’s properly filled out and filed
with the court, served, then you get a response, and now the court has jurisdiction over your
world, and that sounds kinda scary, and it is. But it can be a good thing at the same time.
So what that means is, once you’ve submitted yourself into the jurisdiction of the court,
by filing your complaint or petition, then the court can step in and make decisions for
your family and your world. The court has the authority then, to say who’s going to
pay what bills, and where are the children going to live, and who’s going to stay in
the house, and all of the particulars that have to happen for your family during the
time from when you file, to when you get your final divorce, and the court has the authority,
obviously to make a final ruling on your divorce. So the court now has jurisdiction. So you’re
going to come into some sort of temporary situation, which is most places it’s called
temporary orders, and in some places it’s called pendente lite, which, I hope I said
right, because we don’t use that word in our jurisdiction. What that means is, during the
period of litigation, there has to be some way of knowing who’s going to live where,
who’s going to pay what bills. You’ve got your petition, service, response, now you’re
in this temporary period that’s going to last for some period of time. And while you’re in this temporary period,
part of the divorce process, you’re entitled then, to start gathering information about
your financial situation. And that can be done during this time period as part of the
divorce process either informally, where you and your husband just say here are our bank
records, and here’s our tax records, and here’s our pension, and here’s our retirement accounts,
and here’s how much the car’s worth, and go through all of the assets like we’ve done
on the spreadsheet session, and then talk about what do we think is best for the kids
during this temporary period of time. And you guys can just informally agree on how
you’re going to set things up for this time period, and informally exchange information
about your finances, or your assets. So, but if you’re not able to sit down as a friendly
you know sit across the table and figure this out, then you might have to use some of legal
procedures. And so we’re talking about the divorce process
now, and one way of gathering information is called written interrogatories. An interrogatory
is kind of like interrogation, sort of the same word. And what that means is you send
a batch — it could be a lot — of written questions to your spouse, and or his lawyer,
depending on if he has a lawyer or not, and he’s required to answer all these questions
under penalty of perjury, which means he has to tell the truth, allegedly and obviously
some people aren’t completely truthful. But it’ll say list every bank account you have,
and list your safe deposit boxes, and where are your life insurance policies, and how
much money do you make, and where do you have a pension, and do you have any money in anybody
else’s accounts, and goes through all this lengthy financial questions, asks for copies
of credit card receipts and billing statements, bank statements, retirement statements, stock
portfolio statements, whatever there is that’s financial in your world, he would be required
to produce, pursuant to your questions under oath from the interrogatories. So if you send those to him, the high likelihood
is that he or his lawyer is going to send those to you, and then you’re going to have
to spend a whole bunch of time answering a lot of lengthy questions, but it’s a good
and important way for you to gather information about your financial situation. So what you don’t want to do, is you know
it’s not uncommon for me to be representing a woman who doesn’t have much information
about her financial situation, and we send interrogatories, and the husband says “Oh,
your lawyer’s just doing this to make money, and I’ll tell you what we’ve got, and we shouldn’t
have to go through this process…” And that may be true, and it may not be true but the
protection you have with interrogatories is, it’s signed under oath and penalty of perjury,
so you’re putting you’re opposing party in a position of having to come forward, and
represent to you and ultimately to the court. What all he’s got, and where he’s got money,
and does he have any bank accounts that you don’t know about, and you know is what is
what all real estate is there, and where are the mortgages being held, and what debt has
he generated? Are there credit cards you don’t know about? So that all goes in the interrogatories. Another way that you can gather information
which is pretty common is to send subpoenas. So let’s say you’re in a situation where you
feel like, here’s a common one. I’ve got a case right now where a woman doesn’t have
any financial information, husband owns a company, he says “Oh you know where are bank
accounts are. You know about our finances, and you know where our CPA is” and she kind
of doesn’t. So you know we send interrogatories, but at
the same time, we send subpoenas. Rather than waiting for someone to spend the time copying
6 months, or 2 years, or 5 years worth of financial records, sometimes it’s easier and
cheaper just to shoot a subpoena out, and start gathering that information by subpoena.
I can’t just send a subpoena to you and say “Produce your bank records.” — but if we’re
in a lawsuit together, then I as a lawyer I have the subpoena power, which has got the
backing of the court, to send something to a bank, and then the bank has to then provide
me with the records. Now it gets a little bit confusing if you’ve
got records that are out of state. So let’s say that you live in Illinois, and your husband
has some kind of investment portfolio in Texas, and they don’t have an office in Illinois.
There are technical legal ways that you can go about getting a subpoena from Illinois
to be honored in Texas, and it’s not a simple process, but it’s certainly doable. And that’s
one of those issue spotting things – where that means you have to say to the lawyer “We’ve
got something out of state, we’re going to need to get information about it.” And then
it’ll be up to the lawyer to figure out how to get an appropriate subpoena to get that
information.

Michael Martin

2 Responses

  1. you should believe that its never to late to avoid divorce and save your marriage! i have had my share of lonely times recently but im so happy i stayed with my wife now. hope this site helps you as much as it did me… bitly.com16tTV3g

  2. Funny that you assume that "he" needs to disclose where he has the money, how much etc. This is condescending and sexist too.

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