Have you been to a baseball game or a party recently when a friend comes up to you and says, "I know you practice corporate law and not family law, but my cousin has separated from her spouse and wants to file for a divorce. Can you help her?"
You experience a moment of panic. You really don't remember anything since your Domestic Relations class back in law school. And did one of your colleagues mention something about local court rules for family law? Where do you go to brush up so that you can give an intelligent response, besides "you really need to see a family law attorney"?
The first place to go is www.washingtonlawhelp.org. The Northwest Justice Project has done an incredible job of creating guides on legal issues that are the most common problems faced by the general public. It has guides on the processes, such as Ending Your Marriage or Partnership in Washington: The Basics. This is followed up with specific guides on how to file, how to respond and how to finalize a dissolution of marriage or partnership.
The guides provide general information on what to expect. Then they go through the pattern forms, line by line, with instructions on what information should be recorded there. Washingtonlawhelp provides information in nine broad categories: family law; housing; consumer and debt; protection from abuse; public benefits; seniors; health; youth law and education; and employment/farm worker rights.
Following up with your dissolution question, you should also consult the Family Law Instructions created by the King County Superior Court Family Law Facilitators Office: http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/scforms/familylaw/flenglish.aspx. These work hand-in-hand with the guides produced by the Northwest Justice Project.
The Family Law Instructions take specific family law actions and give clear directions on what forms need to be filed, with links to the electronic copies of the forms, how many copies you need to make, and where and when they should be filed. They do an excellent job of removing barriers caused by stress for the person filing.
Other hidden gems on the Internet include: