Going through a family law matter can be stressful and time-consuming, especially if you are going to trial. There are a lot of moving parts to a trial, and if you want more general information about those moving parts or the trial itself, please check out these blogs first: “9 THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND FOR A FAMILY LAW TRIAL” and “ATTENDING A FAMILY LAW TRIAL – IS IT LIKE THE MOVIES?” This post, in particular is about Trial Memorandums, which is only one part of a trial.

What is a Trial Memorandum, and why do you need a Trial Memorandum?

A Trial Memorandum is the court document the Judge is going to see prior to your trial. The Trial Memorandum provides a summary for the Judge that clearly lays out the history of the case, the issues the Judge needs to rule on, applicable case law, and what you are requesting from the Judge. This summary makes it easier for the Judge to understand what to expect in the trial, the general facts of the case, and the outcome you are hoping for. It is your chance to present your viewpoints before the trial takes place. The Judge will potentially review the case history before trial and will review exhibits that are entered during trial, but having the summary beforehand streamlines the process and helps to keep clarity during the trial.

When is the Trial Memorandum due?

You should aim to have the Trial Memorandum ready at least a week before your trial date, but confirm with the Judge during your Trial Readiness Hearing what the due date is to file the Trial Memorandum, provide a copy to the Judge, and serve it on the other party. Court deadlines are important, so be sure to allow plenty of time to file at the courthouse (the wait times vary but can get pretty long, even if the line looks short). It is possible that the Judge will state that you don’t need to submit a Trial Memorandum, but I recommend having one ready to file just in case.

What is included in a Trial Memorandum?

There is no page limit for a Trial Memorandum in Clark County, Washington, but the Judge might have a preference on length so be sure to ask in the Trial Readiness Hearing. If there is no preference, or you forget to ask, I generally recommend that the Trial Memorandum be fewer than 10 pages double-spaced. It is best to type your Trial Memorandum if you have access to a computer and printer. It is easier for the Judge to read and looks professional.

Each Trial Memorandum should include the following sections:

  • Caption with case title and case number (this is standard for all filed court pleadings)
  • Caption with the trial date, trial judge, and number of children involved in the case (if any)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Issue/s
  • Legal Analysis
  • Conclusion

Introduction Section

This section reiterates when the trial is scheduled and who the judge is, and then will list out the remaining issues and the other sections in the Memorandum. This section also allows you to summarize what you will be requesting in trial. This section should be no longer than seven to ten sentences.

Background Section

This section outlines a broad overview of the current situation of the parties and a detailed procedural history of the case. Include information such as the parties’ living situations, parties’ financial situations, information about the children (if applicable), the visitation schedule the parties have been following (if applicable), recommendations of third parties (if applicable), when pleadings were filed, when hearings took place, and what orders were entered and when. This is not an opportunity to go into detail about all of the facts in your case – that is reserved for trial. This section should be no longer than four to five paragraphs.

Issue/s Section

This section reiterates the outstanding issues in the case. The issues in the case are the things the parties are not able to agree on. This can include issues such as spousal support (also called maintenance or alimony), division of assets and debts, the Parenting Plan, child support, etc. If there are no agreed-upon issues, then all of them can be decided during trial, or there might only be one or two outstanding issues because you and the other party have been able to figure some things out. For each issue, give a brief description. If you are providing a proposed final order for an issue (i.e. providing a proposed Parenting Plan because the Parenting Plan is at issue), refer to it as an Exhibit, say what the document is and what Exhibit number you are listing it as. This section should be no longer than two to three sentences per issue.

Legal Analysis Section

This section outlines what decision you think the Judge should make and why, based on applicable state statutes. Address each issue separately. To help you with this section, you can consult the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) to look up the statutes that apply to your case’s issues. In your analysis, cite the applicable RCW and briefly explain how your case does or does not meet the requirements of the RCW. This tends to be a very technical section, so if the analysis becomes too confusing, just include the applicable RCW. Again, this is not an opportunity to go into detail about all of the facts in your case – that is reserved for trial. This section should be no longer than three to four paragraphs per issue.

Conclusion Section

This section reiterates that based on the facts described above, your requests should be granted and summarizes again what you are requesting in trial. This section is short, and should be no longer than three to five sentences. You should end this section with your signature line and date.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for and going through a trial can be scary, and not having a form for a court document can make it hard to determine if you are doing it correctly. Even attorneys find trial difficult, so I highly recommend you meet with an attorney to review your Trial Memorandum prior to submitting it to the Judge. The time and money it will take to do this is worthwhile to make sure your facts and viewpoints are presented clearly to the Judge, and so you don’t unintentionally start the trial off on the wrong foot. Please contact my office to set up a consultation if you have any questions or would like assistance with your Trial Memorandum.

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Every legal issue is very unique. Accordingly, the information in this blog is intended as general education material and not as legal advice. If you think you may have a legal issue, you should consult an attorney.