Washington

Filing a Motion for Change of Venue in a Family Law Case

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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Should I use this packet?

This packet has the instructions and forms you will need to ask the court to move your family law case to a different county. This is called a Motion for Change of Venue.

Use this packet if:

  • your case is a dissolution OR a modification of a parenting plan, child support order, or decree entered in a dissolution AND

  • the other party filed your case in the wrong county (such as a county where neither party lives), or if it would be more convenient for you to finish your case in a different county.[1]

What is a Motion for Change of Venue?

A Motion for a Change of Venue asks the court where a case was filed to allow a different county's court to hear the case.  You must file a Motion for Change of Venue in the Superior Court where your case was filed. 

Venue for Marital Dissolution.  You should file your marital dissolution case where either spouse lives. [2]  Generally, the court should grant a Motion for a Change of Venue if the dissolution was filed in a county where neither party lives.[3]  If the case is filed in the county where one spouse lives, and the other spouse wants to move the case to the county where s/he lives, the court may (but does not have to) change venue.[4]

Venue for Modification of a Parenting Plan or Child Support Entered in a Dissolution.  You may file this kind of modification in the county where the minor children live, where the final order, judgment or decree was entered, or in the county "where the parent or other person who has the care, custody, or control of the children" lives.[5]

Venue for Modification of a Decree of Dissolution.  You should file a modification of a Decree of Dissolution (such as the maintenance or property and debt division) in the county where the final Decree of Dissolution was entered.[6]

Some private services that prepare marital dissolution papers for a fee tell people to file their dissolution in a county in which neither person lives.  Lincoln County is one of those.  If one spouse files for dissolution in a county where neither spouse lives, the other spouse has the legal right to move the case to the proper county. The court should grant a change of venue.

Why would I want to file a Motion for Change of Venue?

Practical problems can arise if a case is filed where neither party lives.  Example: if you must have a hearing or a trial, you may have to travel to the court and appear in person. That can be a long and expensive trip.  It may be harder to file the motion documents.  It may be harder to find out about court procedures or get help from courthouse facilitators.  If you need to try to modify a parenting plan or child support later, it may be harder and cost more to get copies of pleadings from a county that is far away.  

There are other reasons that you might file a Motion for Change of Venue, such as it being very hard for your witnesses to travel to the county where the case has been filed.  Before you file a Motion for Change of Venue, discuss your case with a lawyer or legal services provider. 

How do I make a Motion for Change of Venue?

You must raise the issue of improper venue at your earliest chance. Otherwise it may be given up (waived).[7]  You must either write in your Response to Petition form that you object to venue, or you must file a Motion for Change of Venue with the court before you file any more pleadings.[8]

This packet has the forms to file a contested Motion for Change of Venue, including:

  • Motion for Change of Venue
  • Declaration In Support of Change of Venue
  • Certificate of Mailing or Personal Delivery
  • Order for Change of Venue
  • Note for Hearing Docket 

In some counties, you have to use forms that are specific to that county.  Call your county clerk to ask whether they require certain forms for a Change of Venue Motion before filling out the forms in this packet.

What if I cannot get to the courthouse?

Often, a party requests a Motion for Change of Venue because s/he cannot travel to the courthouse where the case was filed. [9]  If you want to ask the court to change venue, but you do not think you can travel to the court for a hearing, call the clerk's office where your case was filed.  Ask the court clerk:

(1) If you can file your motion by mail or fax (and if so, how to do it);
(2) If you can set the hearing date by phone or mail and if so, how;
(3) If you can attend the hearing by telephone (a "telephonic hearing"), and if so how; and
(4) Whether you will have to pay a fee for doing (1) – (3), and if so, how much. 

Some courts do not allow telephonic hearings.  In most counties, you must speak directly with the Court Administrator to schedule a telephonic hearing.  There may be other steps you must take. Ask the Court Administrator for more info.

Summary of Steps

1: Gather the Forms and Documents You Need
2: Complete the Forms
3: Talk to a Lawyer, if You Can
4: Make 3 Extra Copies of Each Document
5: File / Deliver Working Papers / Have the Other Party Served
6: Confirm Hearing / Go to Hearing

STEP 1: Gather the Required Forms and Documents

(FORMS # 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 Are Part of This Packet)
FORM #1: Motion for Change of Venue
FORM #2: Declaration In Support of Change of Venue
FORM #3: Certificate of Mailing or Personal Delivery
FORM #4: Order for Change of Venue (Proposed)
FORM #5: Note for Hearing Docket.  If a special Note for Hearing Docket form is used in the court where you are filing your motion, get the court's special form.  Use it instead of ours.

STEP 2: Complete the Forms

  • On all of the forms, complete the caption (the top portion of each form naming the county, the parties involved, and the case number) by copying the caption from the "Petition of Dissolution of Marriage."

FORM #1: Motion for Change of Venue

You file a motion to ask the court to grant you something.  In this motion, you are asking the court to move your case to another county. 

The form in this packet asks the court to order the other party to pay all costs of moving the case to the new county (which includes paying the new filing fee).  If you feel that this is not appropriate in your situation, cross out this portion of the Motion.

Fill out the Caption.  Look at the top of the first page of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage that you received.  Copy the name of the county in which the case was filed, the names of the parties, and the case number from the Petition on the Motion for Change of Venue form.

Write your name in the space before [Name]. In the space before the word "county," write in the name of the county you want the case moved to.  At the bottom, sign and print your name.  Then write the date. 

FORM #2Declaration in Support of Change of Venue

Fill in the caption. 

Write your name and your age on the lines provided.  Next to "Relationship to the Parties in this Action," write "Respondent" or "Petitioner."

On the lines after "I declare that," state why you believe venue should be transferred.  Put all the information you want the court to consider in the declaration.  Some examples of some things you could say, if true, are:

  • Neither the opposing party nor I live in the county where the case is filed.

  • Neither party owns property in the county where the case is filed.

  • It would be a great inconvenience for me to take part in any hearing in the county where the case was filed.  I live in "x" county.  I cannot afford to travel and stay in a county where I do not live. 

Make the statements short and factual, not argumentative and opinionated.  Number each fact separately. 

After you finish writing your declaration, sign and date it at the end.  Fill in the date and the place (city, state) where the form is signed. 

  • All statements in the declaration must be truthful.  This is sworn testimony.

Be sure that everything you will want to say is in the declaration form. At the hearing, you can tell the judge your side of the case. You cannot present any new facts not in the documents filed. 

FORM 3Certificate of Mailing or Personal Delivery

You are responsible for serving the other party with your motion papers.  You must deliver to the other party:

  • the Motion for Change of Venue

  • Declaration In Support of Change of Venue

  • Note for Motion Docket

  • any other paper you want the court to consider for the change of venue 

As proof that you have done this, you should fill out a "Certificate of Mailing or Personal Delivery" and then file it with the clerk's office.  The legal action has already started.  Delivery can be done either by delivering the documents to the opposing counsel yourself (or opposing party if they are representing themselves), or by having someone do this for you.  If you think the opposing party may state that s/he never received the papers, or if there are issues of safety involved, have someone deliver the papers for you.

Fill out the caption, as in Form #1. 

In the next section of the pleading, write out the name of the other party.  In the next blank, after "with the following documents," list every document that you are delivering to the other party.  (Examples: Motion for Change of Venue, Declaration In Support of Change of Venue, and so on.)  You must list every form.

If the papers were served by regular mail, check the first box.  Then write the name and address where the papers were sent. 
If the papers were personally delivered, check the second box.  Then fill in who the papers were delivered to (petitioner or petitioner's lawyer.)  Write in the date, time, and address of service in the second blank. 

The person who mailed or delivered the papers should sign the end of the form under "I declare under penalty of perjury . . . ."  Fill in the date and the place (city, state) where the form is signed.  Print the name of the person signing the form under the signature.

**Note on Mailing Your Motion to the Other Party:  Delivery by mail must be sent postage prepaid, from a post office.  Delivery will be considered complete on the third day after placed in the mail unless the third day falls on a weekend or legal holiday.  In that case, delivery will be considered complete on the first non-weekend day or legal holiday.[10]

FORM 4Order for Change of Venue (Proposed)

An order is the legal form the court uses to write the decision that it makes.  The order requires the parties to do (or not do) something.  If the court decides to grant your motion, the court and the parties will sign and date your order.  This will most likely be done at the hearing. 

  • Like the Motion, the Order for Change of Venue as drafted requires the other party to pay all costs of moving the case to the new county.  If you feel that this is not appropriate in your situation, cross out this portion of the Order.

Fill out the caption as done in Form #1. 

Fill in the rest of the document by placing, in the appropriate spaces, your name and the name of the County you would like the case moved to.  At the bottom of this form, sign your name under "Presented by."  Then print your name on the following line.  Do not write in the date in the space above "Presented by" and to the left of the line where the judge signs.  The judge will do that.

FORM 5:  Note for Hearing Docket

You will set the hearing and complete the "Note for Hearing Docket" or "Note for Motion Docket" form."  Use this form to let the court and the other parties know the date, time, location, and reason for your hearing. 

Many counties require you to use their own special form.  Check with the Family Law Facilitator or court clerk's office to find out if the court in the county where your case was filed uses a special Note for Hearing form.  If it does not, use ours.

You should fill out this form with help from the court clerk or facilitator, if possible. 

How Do I Set a Date for My Hearing?  You may choose a date for your hearing. Note important rules about how much advance notice you must give the other party, and what days and times you can schedule your hearing. 

If possible, call the family law facilitator or court clerk's office where you are filing your motion. Ask: 

  • Is a Motion for Change of Venue heard by a family law commissioner or a judge?

  • How many days before the hearing date do you need to file your papers and serve the other party?

  • Are there certain days or times when you are allowed to schedule a Motion for Change of Venue in a family law case?

  • Do you need to send working papers or confirm the hearing? If so, how/where? 

If you cannot contact a clerk or facilitator, check the Local Rules for that county: http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/?fa=court_rules.local&group=superior, or Superior Court Civil Rule 6(d). You must add more days if you serve your motion by mail. (See directions for Form 3.)

STEP 3: Talk to a lawyer, if possible.

These instructions are not legal advice.  You should try to talk to a lawyer about your problem before filing your action.  If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer to represent you, you may be able to pay a one to give you advice and review your paperwork at a lesser cost. If you are very low-income, call CLEAR. (See end of publication for contact info.)

STEP 4: Make Three Extra Copies of Each Document

Make at least three copies of each document (more if there is more than one other party in the case): 

  • One copy for you
  • one for the other party's lawyer(or the other party if s/he does not have  a lawyer)
  •  one for working papers

See Step 5 for more information on working papers.

STEP 5: File / Deliver Working Papers / Have Other Party Served

File the originals of the following forms with the Clerk's office:  Form #1, Form #2, Form #3, and a copy of Form #4. 
Stamp your copies of the forms with the Clerk's date stamp to prove that you filed the originals of Forms #1, #2 and #3 with the Clerk.

Working Papers:  Some counties require "working papers."  Working papers are an extra copy of your motion packet (the papers you filed plus the order marked "Proposed") that goes to the judge.  Ask the clerk or family law facilitator if you will need to file working papers.  If so, write the following in the top right hand corner of the first page of this set:

WORKING PAPERS: MOVING PARTY
CIVIL LAW MOTIONS
DATE:                         TIME:                        AM/PM
NAME:                                                                      
(Your Name)

*Fill in the date and time of your hearing.

You must have the other party served with a copy of your "motion packet" the proper amount of time before the hearing.  Each county has a particular local rule on how much time in advance a party must be given notice of the hearing.  Ask the family law facilitator or court clerk how many days' notice to the other party you have to give.  Then deliver or serve the motion packet appropriately. Bring the remaining copy of your motion packet to your hearing.

STEP 6: Confirm Your Hearing. Go to Hearing.

Confirmation:

Check with the family law facilitator or court clerk to determine when and how you must confirm your hearing.  In some counties, you will have to confirm your hearing several days before the actual hearing.   IF YOU DO NOT DO SO, YOUR HEARING MIGHT BE AUTOMATICALLY CANCELLED!

If the other party files a written response to your motion, s/he must do so by the time period stated in your county's Local Rules.  Check with the family law facilitator or court clerk in your county to learn what that period of time is.   If the other party does not file a written response in time, you have the right to object to the response being considered by the judge/commissioner.

At Your Hearing:

You must go to the hearing.  The hearing is where the judge/commissioner "hears" your motion.  At the hearing, you can tell the judge your side of the case. You cannot present any new facts that are not already in the documents you filed. 

Everything you will want to say regarding the motion for change of venue must be in the declaration form. The court will only allow you a limited time to speak, if it allows you to speak at all. 

  • YOU MAY HAVE TO WAIT AS LONG AS THREE HOURS FOR YOUR HEARING.  DO NOT BRING CHILDREN WITH YOU.   Arrive a half-hour early for your hearing to check in.

Bring a copy of your motion packet with you, including the original of Form #4 (Order for Change of Venue). 

*If you have arranged for a hearing by phone, make sure that you have followed all the requirements directed by the Court Administrator.  You cannot wait until the day of the hearing to schedule a hearing by phone!  Be sure that you have filed with the court a blank copy of the proposed Order for Change of Venue for signature. 

After Your Hearing:

Make yourself of copy of whatever document(s) the commissioner/judge signed.  If the other party was not there, make a copy. Mail it to the other party.  All original orders signed by the judge/commissioner must be filed in the clerk's office.

Do not leave the courthouse with or destroy original orders signed by the commissioner/ judge. 

If you do not know what to do with the originals, ask the clerk's office or family law facilitator to help you.

  • The laws and court rules are complex.  Following these instructions will not guarantee a good result.  You should try to talk to a lawyer about your problem before filing your action.  (You may be able to hire a lawyer for a small fee to review your completed forms and talk about your problem, but not represent you in court.) 

 

APPENDIX A

Useful Terms/Words You May Need to Know

 

Calendar - The court's schedule of cases to be heard.   Also called a Docket.

Caption - The heading of each legal document. It has the name of the court, the names of the parties, the case number, and the name of the document itself.

Certificate of Mailing or Personal Delivery: This document tells the court that service to the other party took place.

Clerk of the Court - An officer of the court who handles clerical matters like keeping records, entering judgments and providing certified copies.

Commissioner (Court Commissioner) - like a judge. Only makes decisions relating to a particular subject matter.  Many counties have family law commissioners who decide only family law cases (dissolutions, parentage and so on).

Continuance - Putting your court hearing off until a later date.

Court - The judicial branch of government whose purpose is applying the laws to disputes brought before it.  When we refer to "the court," we mean you will be talking to the judge or commissioner who represents the court.

Declaration - A written statement made to the court that the signer swears is true.

Default Order – A court order that can be gotten if the responding person does not respond on time.

Ex Parte - Going before the court without notifying the other party.
               
Family Law Facilitator - A facilitator can provide helpful information, but not legal advice, for parties without a lawyer.  The program is available at some county courthouses.  Family law facilitators can help a party get the forms needed to guide a person through the courthouse process, answer limited procedural questions, and review family law documents for completeness.  Services are usually available by appointment only.

Filing - Giving court papers to the court clerk to place in the case file.

Hearing - Going before a judge or court commissioner in person to ask for a court order.

In Re the Marriage Of: - In a dissolution (divorce), this is the heading of all your court papers.  It tells the court that the type of your court action relates to your marriage.

Motion - A request made to the court for a court order.

Motion Docket - The court's schedule of motions to be heard.

Note/Notice of Hearing - A written request to the clerk to schedule your case for a hearing.

Order - A court document signed by a judge or commissioner that requires someone to do or not do something.

Petition - A formal written request for dissolution of marriage (divorce).

Petitioner - The spouse who files the dissolution case.

Pro Se - Acting without the aid of  a lawyer; representing yourself.

Response - A formal written answer to a petition filed with the court by the respondent.

Respondent - The spouse against whom the dissolution case is filed.

Ruling - A decision made by the court.

Service - Giving court papers to the other party by having them hand-delivered, sending it by certified mail or publishing in a newspaper.

Stipulation – An agreement by the parties.

Venue - The county where the case should be filed, usually – but not always - the county where you live.

Waive - To give up a right voluntarily.

 

APPENDIX B

Helpful Information Specific to Lincoln County Superior Court

 

Phone number of Clerk's Office and Family Law Facilitator:
509-725-1401

Address of Clerk's Office:
Lincoln County Clerk
450 Logan Street
P.O. Box 68
Davenport, WA  99122-0068

Telephonic Hearings in Lincoln County:
The court will decide whether to allow a hearing by phone.  To ask about how to schedule a telephonic hearing, contact the Court Administrator at 509-725-3081.  You must schedule a telephonic hearing before the hearing date.  Also, the person requesting the motion has the responsibility of calling the other party on his/her own phone line and then calling into the court on a three-way line.  If you cannot meet the court's requirements, then you must have a contested Motion for Change of Venue in person.

Note on a Stipulated Order for Change of Venue:
In Lincoln County, a Stipulated Order for Change of Venue (an order by agreement of both of the parties) can be done without a physical court appearance by the parties.  For information on how to do this, call the Family Law Facilitator or Court Clerk.

 

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This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities.  It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice. 
This information is current as of the date of its printing, November 2012.

© 2012 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014

(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)

 

Footnotes:

1. See "Important Terms/Words You May Need to Know" in Appendix A.

3. Schroeder v. Schroeder, 74 Wn.2d 853, 447 P.2d 604 (1968).

6. Washington State Bar Family Law Deskbook, §15.10(4) (2d. ed., 2000).

7. Sanders v. Sanders, 63 Wash.2d 709, 714, 388 P.2d 942 (1964). 

9. This commonly happens with cases filed in Lincoln County.  If you are trying to get your dissolution moved from there, see "Helpful Information Regarding Lincoln County Superior Court" in Appendix B.