The Quickest Way to Lose Your Washington State Divorce Case

You must respond to this summons and petition by serving a copy of your written response.

Once a divorce case is filed and the petition for dissolution and accompanying documents are provided ("served"), the fastest way to lose is to ignore the documents, miss the 20 day deadline (60 days if out-of-state) to file a response to the petition, and allow a proactive opposing attorney to file for default.

Review the Summons

In a divorce, the "summons" provides the deadlines. It states:

"You must respond to this summons and petition by serving a copy of your written response. If you do not serve your written response within 20 days (or 60 days if you are served outside of Washington) after the date this summons was served on you the court may enter an order of default against you, and the court may. enter a decree and approve or provide for the relief requested in the petition."(emphasis added)

You Lose Before You Get Started

The motion for default judgment can be filed any time after the deadline is missed. It is a relatively simple procedure. In King County, the party must give 14 days' notice of the motion for default, and the commissioner at the hearing will typically review the filed documents to assure compliance with the law. Once approved and entered, the effect is the other spouse is granted everything asked for property, child support (with their income figures), spousal maintenance, and a proposed parenting plan if applicable.

File and Serve Your Response Promptly

Divorce documents should be reviewed as soon as possible following service to avoid a default - preferably with an attorney who can explain them - and addressed in a timely filed response. Failing to file a response to the petition is a major gaffe that can be easily avoided. A response requires only that you admit, deny (with explanation), or lack knowledge to address the allegations asserted in the petition. If you are not sure whether to deny a statement, you can response you "lack knowledge" and amend the response later on. The Washington State mandatory form response to a petition for dissolution is available here. Response to Petition

Missing the Response Deadline Puts You are Serious Risk of Default

The motion for default judgment can be filed any time after the response deadline is missed. It is a relatively simple procedure. In King County, the party must give 14 days' notice of the motion for default, and the commissioner at the hearing will typically review the filed documents to assure compliance with the law. Once approved and entered, the effect is the other spouse is granted everything asked for property, child support (with their income figures), spousal maintenance, and a proposed parenting plan if applicable.

Your Spouse Obtained Default Judgment Now What?

If you act quickly after being notified of the default, you may be able to set aside the default order by filing a Motion to Vacate under Washington State Court Rule 60 ("CR 60"). See Washington State Court Rule 60.

Default orders are generally disfavored by Washington courts. The court prefers both parties to have their day in court. Nevertheless, setting a default aside requires substantial evidence to support one of the reasons enumerated in CR 60 to overturn a default. It is a difficult legal burden to meet and a costly legal procedure that can and should be avoided.

Article By - Weintraub Law Office focuses exclusively on family law cases in Seattle WA, principally those involving dissolution and related child custody, parenting, maintenance (alimony) issues. Our child custody cases include psychological issues, religious disputes, physical and sexual abuse cases, drug and alcohol issues, third party custody (grandparent custody), and interstate custody. If you are dealing with a family law dispute in the State of Washington, Contact a proven Bellevue divorce attorney and family law attorney Seattle from Weintraub Law Office today at 425-374-4045.