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File a motion for attorney fees in a divorce case

Blank forms to print and fill out on your own, with how-to instructions for completing and filing. Use this to ask the court to Order your spouse to pay money for you to hire a lawyer. #3248EN

Please Note:

  • Read this only if you are involved in a divorce case filed in a Washington State Superior Court.

The Basics

This packet has instructions and forms to ask the court to Order your spouse to pay money for you to hire a lawyer. We call this a Motion for Attorney Fees.

Use this if all these are true:

  • You are party to a divorce case in a Washington State Superior Court
  • You believe you need to hire a lawyer to get a fair result in your divorce
  • You have a low income
  • Your spouse can afford your attorney fees

* Do not use this packet if your case is not a divorce.

Washington State law says that when one spouse in a divorce case has a low income (is indigent), the Court may order the other to pay attorney fees RCW 26.09.140

You must file it in the Superior Court where your divorce is filed, in that case. You use the same case number.

This motion is part of your divorce case.   

There is no set time for doing so. However, you should file as soon as you can.

This packet has sample forms:

  • Motion and Declaration for Attorney Fees
  • Proof of Mailing or Hand Delivery
  • Order on Motion for Attorney Fees
  • Notice of Hearing, if your county allows a hearing on this motion

Some counties require you to use their own forms. Ask your superior court clerk if they have their own forms for a Motion for Attorney Fees before using our forms.

No. After your spouse has a chance to respond to your motion, the judge or commissioner should hold a hearing.

At the hearing, the judge or commissioner should balance your spouse's ability to pay the fees against your need for attorney fees. The judge must consider your financial situation and your spouse's. 

  • Talk with a lawyer for help deciding if you should file this motion. If you file a motion that the court thinks wastes its time, the judge or commissioner might order you to pay the other side's court costs.

Yes.

You should schedule and go to the hearing on your motion even if your spouse does not respond in writing to it.

The instructions for the Notice of Hearing in this packet explain how to get a hearing date.

Checklist of Steps

  1. Gather the forms and documents you need.
  2. Fill out the forms.
  3. Talk to a lawyer, if you can.
  4. Make three extra copies of each document.
  5. File and deliver working papers.  Have your spouse served.
  6. Confirm and Go to Hearing.

Court Form Title

Court Form Number

Motion for Attorney Fees and Declaration in Support

No Form Number

Proof of Mailing or Hand Delivery

FL All Family 112

Order:

FL All Family 182

Financial Declaration*

FL All Family 131

Notice of Hearing*

FL All Family 185

* Complete the financial declaration if you have not already filed one with the court.

* If the court uses a special Note for Hearing Docket form, use theirs instead of ours.

On the first page of all forms, fill out the caption (the top portion of each form naming the county, parties involved, and case number) by copying the caption from the Petition that started the case.

FORM 1: Motion and Declaration for Attorney Fees

You file a motion to ask the court to for something.  This motion asks the judge to Order your spouse to pay money for you to hire a lawyer.

Caption: fill out the caption.

I. Motion:

First paragraph: Put your name.

Second paragraph: In the first blank, put your spouse's name. In the second, put how much you want the judge to order your spouse to pay. In the third, put your name again.

Third paragraph: In both blanks, put your name. 

Sign and put the date you are signing where it says.  Print your name in the blank under the signature line.

II. Declaration: Check the boxes for any numbered sections that apply to your situation. Then fill out those sentences using these instructions.

In the first sentence, put your name in the blank.

  1. Check this section only if your spouse has a lawyer. Otherwise, skip this section. In the blank, put your spouse's name.
  2. Check this if you have filed evidence with the court to show you have a low income. In the blank, put what sort of evidence.
  3. Check this if true. Do not make any changes to this section.
  4. Check this if true. Put your spouse's name. In the second set of blanks, add any details you think the judge should know.
  5. Check this if there are any other details here you think the court should know. List those details here.

Examples:

  • "I am the primary parent for our two minor children. My spouse does not give me any support for them."
  • "Northwest Justice Project has advised me but has too many cases and cannot represent me."
  • "We have been married for ten years. My spouse has worked for the past fifteen years in sales. I have been a full-time stay-at-home parent."
  • "I met with a lawyer but she wants $2,000 to represent me."

FORM 2:  Proof of Mailing or Hand Delivery, FL All Family Form #112

You must have your spouse served with a copy of your motion and related papers. The server must fill out a Proof of Mailing or Hand Delivery that you must file with the clerk's office.

This will be your proof that you had your spouse served. "Delivery" means delivering the papers to your spouse or your spouse's lawyer yourself, or by having someone do this for you. 

Your server must deliver to your spouse:

  1. Motion and Declaration for Order to Pay Attorney Fees
  2. Notice of Hearing

Caption. Fill in the caption.

  1. Have your server check the third box and put their name.
  2. In the first blank, the server should put the date the server delivered the papers. In the second blank, the server should put who the server delivered the papers to. Then the server should check the boxes and fill out any blanks as needed to show how the server delivered the papers to your spouse.
  3. List all documents you served: Your server must check the box for every form the server delivered to your spouse. If your server leaves out a form, you will have no proof it was served.

I declare under penalty of perjury: Your server should sign and date the form, State the place signed (city and State), and print their name where it says.

** Mailing Your Motion to the Other Party:  Your server must mail with postage prepaid, from a post office. You must add at least three days to the number of days' notice your county's rules require.

Example: If you mail a document on a Monday, the law presumes it was served on Thursday.  If the third day after you mailed the papers is a weekend or holiday, you should add days so the papers arrive on a business day (not a legal holiday or weekend).

  • Ask the family law facilitator or court clerk how many days' notice you must give.

FORM 3: Order: on Motion for Attorney Fees (Proposed), FL All Family #182

Caption: Fill out the caption. You will need to put "on Motion for Attorney Fees" in the blank under the case number.

In the first sentence, put your name. In the sentence, put how much you want the court to order.

Check the box if the court allowed you and your spouse to argue your sides at the hearing. Then check the boxes for each party who argued. Put your names.

Presented by: Sign your name. Then print your name on the following line. The judge will put the date in the space to the left of the judge's signature.  

FORM 4: Financial Declaration, FL All Family #131

  • Instead of using the form here, you can use our do-it-yourself interview program, Washington Forms Online, to complete this form at WashingtonLawHelp.org.

Caption. Fill out the caption, including your name.

  1. Your personal information: Give the information requested. Check yes if you are currently working and put your hire date. Check no if you are not currently working and give the information requested.
  2. Summary of your financial information: Skip this section. Come back to it after filling out the rest of the form.
  3. Income.

* If you do not know how much the other parent's income is, give your best estimate, or use the support schedule's instructions for imputing income.

Use the You column for your info. Use the Other Party column for your spouse. Put the income information and income deduction information requested. Make sure you use the correct column for each party.

Income from Benefits: If a parent gets Social Security Disability (SSDI) or workers' compensation (L&I, or other disability benefits from an employer), put that amount in Other Income.

Work-Related Disability Benefits: If a parent gets SSDI, L&I and some employer-paid disability benefits or Social Security retirement, and the children get dependent benefits as a result, the payments they get directly count as income to that parent even if the money actually goes to the other parent or custodian.

You should add those amounts under 3A to income of the parent getting benefits. The parent should get credit for paying child support through those benefits.  The paying parent's support should go down dollar for dollar by the amount of dependent benefits the children get directly for current child support. See RCW 26.18.190.

Deductions from Income: If you include any deductions from income other than income tax, FICA, and L&I payments, you must be able to prove each deduction. Paystubs may show union and pension plan deductions. You must have extra proof (such as pages from a collective bargaining agreement or employee handbook, or a letter from the employer) that these deductions are required.

If pension deductions are voluntary, you must prove you have had the deduction taken for at least two years.

If the other parent disputes your claims, be ready with business records and receipts proving any business expenses you are claiming. Follow the instructions at the end of the Financial Declaration Form. You should attach private financial information to the Financial Source Documents Cover Sheet.

  1. Other Income and Household Income
    1. Other income. Put the name and how much of any other income (including TANF, SSI, and/or food stamps) a parent gets regularly.
    2. Household Income. List the gross monthly income of other adults in the household. That income does not go into calculating the basic support obligation. The court might consider it if someone asks for a deviation from the standard child support amount.
  2. Disputed income: If you think anyone will dispute a parent's income, State what you believe the correct amount is. Explain why you believe that is the true amount.
  3. Available Assets. List your assets - cash, and things that you own that could easily be sold for cash.

Examples: stocks, bonds, and so on.

  1. Monthly Expenses after Separation: Fill out your monthly household expenses. Fill out your best estimate of each expense. Many expenses are not monthly. For those, take the actual amount you pay. Calculate the monthly average.

Example:  You pay your car insurance every six months.  Divide the amount you pay by 6.  Put that amount in the blank under 7F.

Your total monthly expenses may end up being more than your net monthly household income.  This is especially common for people with low incomes. You may put off paying a certain bill or make other cutbacks in your expenses.

Your monthly expenses do not need to be equal to or less than your income.

However, if they are far more than your income, you might have to show the court how you are meeting your expenses.

8. & 9: Section 8 is for giving more details about expenses you already listed in 7.

11. Attorney Fees: If you hire a lawyer for this case, put those expenses here.

Signed at: Put the city or town and State where you are signing this form, and the date. Sign and print where it says.

FORM 5: Notice of Hearing

You must schedule the hearing day and time with the clerk or judge's assistant. Then fill out the Notice of Hearing to let the court and the other parties know the hearing date, time, place, and reason. 

Many counties require you to use their own special form.  Ask the court clerk if yours does.  If not, use ours.

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

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

If possible, ask the facilitator or clerk: 

  • 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 to schedule a Motion for Attorney's Fees in a family law case?
  • Do you need to send working papers or confirm the hearing? If so, how and where? 

If you cannot contact a clerk or facilitator, check Superior Court Civil Rule 6(d), or the Local Rules for that county.

You must add more days if you serve your motion by mail. (See directions for Form 3.)

Filling out the form:

Caption:  Fill out the caption.

  1. To the Clerk of the Court and to all parties: Put
  • The hearing date and the time.
  • The courthouse address and room number where the hearing will take place.
  • The docket name or the judge's name.
  1. List every matter you intend to bring up (Example:  "Motion for Attorney's Fees").

This hearing was requested by: Sign and print your name and put the date where it says.

I agree to accept legal papers for this case at: Read the box to the right. Put an address where you can get papers quickly.

These instructions are not legal advice.  Try to talk to a lawyer about your problem before filing your motion.  If you have a very low income, call CLEAR. (See below for contact info.)

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

  • One for you
  • One for your spouse's lawyer(or your spouse if she does not have  a lawyer)
  • One for the judge (working papers)

* Step 5 has more on working papers.

File the originals of Forms #1- 3 with the clerk's office, and a copy of Form #4. 

Stamp your copies of the forms with the clerk's date stamp to prove you filed the originals of Forms #1, 2 and 3 with the clerk.

Working Papers:  Some counties require "working papers."  These 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 need to file working papers.  If so, get our What are Working Copies packet.

Serving the Other party: You must have your spouse served with a copy of your motion packet the proper amount of time before the hearing.  Each county has its own rule on how much notice a party must get notice of the hearing.

Ask the facilitator or clerk how much notice you must give your spouse. Then deliver or serve the motion packet appropriately. Bring the last copy of your motion packet to your hearing. It is your copy.

Confirmation: Ask the facilitator or clerk if you have to confirm your hearing and if so, how. You may have to do this several days before the actual hearing. If you do not, the court may automatically cancel your hearing!

Other party's response: If your spouse files a written response to your motion, she must do so by the deadline in your county's local rules. Ask the facilitator or clerk what that deadline is. Your local rules may be at the Courts website.

If your spouse files a response late, you can object to the response before the judge or commissioner.

At Your Hearing:

You must go to 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 say must already be in the motion and declaration forms. If the court allows you to speak at all, you will have only a few minutes to do so. 

  • Do not bring your children with you. You may have to wait as long as three hours for your hearing. Arrive a half-hour early to check in.

Bring a copy of your motion packet with you, including the original of the Order: form. 

After the Hearing: Make yourself a copy of whatever the judge signed.  If your spouse was not there, make another copy to mail to them.  You or the clerk must file all signed original orders in the clerk's office.

Do not leave the courthouse with or destroy original orders the judge has signed. 

If you do not know what to do with the originals, ask the clerk or facilitator.

  • The laws and court rules are complex. 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.) 

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Last Review and Update: May 03, 2022
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