Washington Court Records
Where to Find Family Court Records in Washington
The Superior Courts’ family law division in Washington generates, maintains, and releases court records upon request. The trial court of highest jurisdiction within the state has one present in each of the counties and cities. Anyone interested can visit the local courthouse where the case was heard to obtain family court records. In cases of marriage, civil unions, separation, parenting plans, child support and visitation, spousal support, adoption, paternity, and guardianships are handled by the Family Court system.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records have information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
What Is Family Law in Washington?
Family law statutes decide all legal opinions about family matters, found in Title 26 of the Washington State Code. The 25 chapters of this title cover topics such as child support, paternity, guardianships, divorce, and domestic violence. the statutes are as follows:
Chapter 4 Marriage
Chapter 9 Dissolution and Separation
Chapter 18 Child Support Enforcement
Chapter 20 Family Abandonment
Chapter 26A Uniform Parentage Act
Chapter 27 Child Custody
Chapter 33 Adoption
Chapter 44 Abuse of Children
Chapter 50 Domestic Violence Prevention
Chapter 60 Domestic Partnerships
What Are Family Court Cases and Records in Washington?
Conflict in connection with family relationships constitutes family court cases in Washington. Examples are adoption, child custody, dissolution of marriage, paternity, domestic violence, etc. When a person files a complaint with the court, a record is opened for the case. The matter’s progress is documented and compiled to form what is known as a family court record. Generally, these records contain court orders, complaint filings, court transcripts, subpoenas, and arrest warrants. Most family cases in Washington state courts will fall into any one of these categories:
- Modification of custody
- Nonparental custody
- Relative visitation petitions
- Legal separation
- Child or spousal support
- Domestic violence
- Guardianship and probate
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Are Family Court Cases Public Records in Washington?
The Washington Public Records Act in 1972 gives the residents of the state the right to access any government public records. While most of these records are accessible by anyone, others are confidential and not available to public access. Generally, sensitive information such as personal identifiers and any information involving minors or juveniles are deemed confidential. Also, family court records that have been sealed upon court order may be inaccessible to everyone. Eligible persons have a legitimate interest in the record, such as a person listed in the document, their attorneys, the presiding judge or court-authorized staff, law enforcement agencies, etc. Third parties who wish to obtain family court records may do so upon providing a valid form of identification and the payment of the approved fee. A court order is an additional requirement for accessing a sealed record.
How Do I Find Family Court Records in Washington?
Each Superior Court in Washington has primary custody of all family court records of cases filed with the local courthouse. Generally, requests for court records can be made by putting into writing a request and submitting it in person, by mail, or by email. Some counties may provide fax options for requests. Each application must include the case ID, the case name, and the type of document requested. An email submission should return a response from the Superior Court Clerk’s office about the cost of the number of pages and the type of records required and a link to make an online payment. Upon receipt of payment, the court will mail the documents to the requester. Certified copies are not sent by email, but by US Mail. Some counties require that the requester puts a call through to the Courthouse office before making a postal mail request.
For example, in Thurston County, parties should call the office and provide the case number and all requested information. The office will communicate the cost of copies during the phone call. Next, mail a cashier’s check or money order and a self-addressed stamped envelope to the county courthouse office.
Some courthouse offices provide public computers within the premises to allow interested persons to view documents for free or print copies of records at a specified fee, usually not lower than 50 cents per page. Certified documents cannot be printed at a public computer terminal but require an in-person request at the office counter.
Copies of the transcript of hearings will require the case number and a cause number, the names of attorneys present at the hearing, the date of the hearing, the type of trial, and the requester’s contact information. Contact the local courthouse office for fees regarding court transcripts. Persons who cannot afford to pay for a transcript can file a motion to the court for a fee waiver.
Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored, and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered private due to the information held within them, and the court will often seal these records. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
How Do I Find Family Court Records Online?
A statewide Washington Court Record online access portal provides the public with remote access to court records. All superior counties except King County can access court records through the Odyssey portal. For family court records of cases filed with the King County Superior Court, visit the King County Online Access portal. Family court case information can be searched for either by name or by number. Note that data from online records are uncertified; therefore, all certification requests must be forwarded to the court record’s primary custodian, that is, the local courthouse clerk.
What Is Washington Custody Law?
The Washington state custody laws refer to a parenting plan for minors involved after a couple’s divorce. The term “parenting plan” is often used instead of custody and visitation. A parenting plan will decide:
- Which parent the child gets to live with
- How much time the child spends with each parent
- Which parent will handle decision making concerning the child
- How parents would work out significant disagreements concerning the child
Parenting plans in Washington state are available only to the parties involved in the divorce. Most parenting plans are preferably left to both parents to develop, after which the family court ratifies it. When parents cannot reach an agreement, a hearing is scheduled where the judge decides the parenting plan for the child. According to Washington state custody laws, the priority of the judge is the welfare of the child. This includes:
- An amiable environment for the child or children to grow up
- Provision for the child’s basic needs on a day-to-day basis
- Educational Needs of a child
- Sound judgment on the part of the custodial parent in decision-making for the child
- Financial support for the child
How to Find Family Court Lawyers in Washington?
The Washington State Bar Association provides a legal directory to anyone seeking the services of a lawyer. The area of practice must be stated for an effective search process. The Cornell University Law School also provides a directory for Washington state attorneys based on practice areas. Persons seeking family court attorneys can use the practice areas to narrow the search and after that search by cities or counties.
Furthermore, there are independent law firms in Washington state that handle family court cases. Some of them have online visibility through their websites. Using a random internet search, a number of these independent law firms may be contacted.