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by Samuel K. Darling, Bellevue Divorce Lawyer

This article explains how to write a reply declaration in a Washington State divorce or family law case.

I. Basic Requirements.

If you only have time to read one section of this article, this is it. At minimum your reply declaration should have a case caption and declaration signature block. Here’s an editable Word template for a reply declaration. For a more complete explanation of the requirements for the signature block and caption, see our firm’s article on drafting a declaration in support of a motion. Referring to the article probably isn’t necessary though. Just use the template.

You can also attach supporting 3rd party declarations to your reply as exhibits. Here’s a template for supporting declarations. You’ll notice it doesn’t have a case caption. Removing the caption reduces the total page count, which is often crucial for a reply. See below regarding page limitations.

II. No Hearsay.

Like any other declaration, a reply must conform to the rules of evidence. The main rule you’ll encounter is the prohibition against hearsay. The full hearsay definition is nuanced and full of exceptions, but the basic idea is simple. Don’t repeat what other people said or wrote, unless it’s what the opposing party said or wrote. Get evidence directly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

III. Strict Reply.

A reply declaration can only rebut the opposing party’s response to your motion. That means your reply must not make new allegations. This principle is called “strict reply”, and you might hear the other side or the judge refer to it if your reply declaration exceeds the allowed scope.

The line between new allegations and rebuttal can be blurry. Just do your best.

IV. Typical Format.

Click here for an example reply declaration. As you’ll see, it’s format differs from the declaration(s) you submitted with your motion. The reply’s format is different because you often need to 1) keep the wording especially concise and 2) make clear you’re only rebutting the other side’s responsive materials rather than making new allegations.

Break the reply into many numbered sections. Begin each section by identifying a false or misleading statement in the opposing party’s responsive materials, then explain what the truth is.

When explaining the truth, it’s often your word against the other side’s. That means you should prove you’re the one the court should believe, if possible. Typical proof might include supporting 3rd party declarations or other documents attached as exhibits or offered under seal. For more on this, see sections IV and V of our article on drafting declarations in support of a motion.

V. Due Date.

Your reply is usually due one to three days prior to the hearing. The exact due date depends on the type of motion you’ve filed and the county’s local court rules. It’s often best to speak briefly about this with a local attorney, LLLT, or family law facilitator. Facilitators are the least expensive option at $10 per hour, but they’re only allowed to answer the basic questions.

VI. Page Limitations.

Reply declarations often have tight page limitations. Again, the exact limitations depend on the type of motion and the county’s local court rules. Typically you’ll be allowed about five reply declaration pages, excluding supporting documents, exhibits, and financial declarations. If the exhibits are declarations, they count towards the page limitation.

VII. Where to Send Your Reply Materials & How.

1. File the Originals. File the original set of your reply materials with the county superior court’s clerk’s office. Usually this is done in person, but some counties, such as King County, offer electronic filing through a web portal. Electronic filing is almost always optional for unrepresented parties (parties without attorneys) – you can almost certainly file physical copies the old-fashioned way if you’re representing yourself.

2. Working Copies to the Jurist. Deliver a set of working copies for the judge or commissioner hearing the case. Ask around at the courthouse to find where working copies go. There’s probably a drop box someplace. Often you’ll need to stamp the upper right corner of the first page and fill in the stamp’s blanks with routing information. You’ll know, because there’ll be a stamp of this sort sitting next to the working copy drop box. Routing information means the date and time of the upcoming hearing and where the working copies should go. You can find out where the document are supposed to go by looking at your calendar note (or show cause order, sometimes called an order to go to court or immediate restraining order). The documents go to the judge, commissioner, or hearing calendar named there.

When delivering working copies, you might also need to insert the top document into a machine that marks the time and date you dropped off your materials. If so, there’ll be a machine sitting next to the working copy drop box.

As with filing documents, some counties have electronic systems for submitting and routing working copies. Rest assured, you probably don’t have to use the electronic system if you’re a layperson representing yourself.

3. Serve a Set on Each Party. Serve a set on every party to the case. Often there’s only one other party – the party who submitted the responsive materials to your motion. But sometimes there are more, such as a Guardian ad Litem and/or county prosecutor.

You can find the allowed methods of serving documents in How to Serve Papers in a Washington State Divorce. It applies to you even if you’re not involved in a divorce. Skip to that articles third section, captioned “How Do I Send Documents that Don’t Need to Be Personally Served”.

4. Save a Set. Save a set of your reply materials for your own records.

That’s it! We hope this was helpful. Our firm believes in making quality legal information available for free on the internet. For more free articles, guides, and videos, visit our website and click the resources tab in the upper right corner

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