How to get continuances in divorce trials in Washington State


A “continuance” changes the trial date to some point later in time. For example, if you have a trial date on August 1, 2014 and you feel that you need more time to prepare, you would request a continuance to some later point in time. Judge Bastine used to tell me, “I’ve never meet a continuance a lawyer didn’t like”. I still chuckle at that comment, because really, he’s right. Lawyers love continuances. Years ago when I started, continuances were granted like candy. Just go up to the bar and get one. It was that easy. Not anymore.


How do I get one?


It varies by county. In this article I’ll talk about obtaining a continuance in King County only. Tomorrow, continuances in Snohomish County will be discussed.


So how can I get a continuance in a divorce trial in King County?  How different is it from getting continuances in divorce trials in Washington State?

In King County, you need the permission of two entities to get your continuance: the other party (i.e. wife) and the court.  It’s like that in every county, but that’s where the similarity ends.  In King County, if you wait too long to request a continuance, it gets a lot harder to get one.  To understand why, you need to understand the King County “case schedule”.   When a case is filed, the clerk prints an “order setting case schedule” that outlines key dates for when things need to happen in the case.  Getting a continuance is one of them and it has such a deadline.  Take a look at your case schedule.


What happens if I need a continuance after the deadline to get one?


You need to show that you qualify for “extraordinary circumstances”. King County Local Rule 40 governs continuances. The exact language says, you can only get a continuance after showing “extraordinary circumstances where there is no alternative means of preventing a substantial injustice”. So what does that mean? It means you better know your judge.


What do I do if the opposing attorney or the opposing party won’t agree to a continuance, what reasons can I give to the court to get one?

Get ready to argue.  Make sure you explain exactly why you the continuance.  State specific reasons for requesting it.  Don’t have any ideas for good reasons?


Here are 5 of the best reasons that I’ve found which worked for my clients when requesting a continuance:

1) When you need additional time to prepare, such as if your attorney just quit. That might be a good reason to ask for a continuance. Don’t wait until the day before the trial date to ask for a continuance. That’s too late.
2) When the other side is misbehaving and not cooperating with discovery. This happens all the time. Chances are it is happening in your case too.
3) When there is a delayed report such as a delayed GAL (Guardian Ad Litem) report out there. Some GALs just flat out suck. We keep a list of who they are. No, we won’t share because we don’t want to get sued, but we know who they are.
4) Unexpected emergency. Your dog got sick doesn’t qualify. Being unable to handle the stress doesn’t qualify either. Think like you went into a coma. That would be an unexpected emergency. Of course you wouldn’t be conscious to request the continuance, but that’s another story.
5) When new attorneys come onto your case.


Good luck with getting your continuance and let us know if you got it!

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