What Clients Want to Know
Common Questions About Divorce
Why change the name from divorce to dissolution?
The legislature changed the name from “Divorce” to “Dissolution” to overcome the stigma and innuendo that accompanied being divorced, such as the negative term, “Divorcee.”
Can I date?
Yes. However, you must discuss this with your attorney since dating may be relevant to areas such as placement of children and wasting of assets, etc. We frequently discuss this with clients, so do not feel embarrassed.
When will I know my trial date?
In Snohomish County, the date is assigned after one party files a request for a trial date assignment. Before that may be done the Response must be filed. The trial date will be anywhere from about five to seven months or so after the filing of the Response to the Petition. The court now has adopted tracking for cases to make certain that they do not languish and are tried with in time guidelines provided by the Office of Administrator of Courts in Olympia. Failure to prosecute your case with in these timelines may cause your case to be dismissed; if that were to happen you would be required to start a new case and again pay filing fees and present a new summons and petition for dissolution.
What happens if my spouse fails to pay support?
Notify your attorney. We can either take care of the problem by calling your spouse’s attorney or by filing a motion with the Court seeking a finding that your spouse is in contempt for failing to pay the support. Usually your spouse will be ordered to make immediate payment or installments on the back due support. If you must file the motion in order to obtain payment, and the Court finds your spouse in contempt, the Court will order payment of your attorney fees for having to bring the motion. However, remember you are responsible to pay your fees until any payment is received from your spouse, and the Court seldom orders payment of all the fees you incurred in bringing the motion. One way we try to avoid these problems is by having DSHS/DCS collect child support and maintenance, if possible, by direct withholding from your spouse’s pay. This is done via an administrative order to withhold and deliver. Effectively, it is an administrative garnishment and ensures that money due to you will be paid. There will be a delay of as much as 6 weeks before DSHS/DCS first get money.
Do I need witnesses?
Always advise your attorney of possible witnesses in your case. Witnesses include people who have knowledge of your debts, property, your past responsibilities, your ability and fitness as a parent, etc. Witnesses may be asked to provide sworn written statements for a motion. Witnesses can be called to testify for a trial. If any possible witness intends to leave your county or state before trial, notify your attorney immediately so that your witness’ testimony can be obtained before he or she leaves.
Must I tell my attorney everything?
YES. Knowing all of the facts of your case allows your attorney to give you the best advice on what may be done. If you don’t let your attorney know everything about the case plans will be made and advice given that may fail to get you the best result. Your attorney should not be surprised by hearing information for the first time from your spouse’s attorney in a motion or at trial. This is detrimental to your case and may hurt you financially or defeat your goal to be the residential parent for your children. Be honest, it only helps you and allows your attorney to prepare.
Remember, everything you tell your attorney (as well as your attorney’s staff or assistants) is confidential. Only you can release your attorney from this obligation to keep your secrets. Anyone else can be subpoenaed to testify to what you have told them, even if they do not want to testify. There are some exceptions for doctors, psychologists, members of the clergy, and some other professionals with whom you have a professional and confidential privilege. The extent of the exception may be very limited. Be careful to whom you talk to if your case may be tried, because any person with whom you discuss your case could be called as a witness.
Do I need to go to the initial hearing?
You are not required to attend the initial hearing for temporary orders when an attorney represents you. However, it is best for you to attend hearings because you will hear the attorneys’ arguments and hear the judge’s (or commissioner’s) decision and the basis for the judge’s/commissioner’s decision. If you attend the hearing, your presence will aid the attorney should the judge or commissioner ask a question that requires the attorney to consult with you.
Sometimes, the judge or commissioner will ask the client a question. Should this happen, answer honestly. Think before you answer. If you do not know an answer or are unsure, say so. Do not give an answer if you are uncertain. This may cause you to be boxed into a corner and ultimately hurt your position for settlement. Dress for the hearing as you would for trial, discussed below.
How should I conduct myself in Court?
If your case goes to trial, it is necessary for you to go to Court. During trial: Look at the judge when you are testifying. You will be sitting to his or her right or left. Build a rapport with the judge as a person. Do not always look at the attorney asking the question. Remember: the more clearly you convey your position and the more rapport you build with the judge, the better you will fare.
Do not argue with the attorneys! Do not give biting, cynical answers. If an attorney asks a question in a belligerent or harassing way, just say, “I beg your pardon?” Do not speak, make faces, or even cluck your tongue, while other persons are testifying. Do not laugh or even smile. Be concerned. If your spouse’s attorney is obnoxious, do not take on the same style. Be calm, clear and precise.
Dress conservatively, in your “Sunday-best” clothes, unless your attorney tells you to dress in some other fashion.
Will I know what judge will hear my case?
For Snohomish County the judge is assigned at trial call on the day of your trial. If your attorney does not like the judge assigned to your case, an “affidavit of prejudice” may be used one time. The affidavit requires the case to be assigned to another judge. This does not necessarily mean the judge is prejudiced. It means that you must take the next available judge. It will be up to you and your attorney to decide what to do in your case. If a judge knows either you or your spouse, the judge usually disqualifies himself or herself.
Remember, all judges are human beings and their decisions in part are based on their own personal experiences and past history. It is almost impossible to predict what he or she will do. However, your attorney may have some ideas or previous experiences which he or she will relay to you about concerns with the assigned judge, if any.
What if my spouse’s attorney has represented me or our marital community in the past?
The Rules of Professional Responsibility prevent an attorney from representing your spouse if the attorney has represented either you or the marital community (you and your spouse) in the past. Relay any information that you have regarding the attorney’s relationship with you or the two of you in the past. It may be necessary for your attorney to ask the Court for an order removing your spouse’s attorney from the dissolution case. Often, when this issue is pointed out to the other attorney, there will be a voluntary withdrawal from further representation of your spouse.