Family Law Information

Family law covers a wide range of cases and issues including, but not limited to:
  • Dissolution (divorce) and legal separation
  • Child custody (non-married parties) and parentage
  • Child support
  • Modifications of orders
  • Nonparental custody (third-party custody)
  • Relocation
  • Restraining orders/protection orders
  • Contempt of Court

Getting Help


Hiring an Attorney


We always recommend that you retain an attorney or, at the very least, consult with one. Considerations include whether or not your case will be contested, whether you are in need of advice or advocacy, and whether you're in need of quick intervention. Certainly if you have significant assets/debts, children at risk, a pregnancy to someone not your husband, or if you are considering filing for custody of a child not your own, we strongly urge you to seek counsel. While the Clerk's office cannot suggest specific attorneys, you can check our local yellow pages for a listing of local attorneys practicing family law, you can peruse our current list of Jefferson County Attorneys (PDF), or you can email our Jefferson County Bar Association liaison.

If You Cannot Afford an Attorney


For many folks, hiring an attorney is not an option. In Jefferson County and in most counties, pro se (self-represented) litigants represent approximately 60 percent of all family law matters. This represents a combination of folks who chose, for whatever reason, self-representation and those who are truly indigent or significantly low-income. In these instances, the following options exist:
  • CLEAR (Northwest Justice Project): 800-201-1014
    • This is the primary source of free legal advice in the State of Washington, but you must be low-income to qualify. Once you are screened as meeting the income eligibility standard, you will have access to free legal advice by an attorney over the phone. In some instances (most often involving children/families at risk), an attorney from the Northwest Justice Project will be assigned to represent you in your case. Others are referred instead to the Jefferson/Clallam County Pro Bono Association for a brief advisory meeting with an attorney who offers only advice to the pro se litigant but does not actually represent the party. When calling the CLEAR line, be patient: Their hours of operation are limited, and it's often hard to get past a busy signal. Keep trying; we suggest you hit "re-dial" often.
  • Family Law Facilitator
    • The facilitator is available on Wednesdays (only!) to assist pro se litigants with family law matters. She is not an attorney and will not offer legal advice; she is available to assist you procedurally and to offer resources. This program is on a walk-in basis only, first-come/first-serve, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There is a $20 fee per visit. Sign in and pay at the Clerk's office. For more information about the facilitator, see our handout (PDF).
Keep in mind that if you opt to proceed pro se, you are representing yourself as your own attorney; neither the clerk's office or the family law facilitator can offer you legal advice, suggest "what to do," or advocate on your behalf.

Packets, Forms & Filing Fees


The Jefferson County Clerk's Office sells packets of forms for many standard family law actions. These packets are complete with instructions and forms geared to Jefferson County local court rules and procedure. View our filing fees (PDF).

Additionally, family law forms are available for free through the Washington State Courts website; however, it's up to you to piece them together into a complete and appropriate packet.

Additional Information


Mandatory Parenting Class


In all family law cases involving children where a parenting plan is being sought (whether or not the parties were married), both the petitioner and respondent are required to take a mandatory parenting class known as Children in the Middle. It is currently offered once a month and costs $50. Parties need to register in advance for the class and may not attend together. For more information, pick up a brochure at the Clerk's Office or call to register at 360-385-5292

Guardians ad Litem


In some instances involving children, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) whose duty it is to look into the best interests of the children. The retaining fee starts at approximately $1300 and is typically borne by the parties. The Court utilizes a rotating list of guardians ad litem for Jefferson County. The guardian ad litem assigned to your case will conduct an extensive investigation and make a recommendation to the court for purposes of determining custody or creating a parenting plan. For further information about guardians ad litem, or to inquire about qualifications, contact the Court Administrator at 360-385-9360.