Some of the basic steps that you can take to get ready for trial include: scheduling your trial, having a settlement conference, writing a trial brief, and preparing exhibits and witnesses. Since every trial is different, you may need to take additional steps.
This information focuses on Superior Court bench trials (where the judge, not a jury, decides your case). You should also consult with the judicial assistant for your assigned judge to ask about any specific requirements of that judge.
Some resources to learn more about trial preparation in general:
- 9 Things to Keep in Mind for a Family Law Trial from Navigate Law Group
- How Do I Prepare for a Family Law Trial in Washington? from Navigate Law Group
- Getting Ready for a Court Hearing or Trial from Washington LawHelp
- Preparing for Court from LawHelp
- Family Law Cases: Trial Tips from Washington LawHelp
- How Trial Works from Genesis Law Firm
- Local court rules for Superior Court and District Court have information about trials
- The Roadmap to the Clerk's Office has some information about trials
Free eBook about representing yourself in court
Chapters 4, 8, 9 and 18 pertain to pretrial procedure and preparing your case
Scheduling (setting) your trial
Superior Court Local Rule LCR 40 “Assignment of Cases” has information about scheduling issues.
If your case type is on the list in section (b) of the rule, you must use a Notice to Set for Trial to schedule your trial.
If your case type is not on the list in section (b) of the rule, then you must follow the procedures of section (c). These cases require you to file a Notice of Assignment to Judicial Department and follow the procedures in that section. You will have a court-ordered case scheduling order and your trial date will be assigned by the court.
There is a Response to Notice to Set for Trial if the other party filed a Notice to Set for Trial and you disagree with the information in it.
If you have a family law case and wish to request an Informal Family Law Trial, State Court General Rule GR 40 provides information about this alternative, a form to request it, and a comparison with a traditional trial.
Superior Court Local Rule LCR 40 “Assignment of Cases” has information about settlement conferences in certain family law cases. Mandatory settlement conferences in family law cases have been suspended through August 31, 2023 by General Order 22-04 but voluntary settlement conferences can be scheduled.
For additional information and forms:
- Getting Ready for a Settlement Conference from Washington LawHelp
- General Order 22-04 "Family Law Judicial Settlement Conferences" from Clark County Superior Court
- The Superior Court Clerk has a section called Family-Law Settlement Conference Forms which explains the settlement process and includes forms
A trial memoranda or brief is a document that tells the court the relevant facts of the case, the issues to be decided, the law that applies, and how you think the judge should rule based on the law.
A typical brief may have sections including:
- telling the court which party is writing the brief
- a statement of the issues that need to be decided
- a statement of the relevant facts you will prove
- a list or summary of the evidence that will prove your facts
- the legal authority that applies to your case, such as statutes, court rules, case law, etc.
- an argument section where you apply the facts and the law to each issue and explain what you believe the correct result is for that issue
Some information about or examples of briefs:
- How to Write a Trial Memorandum tips from Navigate Law Group
- The King County Courts has a template for a family law brief on page 24
- The Sheridan Law Firm posted an example trial brief by their firm
- The California Courts have an example of a brief in a family law case. Though the details are specific to California, this provides you with an idea of what your brief should do.
Witness and exhibit lists
If your case is subject to the Case Scheduling Order in Superior Court Local Rule 40, you will be required to provide a list of witnesses and exhibits. You will also be required to provide documents you will use as exhibits to the other party.
State Court Evidence Rule 904 allows you to give notice to the other party at least 30 days before trial about certain types of proposed exhibits. If the other party does not object to the proposed exhibits within 14 days, they are deemed authentic and admissible without testimony or identification at trial. This allows for exhibits to be used more quickly and easily during trial.
Some examples you can use as a starting point to write your own form:
Anything that you plan to use as an exhibit at trial must be filed with the Clerk's Office as a proposed exhibit at least three days before trial. Consult your case scheduling order for timelines for exhibits.
If you wish to use a document already filed with the Clerk's Office as an exhibit, that document must be refiled as a proposed exhibit. The court will not search the court file looking for exhibits.