How to Represent Yourself at a Family Law Hearing
When You Get To The CourthouseWhen you arrive, you will find your case on a list posted on a bulletin board near the Family Law Clerk's Window.
Find the number next to your case on that list.
Get in line at the clerk's window and when it's your turn, give the clerk your name and your hearing number. The clerk will check you in and tell you which courtroom to go to.
When the courtrooms open, go inside and have a seat.
When your case is called, approach the podium. If your court documents identify you as the "Petitioner," stand at that podium. If they identify you as the "Respondent," stand at that podium.
The commissioner will ask everyone to identify themselves for the record.
The commissioner may also address preliminary matters, such as requests for a continuance, objections to evidence, etc.
During and After Your HearingAfter all preliminary matters are addressed, the hearing will proceed in the following order:
Whoever brought the motion argues first.
The person responding to the motion argues next.
The person who brought the motion replies.
The commissioner gives you the ruling. Take notes of the ruling because you will need them to draft the order.
If you don't understand the ruling or did not hear what the Commissioner said, you may ask for clarification of what you missed. You may not continue to argue your case. It has been decided.
Be CourteousAs you argue your case, you must be respectful and courteous not only to the Commissioner, but to the other party and his or her attorney as well. You do not help your case by talking over the top of the commissioner or the other party or attorney or by arguing with the commissioner after he or she has ruled on your case.
After the Commissioner Has RuledAfter the commissioner decides your case, you and the other party or attorney must cooperate in drafting the order. You will go out into the hallway and find a place to work.
If the court has not ruled in your favor, take a few minutes to gather your thoughts. Go to the restroom, step outside, or take a lap around the lobby. Do whatever you necessary so that you can focus on cooperating with the other side to draft your orders.
Get out your proposed orders and change them so that they say what the court ordered. It is okay to handwrite on the orders.
If you and the other party or attorney cannot agree on what the commissioner ordered, you can let the bailiff in the courtroom know that the commissioner needs to resolve your dispute.
After The Commissioner Has Signed Your OrdersOnce the orders are drafted, hand them to the bailiff sitting next to the commissioner on the lower bench.
The bailiff will hand your orders up to the commissioner.
The commissioner will review and sign the orders and hand them back to the bailiff.
There are law libraries at both courthouses where you can make copies. This is important, so don't forget!
Don't leave the courthouse with the original orders. Give them back to the bailiff in your courtroom or take them to the Clerk's Office (6th floor Seattle or 2nd floor Kent).