AN ORDER SETTING CASE SCHEDULE is provided by the Clerk of Courts when a case is filed in King County.  It provides a trial date, the name of an assigned trial judge, and deadlines for actions required between filing and the trial date. 

In general, a family law case will be given a trial date that is approximately 11 months from the date that the Petition is filed.  The assigned judge may consider requests or agreements to continue the trial date that are submitted before the deadline for such requests (the deadline is included on the case schedule).  In general, the court will want to limit the continuance of the trial date to approximately 30 days, but the judge decides.  The court enforces the case schedule, so do not assume that the deadlines can be ignored or changed.

MOST FAMILY LAW CASES SETTLE without the need for a trial.  In the case of a Dissolution, at least 90 days must pass from the time the Petition is served on the other party before final orders may be entered by agreement.  Other than this waiting period, final orders may be entered at any time by agreement.

AGREEMENTS MAY BE REACHED BEFORE FILING A CASE, so it may be possible to use a collaborative law process, early mediation or arbitration, or informal negotiations between the parties to sign an enforceable agreement. There is no state mandatory form for a separation contract.  The terms of this agreement would then be used to prepare the required final orders after the case has been filed.

TEMPORARY ORDERS may be entered at any time after the case is filed.  They are considered “temporary” because they terminate when final orders are entered.  It is necessary to file a Motion for Temporary Orders, supporting declarations and financial documents and proposed temporary orders.  This is time-consuming but, in some instances, essential. The court issues an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order when a case is filed, ordering not to change insurance or make unusual dispositions of assets.

TRIAL DATE is the final date in a case schedule, and the case will be decided by a judge at that time, if necessary.  Family law cases are decided by a judge in Washington.  There is no jury.

FINAL ORDERS ARE FINAL and are not easily modified.  Most modification cases require a finding (or agreement) that there has been a substantial change of circumstances that has occurred after the final orders were entered.  It is therefore important to get advice and be comfortable with the terms of final orders before they are entered. 

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