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Working with the Cowlitz County Superior Court Clerks

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If you are filing or otherwise involved in a court case in Cowlitz County, read this for helpful information about filing papers and appearing for court. #9951EN

The Basics

Yes, if you are filing or otherwise involved in a Superior Court case in Cowlitz County, Washington. The tips we give you here should help you file papers and appear for court faster and more easily.

  • If you need legal advice, see the contact info below.

It is located on the second floor of the Cowlitz County courthouse (312 SW 1st Ave., Kelso, WA 98626), to the right of the elevators.

The Superior Court Clerk's office is open Monday – Friday, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm.               

  • If you have an emergency: Ask the clerk about getting a case number so you can file your case and ask for a fee waiver and emergency orders on the same day.

The Facilitator is an employee of the Superior Court Clerk. Their job is to meet with you, if you do not have a lawyer, to check that your paperwork is complete and you have properly followed court procedures. The facilitator is not a lawyer. They cannot give legal advice. Each appointment with the court facilitator costs $20.

  • COVID Impact on Facilitators: The court suspended facilitator services due to COVID-19. As of March 2022, they are still suspended. You can visit the Court website to see if they are currently available.

Potential Issues

It depends:

  • Appointments are optional for most filings in family law cases.
  • You must see the facilitator to finalize any kind of family law case involving children.

If CLEAR referred you to Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Legal Aid (CWLA) and you show the volunteer lawyer your completed paperwork, the lawyer may sign a statement that they have reviewed your paperwork and it is complete. If you get this lawyer statement, you do not need to see the facilitator and pay the $20.

Contact CWLA at: 1338 Commerce Ave., Suite C, Longview, WA 98632

(360) 425-2579 | cwlap.org
Hours: Monday – Thursday
9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

The next section discusses filing a motion to waive your filing fee. If you cannot afford to pay the court fee, you can file a Motion asking the court to cancel (waive) it. If the court finds you qualify for a fee waiver, you should not have to pay any fees to file your case.

  • Call CLEAR and/or your local Northwest Justice Project office right away if you have trouble getting a waiver of all fees. See contact info below.

Yes. Normally you must pay a fee to start any type of family law case. How much you pay depends on the type of case.

See their Court's Fee Schedules for a list of the types of cases and the cost of each. This list is also posted in the window next to the Superior Court Clerk's office.

If you cannot afford the court fee, you can file a Motion asking the court to waive (cancel) it. If the court finds you qualify for a fee waiver, you should not have to pay anything to file your case.

For all family law cases, you must use state-approved forms.

You can get the right forms from:

  • CLEAR or Northwest Justice Project's Longview office
    • 1338 Commerce Ave. Suite 210, Longview, WA 98632
    • (360) 425-1537
  • CWLA
  • The Superior Court Clerk's office
  • The Court's website

CWLA and the Superior Court Clerk's office charge for all forms packets. CWLA provides some individual forms for free. There is no charge for packets provided by CLEAR, Northwest Justice Project's Longview office, downloaded from the Court's website or WashingtonLawHelp.org.

Motions: You must include a declaration (a written statement) explaining in as much detail as possible why you want what you are asking for, important background facts, and so on.

Along with your motion and declaration, you should submit proposed orders telling the court what you want (Examples:  temporary order, temporary child support order, and/or temporary parenting plan).

Declarations:  Any declarations should be typed and double-spaced, or at least printed clearly in black ink.

File your forms. Go to the clerk's office. Give your forms to the clerk directly. Ask the clerk to stamp your copy of the document to confirm when you filed it.

Remember: You should have all documents you file delivered to (served on) the other party, except for the fee waiver form and confidential information form. Service of court documents, especially those starting a case (Summons and Petition/Complaint), must follow certain rules and procedures. Make sure service is proper. Carefully read the service instructions in the packets, or talk to a lawyer.

  • CWLA offers free forms workshops for divorce and child custody. See above for contact info.

The Superior Court Clerk's office has the form you need to set (schedule) a hearing date. You can also get it online.

You must properly time your motion and service of it.

Here are deadlines for family law motions:

  • You must have family law motions served twenty-one (21) days before the hearing.
  • Response declarations are due by 10:00 a.m. fourteen (14) days before the hearing.
  • Reply declarations are due by 10:00 a.m. seven (7) days before the hearing.
  • Make an extra "bench" (judge's) copy of any documents you are filing less than one week before your hearing. Put the time of your hearing on the upper right corner of the first page of the document. Hand the clerk the bench copies.

We call an emergency order "ex parte." This means the judge signs the order without you having to give other party notice that you are going to the judge to ask for an emergency order.

Though notice is optional, Cowlitz judges prefer that you tell the other party that you are getting an ex parte order before going to the courthouse. It is recommended to call first and then, if possible, follow up with the notice in writing.

To get an ex parte order, you must do all of these:

  • Fill out the forms.  
  • Make sure your case is already filed so you have a case number. (You can file it the same morning.)
  • Go to the ex parte docket with your motion, order, and, if you are asking for restraining orders, two copies of a law enforcement information sheet. The court has an ex parte docket every afternoon. (The start time is different each day.) Call the Superior Court Clerk's office to get the start time. You can learn more about getting ex parte orders in the subtopics under family at WashingtonLawHelp.org.   

You should go to the ex parte docket early to make sure the judge hears your case. If you have an emergency that cannot wait until the next ex parte docket, you must submit your paperwork by 10 a.m. for a decision by 3 p.m. that day.

If you want a conformed copy that day, it will cost $30 (except for Protection Orders).

  • You do not have to see the facilitator before asking for an ex parte order.

Ask about how to get an interpreter at the Superior Court Clerk's office window.

Alternatively, you can get forms and instructions, including an application to have an interpreter paid for by the court if you are indigent, from the Superior Court's website.

Sign Language (ASL) interpreters are also available.

No. The Superior Court Clerk is not a lawyer. They cannot give legal advice or help.

Call CLEAR at 1-888-201-1014. The CLEAR advocate you speak with on the phone might provide all the help you need. The CLEAR advocate might refer you to Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Legal Aid or the Longview Northwest Justice Project office for more help.

Yes.

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Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

Última revisión y actualización: Mar 29, 2022
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