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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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I live in Washington state and my wife filed a dissolution

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I live in Washington state and my wife filed a dissolution petition in July 2012, I answered/challenged her petition and she duped me into agreeing to converting it to a legal separation on November 13, 2012 on the both a verbal and email promise to go to marital counseling and seek reconciliation, I told her I wiuld agree as long as she was going to make a sincere effort at going through the reconsileation process, she said she would, subsequent to me signing she both refused to see me and refused marital counseling and is now going to convert the legal separation to dissolution and now I've lost my right to exercise my original challenge and she will get everything she asked for in her original dissolution petition, it's clear she never had any intention to fulfill her promise so that she could avoid an expensive Court challenge by me, then refuse to perform as promised and is going to convert to dissolution on the 180th day. Do I have any legal recourse for her duping me and thereby losing my right to challenge her petition?
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking.

You have the right to raise the same arguments that you raised in your divorce petition and upon her converting back to a petition for dissolution. If she tries to stop you from raising your contentions, then you would raise the issue of fraud and misrepresentation regarding an attempted reconciliation. Just because she is converting the petition now back from separation to a divorce does not mean she will automatically get whatever she is seeking. You have your right to object to the divorce allegations she raises as well as to the community property distribution she is seeking just as she could have objected when you initially filed for dissolution.

Furthermore, she cannot argue that there was forgiveness or reconciliation because you have the proof that she was the one who made promises to get you to change it over to a separation and never carried out on them when you did. Since she breached her promise she is not going to be able to argue that you cannot raise your grounds for dissolution again in your answer to her petition for dissolution. You retain your right to challenge her petition based on the circumstances you are describing, since she made apparently known false promises to induce you to convert the petition.

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.
She actually is the one that filed for dissolution and I made my answer/challenge to her Petition, then when she thought it continue to be very expensive legal fees as I was not going to back down and give her everything she requested in her Petition, we sought a compromise to convert to legal separation go the reconciliation route and as soon as I signed the separation documents in November she said I want to get through the holidays so we'll start after the 1st of the year, I finally got her to go 1 marital counseling session in March and when the counselor asked her intention she said, I'm going for a divorce, the counselor looked at me and said well you have your answer and terminated the session early by saying I can't help if she's not interested in at least keeping an open mind to the possibility to reconcile and we both left. She just informed me a couple days ago as to her intent to convert legal separation to dissolution coming up in about 9 days. Does she have to serve me any paperwork so I can make my previous challenge, I was of the understanding that she could have her attorney file the conversion documents and the Court would just automatically convert to dissolution?
Thank you for the additional information.

You can still file to contest her petition when she converts the separation to a divorce. She has to serve you with a copy of the motion to convert the separation and you will have the same chance to object like you did when she filed the initial petition. It converts to a dissolution proceeding, not an undisputed one unless you do not file your answer and object to her facts and what she is asking for.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Ok, that sounds fine, thank you for your assistance.
Thank you.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I hadn't finished my questions a couple days ago when my PC battery ran low. I wanted ask if I should still file a motion to reconsider as, the Commissioner's family law clerk's minutes state Other Provisions "Ruling on conversion is without prejudice subject to motion to vacate?
Thank you for your follow up.

You can file a motion to reconsider, just realize that most motions to reconsider are denied because courts hate to reverse themselves without some evidence they were wrong.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I understand, I was just wondering how the show cause commissioner can rule to vacate a legal separation agreement that doesn't exist as the conversion was entered?
They cannot vacate something that does not exist. They have to order it does not exist. But you said you agreed to the separation agreement to try reconciliation and you have to argue that was done based on fraud and her misrepresenting she wanted to get back together.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
That's right and I have clear and convincing evidence (in writing) of our compromise agreement, to spend the 6 months at attempting reconciliation by going to marital couples counseling, meet with our Pastor and attend a church sponsored marital workshop/seminar and I couldn't get her to do anything, other, than finally attend a marital counseling session, when the counselor asked her what she expected to get out of marital counseling she responded "nothing really I'm going for divorce." The counselor said Gary you have your answer and terminated the session early, I had 16 more pre-authorized sessions left and I was unsuccessful in getting her to give it another attempt, seems to me that she just wanted to get me out of a contested dissolution into an agreed legal separation, she signed to convert on the 1st legal available day entered on Nov. 13 signed to convert on May 14. I don't see how she can prevail at a show cause, but, being denied my motion to continue seems to complicate this, I am leaning towards a motion to reconsider, the ambush of the two declarations violated a number of court rules that I've looked up, do you think I should do it and if so before the show cause hearing or after, not certain if I'm better off being able to claim the reconsideration hearing is scheduled or do it before and risk having to say that I lost that motion should it go against me?
Thank you for your response. It is best to file the reconsideration and get it heard, if they deny it, this gives you grounds for filing an appeal. Like I said, most reconsiderations are denied anyhow, so you need to get it over with to make sure you have exhausted each of your remedies.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Ok, before the show cause I guess?

Also, should I prevail on one or more of my objections, the big one being to have the court make a fair and equitable determination at a later date, would that make void the entire separation agreement or do I also need to file a motion "amended and substituted" requesting the entire agreement being vacated?
I would wait for the show cause, since you are arguing in there she is breaching that agreement and then if you lose the show cause then move to reconsider. You should be asking to vacate in the show case as well as one of your remedies.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Ok, show cause 1st, scheduled for 7/10, my Continuance request was for 7/11, what will I be arguing should I lose the show cause in terms of getting the Court to grant a 1 day Continuance?

Should I file an "amended and substituted" motion requesting that the terms of the entire separation agreement be vacated, if so, not certain what basis in law I would use to convince the Court?

Also, should I request a Stay of the conversion order in my motion to reconsider?
Thank you for the response.

If you lose the show cause then file a motion to reconsider. You should be asking in the show cause to either make her honor the agreement or vacate the agreement based on it being obtained by fraud and give the court an alternative to make a decision on. Then if they deny your show cause,you need to pursue the reconsideration.

While waiting for a decision on these motions, you need to file the stay of the conversion order now.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I'll have to file the motion to reconsider before the show cause because of the 10 day time limit, but, will schedule the reconsider hearing after the show cause hearing.

How do I word the amended and substituted motion giving the court a choice on her complying with the compromise agreement or vacate the agreement because it was obtained by fraud? She filed an harrasment protective order on me because I was showing up at her house a couple times unannounced, trying to get my personal belongings returned to me. The Judge issued a denial order, but, I was a little worried she might prevail so I requested mutual restraints so that I would be protected should she email me and if I dropped my guard I'd be subject to arrest, I also informed the Judge she has contacted me 3 times since the Temp. Order was entered, he mentioned you two were in court last week and you have a show cause hearing coming up and what are you looking for I told him I got duped into signing the separation agreement and she made zero effort of complying with her promises both written and verbal and I want my position restored to prior, as I had contested originally vs an agreed upon legal separation.

And how do I file a motion to stay the conversion order?

I feel like the Commissioner made the wrong ruling, but, the Petitioner has an experience family law attorney and I'm doing this Pro Se because of a lack of funds, when I asked the Commissioner what harm the Petitioner would incur on a short Continuance he said she'd have to remain married longer than legally required, I guess he thinks Due Process is not as important, but, the scathing declaration made it look like I was evading service, which is not true because I sent the Petitioner an email on June 7 stating she didn't need to hire a process server as I would sign an acceptance of service like I did when she originally file her dissolution petition, but, I wasn't in a position to say much as I had no idea that her attorney e-filed her false declaration less than 24 hrs before the convert hearing.
I apologize, but I cannot word the motion for you (you need to understand that would be representation and a very fine line we cannot cross by law). However, you have the gist of what you have to say above based on what I told you (you just repeated it to me in your last response).

You file the motion to stay just like any other motion, with the clerk of court. In the motion to stay you have to tell the court it should be stayed because of pending actions that should be decided first and if they are decided they would make the other action moot (not applicable).

If the commissioner made the wrong ruling, then you would wait until you have a final order in the case and you can file an appeal to the court of appeals if the reconsider and show cause are denied. Filing all of these other motions you are filing are really more to create a record in court so you can file an appeal to the appeals court if the court issues a final ruling that is not favorable to you.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Ok, same idea with the amended & substituted motion regarding requiring her to live up to her agreement with me or the court should vacate the legal separation agreement in its entirety?

If by chance I prevail where does that leave us, does the original dissolution come back into play or do we start from ground zero again?

The petitioners attorney violated LCR 7(b)(4)(a), (4)(f) & LSPR 94.04 (7)(b), (9). & 10(4)(g) By his underhanded declaration submission that went I refuted but made me look terrible, I'm not certain, but, absent that unchallenged declaration I think he might have granted my continuance request.
If they vacate the settlement, then the court has discretion as to which dissolution is the valid one and may treat the new one as an amended petition for dissolution over the first one.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
The Judge yesterday issued a denial order for harrasment that the Petitioner filed against me and I requested mutual restraints be ordered, Judge agreed and issued an order of mutual restraints, no contact, so do you think it's realistic for me to give the court the option of vacating or ordering petitioner to perform as promise, or is there another option I could provide so the court has a choice other than just vacate?
Yes, at this point since the court denied the harassment order, you should file a motion to vacate the agreement and dismiss the new petition for divorce arguing that the agreement was induced by fraud in order for her to file the new petition and as such the agreement should be vacated and the original petition reinstated. It seems the court recognizes the game she is playing, so you should take advantage of that.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Motion to vacate the agreement, if you mean separation agreement, I already have, that is the show cause hearing or are you referring to something else?

You need to complete your process if you have already filed to vacate the separation agreement and let the court rule on that first and not do anything else until you have a ruling on the validity of that agreement.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I think your saying don't file a motion to dismiss the new dissolution petition and reinstate the original until after the show cause should I be successful in getting the separation agreement vacated?
You are correct, you have already filed a motion and you need to let that motion be heard first. The problem with pro se litigants is they get carried away filing so many motions at one time without ever letting them get settled that it confuses the court and angers the court. So you have a motion filed already, let the court rule on that one first before you file anything else.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Can the Court vacate part of the separation agreement and leave in tact the rest of it, when I filed my motion to vacate I listed the 4 denials that I took issue with in the original dissoltion petition. Property, liabilities, debt & assets to be determined by the court at a later date. I was thinking that in my amended & substituted show cause motion I might need to re word so as to make clear that I'm requesting the entire separation agreement be vacated, I just would hate to see the issues I listed as being vacated and the rest of the separation agreement holds as being valid.
Yes, the court can craft any remedy they determine fair when ruling on your motion. If your motion was not clear that you thought the entire separation agreement vacated, you should file for leave to amend your motion and make that clear. Also, you have a right to object to her petition for divorce she has filed and you can also file your own counter petition for divorce with your own demands.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Can't I just file an amended & substituted motion to vacate like I did with my original answer/response to her dissolution petition or do I need to ask the court or do I need to file for leave to amend first, if so, can I do that Ex Parte? Can I also file to supplement my pleadings Ex Parte?
If they answered your motion already you have to ask the court to allow you to amend. If she has not answered your motion yet then you can simply file your amended motion.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
My motion to supplement my pleadings because of not having the chance to file a written response to the declarations that were concealed from me until after the hearing to convert, can I do that filing Ex Parte, and do I need to identify what specifically I'm supplementing ie response to declarations?
No, this is not an ex parte filing, it is a regular filing and you have to specify exactly what you are supplementing and the reasons you are supplementing.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Does the Motion requesting to Stay the Order of Dissolution pending the outcome of the show cause hearing also a regular filing or can that be done Ex Parte?
No, it is not done ex parte. Ex parte motions are done in emergencies for the most part or where there is no time to notify the other party. You need to simply file the motion for the stay with the court like any other motion and send a copy to the other party.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Not certain where or what to look for Authority for the motion to stay?
I am afraid that we are not a legal research service, so you would have to go to the court library for free access to westlaw and the librarian will help you with your search terms for motion to stay to pull up your case law to support your motion.