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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions most frequently asked by our customers are listed below by subject matter. Click on the question and the answer will appear. For a general overview of the subject, go to the Family Law Home Page and click on the subject name.


For more detailed and/or specific answers to your questions you may contact the Court’s Self-Help Center, the Facilitators Office, or you may need to seek the advice of an attorney

APPEALS
How do I start an appeal?

An appeal may be started by filing a Notice of Appeal (form APP-002) in the Family Law Clerk’s Office. This must be served on all parties to the case before filing your appeal. For more information, please refer to rule 8.100 of the California Rules of Court.

What fees are required for an appeal?

A filing fee and clerk’s transcript deposit are due at the time of filing of the Notice of Appeal. Clerk’s transcript fees will be determined once the parties have requested the contents of their clerk’s transcript by filing their Notice of Designation (form APP-003). Also, the parties must make a deposit for any hearing dates they wish included in the reporter’s transcript. Please see fee schedule for current deposit amount. Please refer to rules 8.100, 8.120, and 8.130 of the California Rules of Court for more information.

Who is the Appellant, and who is the Respondent?

The Appellant is the moving party in an appellate action, and the respondent is the opposing party. These titles are given regardless of the party’s title in the Superior Court case.

What is an appeal transcript?

There are two types of transcripts in an appeal. The first is a clerk’s transcript, which is a compilation of any documents filed in the superior court case that the parties wish reviewed in the appellate court. The second is a reporter’s transcript, which is a record of any superior court hearings that the parties wish reviewed in the appellate court.

CHILD SUPPORT
COPY REQUESTS
How do I obtain copies of documents in my file?

The fee for a copy is 50 cents per page, certification of a Judgment is $15 and certification of any other document is $25.00.

On-Line Copy Work Requests:

You can request copies of family law cases on-line at https://ocapps.occourts.org/fampubNS/. Copy work paid for by credit card will be mailed to you within three court days. Should you prefer to pay by check you may print the completed request form and mail to Superior Court of California, County of Orange, Family Law Division, 341 The City Drive South, Orange, CA 92868, Attn: Records Department. The check must be made payable to the Clerk of the Court. Your copies will be returned to you by mail within 10 days of receipt of the request. If you are requesting copies from a paternity or other confidential case please review the information regarding paternity cases below.

To Obtain Copies by Mail or In Person:

To obtain copies in person or by mail, complete a Copy Request Form and visit the Family Law clerk's office on the seventh floor of the Lamoreaux Justice Center or mail to Superior Court of California, County of Orange, Family Law Division, 341 The City Drive South, Orange, CA 92868, Attn: Records Department. If your case was opened in 1997 or later, your file is available for viewing on computers in the clerk’s office lobby. For cases started in 1996 or before, please submit your request by calling (657) 622-6071 and allow 4 business days for retrieval of the case file or microfiche. The court will contact you when the file is available for viewing. A valid, photo identification is required at the time a case file is released for viewing. Case files may not be removed from the Family Law Clerk's Office.

Paternity, Confidential Cases and Other Cases Sealed by Order of the Court

If you are a party to the confidential or paternity case, please include a copy of valid photo identification with your mailed request or bring the identification with you if you are requesting copy work in person. Valid photo identification can be in any form listed below.

If you are not a party to the confidential or paternity case, or if the case is sealed by order of the court you will be required to obtain an order from the judge before you are able to view or obtain any copies. (Declaration and Order for Inspection of Confidential Parentage File may be used for paternity cases).

A valid photo identification can be any of the following:
  • Drivers License
  • Identification card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles
  • United States Passport
  • United States Military Identification
  • Naturalization documents with photo identification
  • or a Tribal photo identification
CUSTODY & VISITATION

DEFINITION OF LEGAL CUSTODY

DEFINITION OF PHYSICAL CUSTODY

VISITATION OF CHILDREN

WHAT IS A PARENTING PLAN?

WHERE CAN THE OTHER PARENT AND I GET HELP COMING UP WITH A CUSTODY AND VISITATION ARRANGEMENT THAT WE BOTH CAN LIVE WITH?

DO I NEED TO FILE FOR A DIVORCE OR LEGAL SEPARATION IN ORDER TO GET CUSTODY AND/OR VISITATION ORDERS?

I HAVE FILED FOR A DIVORCE, DO I HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THE DIVORCE IS FINAL TO GET CUSTODY, VISITATION AND SUPPORT ORDERS?

I RECEIVED PAPERS ASKING THE COURT TO ORDER CUSTODY AND VISITATION FOR MY CHILD. WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE SURE THE COURT KNOWS WHAT I WANT?

I FEEL THAT MY CHILDREN’S FATHER/MOTHER MAY NOT BE TAKING GOOD CARE OF THEM WHEN THEY ARE WITH HIM/HER. HOW CAN I PROTECT MY CHILD AND STILL ALLOW MY CHILD TO VISIT?

THE COURT ORDERED A CHILD CUSTODY EVALUATION. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

WILL THE COURT CONSIDER WHAT MY CHILDREN WANT WHEN IT MAKES A DECISION ABOUT THEIR CUSTODY AND VISITATION?

HOW TO CHANGE (MODIFY) A CHILD CUSTODY ORDER

WHAT IF CUSTODY AND VISITATION ORDERS WERE MADE IN ANOTHER COUNTY OR STATE AND I WANT TO FILE FOR A CHANGE IN THOSE ORDERS?

THE OTHER PARENT THREATENED TO TAKE THE CHILDREN AND NOT TELL ME WHERE THEY WILL BE. WHAT CAN I DO TO KEEP THIS FROM HAPPENING?

HOW DO I GIVE NOTICE THAT I WILL BE ASKING THE COURT TO MAKE EMERGENCY TEMPORARY ORDERS?

What forms do I need to get custody/visitation of my grandchildren?

There is no specific form to file requesting custody and/or visitation for a grandparent. If you are requesting visitation only, you may open a case by completing a pleading paper petition. Or, if the parents are involved in a divorce or paternity case, you may file a Notice of Motion (form FL-301) and Declaration for Joinder (form FL-371), to add yourself to the case. However, if you are requesting custody, you will need to look into guardianship actions which are done through the Probate Unit of the Court. Guardianship clinics are offered by the Court.

What can I do if the other party isn’t following custody orders?

You may file an Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Contempt (form FL-410) to obtain a hearing.

DISSOLUTION (DIVORCE) / LEGAL SEPARATION / ANNULMENT (NULLITY)
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

EMERGENCY PROTECTIVE ORDER

WHO MAY APPLY FOR A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESTRAINING ORDER?

HOW DO I APPLY FOR A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESTRAINING ORDER?

WHAT IS THE FILING FEE FOR A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESTRAINING ORDER?

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET MY ORDER?

CAN THE RESTRAINING ORDER INCLUDE VISITATION, CUSTODY AND SUPPORT ORDERS IF WE HAVE CHILDREN TOGETHER?

HOW DO I GET THE OTHER PARTY SERVED?

WHAT IF I COULD NOT SERVE THE RESTRAINING ORDER IN TIME FOR THE COURT HEARING?

HOW LONG DOES A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESTRAINING ORDER LAST?

MY RESTRAINING ORDER IS ABOUT TO EXPIRE. I FEEL THAT I STILL NEED TO BE PROTECTED, HOW CAN I EXTEND THE ORDER?

I HAVE BEEN ACCUSED OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SERVED WITH PAPERS. HOW WILL THIS AFFECT ME?

I RECEIVED A RESTRAINING ORDER FROM THE COURT, BUT THE RESTRAINED PERSON IS NOT FOLLOWING THE JUDGE’S ORDERS. WHAT CAN I DO?

THE OTHER PARTY AND I RESOLVED OUR DIFFERENCES; CAN I CANCEL THE RESTRAINING ORDER?

Which police department should I go to in order to have my Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) served?

The police department in closest proximity to the respondent’s residence is the ideal place to go for service of a TRO.

Why was my restraining order denied?

Generally, restraining orders are denied when insufficient evidence has been presented or the evidence does not meet the criteria set forth in Family Code 6203, 6211.

How do I remove a Restraining Order issued in a Family Law court?

A Restraining Order may be removed by filing a Request for Dismissal (form CIV-110), which the protected party has signed. However, dismissing a Restraining Order requires judicial approval, and the protected party may be requested to attend a hearing.

FEES, FILINGS & GENERAL INFORMATION

What are the filing fees?

Click here for filing fees.

What if I Cannot Afford to Pay the Filing Fees?


Requesting That Fees Be Waived

If you are getting public benefits, are a low-income person, or do not have enough income to pay for your household’s basic needs and your court fees, you may ask the court to waive all or part of your court fees. To ask for a fee waiver:

  1. Carefully read the Information Sheet on Waiver of Superior Court Fees and Costs (form FW-001-INFO) to determine if you qualify
  2. Fill out the Request to Waive Court Fees (form FW-001)
  3. Fill out sections 1, 2, and 3, of Order on Court Fee Waiver (FW-003)
  4. Turn in these forms to the clerk along with the other documents you are filing (example: complaint, petition, answer, etc.)

You may be ordered to go to court to answer questions about your ability to pay court fees and costs and to provide proof of eiligibility.

Granting or Denial of Fee Waiver Request

You will receive an Order on Court Fees Waiver (form FW-003) telling you if your request was granted (approved) or denied. The Order will explain how to proceed. Act quickly - you only have 10 days from the date the Order is mailed to you to comply with the order or exercise your options if your request was denied. Failure to act will result in the cancelation of any documents that you submitted based on approval of the Fee Waiver Request.

Paying Back Filing Fees

Even if your fees are waived at first, you may have to pay them back later:

  • If your finances improve you must tell the court within five days. Fill out the Notice to Court of Improved Financial Situation or Settlement (form FW-010) and file it with the court. You may be ordered to repay any amounts that were waived.
  • If you receive a judgment or support order in a family law matter you may be ordered to pay all or part of your waived fees and costs if the court determines that you can afford to pay. You can ask the court for a hearing if the court makes such a decision.
  • If you win your case in most circumstances the other side will be ordered to pay your waived fees and costs to the court. The court will not enter a satisfaction of judgment until the court is paid.
  • If you settle your civil case for $10,000.00 or more any waived fees and costs must first be paid to the court out of the settlement. The court will have a lien on the settlement and may refuse to dismiss the case until the lien is satisfied. A request to dismiss the case must reflect that the waived fees and costs have been paid.

The court can collect fees and costs due to the court. If waived fees and costs are ordered paid to the trial court, the court can start collection proceedings.

What are my options if my petition is cancelled due to non-payment?

Once a Petition is cancelled, a new Petition with the appropriate filing fee is required.

WHAT METHOD OF PAYMENT DOES THE CLERK’S OFFICE ACCEPT?


FILING


WHERE CAN I GET COURT FORMS?

HOW CAN I VIEW MY COURT FILE?

HOW DO I REQUEST COPIES?

If there isn’t a form that fits my request, what should I do?

You may type your request on pleading paper and submit it to the court for filing. Pleading paper may be obtained through the Self-Help Center.

Can I use another state’s form and alter it to fit California?

No, if there is no form for your request or filing, you may submit your writing on pleading paper using the same format as a Judicial Council form.

Can documents be faxed to the court?

No, not in Family Law at this time.

Can I file documents in Orange County for a case in a different county?

No, you may only file documents in the county where the case resides.


GENERAL


Where is Lamoreaux Justice Center located?

Please see Court Locations page

Who is the Petitioner and who is the Respondent?

The Petitioner is the party who started the case, and the Respondent is the opposing party.

WHAT IS THE CLERK’S OFFICE?

WHERE IS THE FAMILY LAW CLERK’S OFFICE LOCATED?

HOW DO I SEARCH FOR MY CASE NUMBER?

What if I don’t know my minor child’s date of birth or residence information?

Because a Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (form FL-105) is required for any new case or Response filing, this information must be available at the time of filing. If this information is not available, the documents should be resubmitted once the information has been obtained.

How many copies am I supposed to bring, and can you make copies for me here?

It is always a good idea to bring the original and at least two copies of any document you file with the court; one copy for your records and one copy for service. The Court is willing to assist by making you a single copy of your documents at our standard copy rate.

How do I go about getting my case transferred to the county I now live in?

You may file a Motion for Change of Venue, using the Notice of Motion (form FL-301), along with the transfer fee, and the first appearance fee for the county where the action is to be transferred. Once granted, our clerks will forward the case file and fees to the new location. For more information on changing venue, please see Code of Civil Procedure 397, 399.

How to I stop a divorce action?

A divorce action may be stopped by filing a Request for Dismissal (form FL-618). If the opposing party has appeared, then both parties will need to sign this document.

Does the case expire after a certain time if I don’t do anything with it?

Pursuant to Codes of Civil Procedure sections 583.310 and 583.210, a family law case may be dismissed after 3 years if not served, or 5 years if not completed with a Judgment or brought to trial if there have been no support orders made in the case. Before filing a new case, we encourage parties to verify if their existing case is still active.

How do I change my attorney of record?

You may change your attorney of record by filing a Substitution of Attorney (form MC-050). This form requires your signature, the former attorney’s signature, and the new attorney's signature, prior to filing.

What if my attorney has been disbarred or is deceased?

If the attorney has been disbarred or is deceased, you may attach a photocopy of the State Bar website record to your Substitution of Attorney (form MC-050).

What’s the fastest way to finish my case?

This will vary with your circumstances, but if the responding party is cooperative the stipulated Judgment path is typically fastest, as it can be submitted with a Request to Enter Default (form FL-165) 30 days after serving the Petition and Summons. In cases where the responding party is uncooperative or unresponsive, typically a default hearing is faster. This can be obtained by filing a Memorandum for Setting for Hearing (form L-0124) with your Request to Enter Default. If the responding party has filed a Response and wishes to contest the issues raised in the Petition, then you may file an At-Issue Memorandum (form L-0031) to obtain a trial.

Can I send a letter to the judge for him/her to read regarding my case.

No, you may not write directly to the judge. Any information you wish the court to know regarding your case must be presented in the proper legal format, submitted for filing and served on the other party.

I thought my divorce was final, but I’m told it’s not. What do I do now?

You may want to review your file to be sure what has happened so far, then visit the Court’s Self-Help Center or seek further legal advice as to how best to proceed from there.

Does the court serve the documents for me?

The Superior Court does not serve documents on behalf of litigants.

How do I get legal advice?

Please see our Legal Resource Information Sheet.

GLOSSARY OF FAMILY LAW LEGAL TERMS

Term Definition
Action A lawsuit or proceeding in a court of law.
Affidavit A written statement supporting a party's request to the court that is sworn to before a notary public.
Agreement A verbal or written resolution of disputed issues.
Alimony A payment of support provided by one spouse or partner to the other.
Annulment A marriage or domestic partnership can be dissolved in a legal proceeding in which the marriage or domestic partnership is declared void, as though it never took place. In the eyes of the law, the parties were never married. It is available only under certain limited circumstances.
Answer The written response to a complaint, petition, or motion.
Appeal The formal request to an appellate court to review the ruling made in a lower trial court to determine if that court's decision is accurate.
Appellate Court A court that hears cases (that have been previously decided by a trial court) to determine if the trial court made the correct decision.
Arbitration A court-like process where each party presents their issues to an impartial third party (arbitrator) and requests that the arbitrator make a final, binding decision.
Attorney A person who has specialized training and has a license to practice law; s/he acts as an advocate and can give advice to the individual s/he represents.
Bankruptcy A legal proceeding to obtain relief from the obligation to pay debt. These actions are filed in federal court and may include getting extra time to pay or be discharged of the debt.
Child Abuse Acts that result in physical or emotional harm to children. The term child abuse covers a wide range of behavior, from actual physical assault by parents or other adult caretakers to neglect of a child's basic needs.
Child Custody Investigation/Study A study performed by a court appointed examiner, usually a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker to make a recommendation to the court as to the appropriate custody and visitation arrangements.
Child Support Money ordered by a court to be paid by one parent for expenses incurred in raising a child. Support is usually paid to the custodial parent.
Child Support Guidelines The statutory rules used by the court to determine the appropriate amount of child support to be paid by the parents based upon their gross income (includes wages, salaries, interest, dividend and investment income). The guidelines are typically a formula. There are only a few circumstances when the court can award child support higher or lower than the guidelines.
Claim A request or demand made of another person.
Clerk of Court Clerks of court maintain records of all documents filed with the court and of court proceedings. They also collect various fees, fines, and forfeitures. The clerk is your first contact at the court and can answer most questions about court procedures and rules; however, they cannot give legal advice.
Closing Argument This is your last chance to speak to the court. Give your opinion about the case using an argument based on the evidence presented.
Commissioner A lawyer who performs many of the same functions as a judge. Court commissioners work under the direction of the court judges.
Community Property Possessions held jointly by a married couple, each having an undivided one-half interest by reason of their marital status. Except for inheritances or gifts to either spouse, all property acquired by the husband or wife during the marriage is usually considered community property. This includes money, real estate, household furnishings, investment securities, automobiles, and other types of consumer goods that people have accumulated together. Property owned prior to the marriage and any income from such property remains separate and apart. Contractual agreements may also be made by the couple to allow them to maintain individual property.
Contempt Failure to follow a court order. One side can request that the court determine that the other side is in contempt and the court can impose a fine or imprisonment for the purpose of punishment.
Contempt of Court A determination by the court that a party failed to comply with a judgment, court order or decree.
Contested Issues Issues that have not been resolved by agreement of the parties.
Court Order The court's written ruling defining the parties rights and responsibilities regarding the subject of the order. May be drafted by an attorney and signed by the court.
Cross-Examination This is the time you have to question the other party's witnesses. Ask short, clear questions; do not argue with, yell at, or harass the witness. Your goal is to ask questions that will get answers that point out inconsistencies in the other side's story. The scope of cross-examination questions are limited to the questions that were asked during a direct examination. New issues may not be introduced and asked of the witness on cross-examination.
Custody An order granted by the court establishing care and control of the child(ren). Custody includes legal (decision-making) and physical (primary residence) decisions.
Default A party's failure to answer a complaint, motion, or petition.
Default Order An order entered by the court when one party fails to appear or respond to a court proceeding.
Deposition The purpose of a deposition is to ask questions and solicit responses under oath to obtain the witnesses position. A deposition generally takes place in a law office, where the attorneys, their clients, witnesses and a court reporter are present.
Direct
Examination
This is where your witnesses give testimony. Ask witnesses clear and direct questions one at a time; ask questions that help bring out the facts you want the judge or jury to hear.
  • Find documents, other people (witnesses), or photographs that help the credibility of your version of the facts.
  • You may not use people, letters, or notes that say they heard something from someone else, unless the "someone else" is the opposing party to your case.
  • Witnesses should stick to the facts of specific things they saw and heard, not talk about how they feel.
Discovery A term used to refer to the fact-finding process used to uncover information, gather records and determine if disclosures are valid.

A way for getting information from the other side or other people. Examples of discovery are interrogatories (written questions) and depositions (questions that are usually in person and recorded).
Dissolution The legal end of a marriage or domestic partnership.
Due Diligence The effort made by an ordinarily reasonable party to avoid harm to another party. Failure to make this effort may be considered negligence.
Ex Parte A hearing in which only one party is heard, usually due to the need for an immediate court order.
Expert Witness An individual, deemed to be an expert by reason of education or specialized experience, retained for the purpose of being a witness to provide evidence to the court on the value or appropriate method of dealing with issue.
Family Law Branch of law concerned with subjects such as divorce, legal separation, nullity, paternity, custody and support, and domestic violence.
Filing Giving the clerk of court your legal papers.
Foster Care Temporary care of children by substitute parents. Foster care is supervised by governmental or charitable agencies. It is used to protect children from unhealthy or unsafe home situations or to provide care when natural parents are unavailable. Foster care is different from adoptive care, where children become permanent members of a family.
Garnishment A process provided by statute that allows a person to collect on a specific type of obligation by withdrawing an amount from property or income of the person that owes the money.
Guardian ad litem An expert appointed to represent children and give the judge recommendations about the children in a divorce case where the legal custody or physical placement of the children is in dispute. The parties to the case must pay for the cost of the Guardian ad litem.
Hearing A proceeding to decide temporary issues before the final trial takes place. Each party has the opportunity to present evidence in the form of testimony from the witnesses or written exhibits.
Injunction A court order forbidding someone from doing a certain act that is likely to cause physical or mental injury or property loss to another party.
Joint Custody Both parents sharing responsibility and authority with respect to the children. It may involve both joint legal and joint physical custody
Joint Legal Custody Both parents share in the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.
Joint Physical Custody Children spend a significant amount of time with each parent.
Judge A former lawyer who has been appointed by the Governor or elected, to be a neutral in your case; s/he will direct your case as it proceeds through the legal system and make decisions based on the information you provide and on the law.
Judgment A court’s decision. Also, a document reflecting the final decision of the court resolving the dispute and determining the rights and obligations of the parties.
Judgment of Dissolution The name of the court order ending a marriage or domestic partnership.
Jurisdiction The authority of the court to hear a case and to make a judgment regarding the issues in question.
Legal Custody The rights and responsibilities of parents to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of their children.
Legal Separation A court order arranging the terms (custody, support, etc.) under which a couple in a marriage or domestic partnership will live separately.
Lis Pendens A legal document filed in the county where real property (land) is located to give notice to anyone that a legal action is pending regarding that property.
Marital Property Assets that the court determines to be owned jointly by the parties regardless of the manner in which title is held, subject to equitable distribution upon termination of marriage or domestic partnership.
Mediation The time where a neutral third party, who is not ANY part of the case (the mediator), listens to both sides and helps the parties reach agreement or settlement. The judge or court commissioner may order mediation, or the parties themselves may request mediation to work out their differences without long, costly court proceedings. A mediator has no power to force settlement of the issues.
Memorandum A brief written memo to the court outlining the issues at a hearing or trial with supporting case law and facts.
Modification An action requesting or an order granting a change in a final order as to custody, visitation, child support, and or spousal support, etc.
Motion A request to the court for purpose of obtaining an order.
No Fault In California , neither party needs to prove "fault" for the court to order the marriage or domestic partnership dissolved.
Non Joint Children The children of one party, not born to, or adopted by, the other spouse or partner in the proceeding (e.g. children from a prior marriage).
Nullity A marriage or domestic partnership can be dissolved in a legal proceeding in which the marriage or domestic partnership is declared void, as though it never took place. In the eyes of the law, the parties were never married. It is available only under certain limited circumstances.
Opening Statement A summary of the case and facts, before witnesses or evidence is given. This is the time to tell the judge or jury briefly what your case is about and what you are asking for.
Order to
Show Cause
A hearing before a court requesting that the other side appear and show cause why something should not happen. For example, modifying parenting time.
Parenting Plan A document that is filed after parties have reached an agreement, which sets forth the schedule for each parent's time with the children. A parenting plan may also include guidelines as to how parenting time is to be conducted and rights and responsibilities of the parents in relation to the children.
Parenting Schedule (Also called Visitation) An approved schedule for the children to spend time with both parents. This schedule typically includes weekly, holiday, vacations, birthdays, and other important dates and states how the times will be shared.
Pendente Lite A temporary order that lasts until the final judgment. Generally addressing who lives in the home, the parenting time schedule for the children and support issues.
Petition A written application to the court requesting judicial action on a certain matter.
Petitioner The person(s) starting the case with the court; this person is the one who files the paperwork which begins the case. This person is also sometimes referred to as the moving party.
Physical Custody Declares which parent the child will reside with (the custodial parent) and which parent will have a parenting time schedule (the non-custodial parent).
Pre-Trial Status Conference The time the court has the parties meet to see how far along the case is, and to see if the parties have reached an agreement or settlement on all or most of the issues in the case. It may be done either in person or by phone.
Process Server A person 18 years of age or older not a party to the action whose job it is to serve legal papers on another individual.
Property Settlement Division of property in a dissolution or legal separation. This division may be based upon agreement of the parties and approval by the court or it may be ordered by the court after a contested hearing.
Property Valuations A value placed upon a piece of real or personal property. The court's finding of the value is the ultimate decision.
Respondent The person against whom an action is filed.
Response The pleading filed in answer to the allegations of a petition.
Restraining Order An order forbidding one or more parties in a case from some specified act.
Retainer A fee paid in advance to an attorney and/or expert for services to be performed.
Settlement The agreed upon resolution of disputed issues.
Settlement Agreement A settlement reduced to a written document. A settlement must generally be reduced to an order or judgment and signed by a judge to be binding on the parties.
Sole Legal Custody One parent has the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.
Sole Physical Custody Children reside primarily with one parent and have parenting time with the other parent.
Spousal Support An amount of money paid by one spouse to the other during separation (Pendente Lite) or after the parties are divorced. The law sets out the basis for such payments.

Transitional Support: The judge looks at what support is needed to assist the spouse in re-entering the work force. Funds can be used for education or retraining.

Compensatory Support: The judge determines an amount of support that compensates one spouse for supporting the other's education, career, or earning ability.

Spousal Maintenance: The judge considers what support is appropriate to keep a standard of living similar to what was enjoyed during the marriage.
Statutes The written laws of a legislative body.
Stipulation A formal agreement between the parties or attorneys on behalf of parties relating to a matter of procedure or fact.
Subpoena A command to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony or to bring documents.
Summons A written notification to the respondent that an action has been commenced against him or her and requiring the respondent to appear within a specific period of time to answer the allegations of the petition .
Supervised
Visitation
Visitation limited to special situations in which a third party, specified by the Court, is present. Supervised visitation may occur when there is a need to protect children because of drug or alcohol abuse, child abuse or neglect, family violence, or other serious problems, or when children are getting to know an absent parent.
Surrogate A person acting on behalf of another or a substitute, including a woman who gives birth to a baby of a mother who is unable to carry the child.
Testimony Statements under oath by a witness or a party in a court hearing or deposition.
Trial The process by which the parties present evidence and witness testimony before a judge for the purpose of having the court making a determination.
Uncontested
Divorce
When there are no issues for the court to decide about the children, money, or property, or the parties agree to all issues, or the Respondent does not make an appearance.
Use and
Possession
The right of one party to remain in the family home for a certain period of time from the date of the divorce, under certain circumstances.
Vacate An order of the court canceling or rescinding a prior order of the court.
Visitation
(also called
Parenting Schedule)
An approved schedule for the children to spend time with both parents. This schedule typically includes weekly, holiday, vacations, birthdays, and other important dates and states how the times will be shared.
Visitation Study An evaluation usually done by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker to make a recommendation to the parties and/or the court regarding the appropriate parenting time schedule for that particular family.

JUDGMENTS
When will my divorce be finalized?

Your marital status will terminate six months and one day after the jurisdiction date, or on the date your final Judgment is filed, whichever is later. This means once the Respondent has filed a Response/Appearance, Stipulation, and Waiver, or the Petition and Summons are served on the Respondent, the six months and one day start. Remember that jurisdiction is counted differently for different types of service. Here is how jurisdiction is counted:

  • Personal service = jurisdiction date is date of service
  • Substituted service = jurisdiction date is ten days after follow-up mailing.
  • Service by mail and acknowledgment of receipt = jurisdiction date is the date the Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt is signed.
  • Service by certified or registered mail = jurisdiction date is ten days after date of mailing. (Proof of service must have a signed certified mail or registered mail return receipt attached.
  • Service by publication or posting = jurisdiction date is 28 days after first date of publication or posting
What if the other party refuses to serve the disclosure documents?

This requirement cannot be waived because it is mandated by law. (Family Code §§ 2104, 2105). Typically, if the opposing party will not serve the disclosure documents, a Notice of Motion to Compel Service (form FL-301) can be filed. The assigned judicial officer can then order the other party to complete service and file the Declaration Regarding Service of the Declaration of Disclosure (form FL-141). You can also file a Notice demanding service, which you would serve on the opposing party. This form is usually typed on pleading paper.

What if the other party has served the disclosure documents, but refuses to complete the Declaration Regarding Service of the Declaration of Disclosure form?

When this occurs you may complete the top caption of the Declaration Regarding Service of the Declaration of Disclosure (form FL-141) with the other party’s information, and indicate in the body of the form that you have an attachment. Then you may complete a pleading paper declaration specifying the date, and manner of service with which you were served the disclosure documents. This requires a signature under penalty of perjury, and replaces the need for their Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure form.

I’m proceeding by default, why do I need the Respondent to serve the disclosure documents, and/or sign my Judgment?

If you and the other party are submitting an agreement, both parties are required to serve the Preliminary and Final Declarations of Disclosure. (Family Code 2101(b)) If the Respondent did not file a Response or sign an Appearance Stipulation & Waiver, then any agreement requires the Respondent’s signature to be notarized. (Family Code 2338.5(a)).

We have an agreement; when can I submit my judgment paperwork?

You may submit your judgment paperwork once a Request to Enter Default (form FL-165) and/or Appearance, Stipulation, and Waiver (form FL-130) has been submitted and both parties have served their disclosure documents, and provided proof to the court using Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (form FL-141). In fact, you may submit a judgment concurrently with your Request to Enter Default or Appearance, Stipulation, and Waiver.

How long does it take to process a Stipulated Judgment?

Typically, Stipulated Judgments are processed within two working days. This means that your filed or returned documents should be returned to you within 1 1/2 weeks of submission. You can check the status of your filing on our family law website www.occourts.org. If your Judgment packet was returned there will be an entry on the Register of Actions stating “FC 2336 Judgment Returned.” If it has been filed there will be an entry stating "Judgment." This is the fastest way to get the most current information about the status of your filing.

Is a Notice of Entry of Judgment the same as a Judgment?

The Notice of Entry of Judgment states the date the Judgment was entered, what type of Judgment, and what date the marital Status terminates, if any. It is an official notice from the court. The Notice of Entry of Judgment does not contain the terms of the order, which are located in the body of the Judgment itself.

How many copies should I submit?

The court requires one original of all documents and two copies of the following documents:

We require the proper size self-addressed, stamped envelopes with adequate postage to return copies to you. If you wish for each party to receive copies, please provide the necessary envelopes and postage.

How do I enforce my judgment/order?

Monies ordered paid in a Judgment/Order of the court are enforceable by requesting a writ to be issued by the Court. This is done by filing the Declaration and Order for Writ of Execution (form L-15), and the Writ of Execution (form EJ-130).

Other Judgments/Orders such as visitation or the transfer of property from one party to another may be addressed by filing an Order to Show Cause re Contempt and getting a hearing date to see a Judge. This can be complicated; you may want to seek the advice of an attorney before proceeding.

ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE
Am I required to serve the Responsive Declaration to Order to Show Cause?

Yes. The Responsive Declaration to Order to Show Cause or Notice of Motion (form FL-320) must be served on the other party.

What is an ex parte hearing?

An ex parte is a request for a court hearing to deal with emergency circumstances that require immediate attention. See rule 3.1201 of the California Rules of Court.

PATERNITY
PREPARING FOR COURT
What will happen at the hearing?

This will depend on the type of hearing, appearances made, and the issues. Generally, the judge will hear arguments from both sides, supporting evidence, and make a ruling on the matters in question. If you would like assistance preparing for your court hearing, you may contact our Self-Help Center.

How do I know when my hearing is?

Your hearing date will be listed on the front page of the hearing documents. If for some reason you do not have your documents, or have not been served with a copy of the papers that include the hearing date, you have several options. You may inquire in the Family Law Clerk’s Office on the 7th floor at the Lamoreaux Justice Center, you may check the calendars posted on bulletin boards in public areas or on the courtroom door, you may go online to www.occourts.org to search your case information or contact our office at (714) 935-6269.

I scheduled a hearing, but can’t take off of work. What are my options?

If you wish to continue your hearing to a different date, you must contact the department the afternoon before the hearing date to request a continuance. They will give you further instruction. If you wish to forego your hearing altogether you can either contact the department to have it removed from calendar, or fail to appear.

I want a telephonic hearing. What do I need to do?

You will need to contact the courtroom and inquire. Please refer to the Department Directory for phone numbers.

Do I have to show up for my hearing?

If you are representing yourself, you should plan to attend the hearing. If you have an attorney, please contact your attorney and let him/her advise you regarding this.

What happens if I don’t show up in court?

This will depend on the nature of your hearing. Generally, if both parties fail to appear, the hearing is taken off calendar. However, if the person who requested the hearing and gave notice appears, but the responding party does not, the hearing will take place as requested.

PROCEEDING BY DEFAULT
What is a jurisdiction date?

A jurisdiction date is the date the Petition and Summons were served. That date will be determined by the method of service pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure § 417.10.

What is a default?

A default allows the Petitioning party to proceed in a Family Law case without the other party’s Response. A default may be obtained thirty days after the Petition and Summons have been served if no Response has been filed. To request a default the Petitioner must file a Request to Enter Default (form FL-165) along with a Proof of Service (form FL-115).

RESPONSE TO A PETITION
What if I don’t want to get divorced?

California is a no-fault divorce state; if one person requests a divorce, they are entitled to do so, the other party cannot object. Item number 7 of the Response (form FL-120) permits the Responding party to answer the Petition without agreeing to the grounds set forth in the Petition.

What if I don’t want to respond?

If you opt not to respond, the Petitioner may submit a Request to Enter Default (form FL-165), allowing them to proceed without your presence or input as to the resolution of the issues.

Am I done after I file my Response?

No. A case is not final until a Judgment has been entered and all issues have been resolved in the case. There are several steps to take before a Judgment is reached.

Why do I need to submit an At-Issue Memorandum (form L-0031)?

If you and the other party are unable to reach an agreement, this form will allow you to obtain a trial on the grounds set forth in the Petition and Response.

SERVICE TO OTHER PARTY
Does the serving party have to complete a proof of service, or can the Petitioner/Respondent complete it?

The proof of service must be completed by the serving party, as it is a declaration under penalty of perjury.

I don’t know where the other person is; how can I serve them?

When the other person’s whereabouts are unknown, the petitioning party may serve by publishing the Summons in a local newspaper. This is done by filing an Application and Order for Publication of Summons or Citation (form L-254). Once the publication has been completed, and a Proof of Publication has been filed, then a Request to Enter Default can be filed after the thirty-day response period has elapsed. If you cannot afford to serve by publication and have a Fee Waiver, you may apply to serve by posting.

What if I can’t re-serve the other party because I don’t know where they live and there is something wrong with my Petition, Summons, or Proof of Service?

This solution should be taken on a case by case basis, however in many cases where re-service would be very difficult, the Petitioner may write a declaration to the court requesting that they accept the original service of the Petition and Summons and correct the error in the paperwork. This is called a Declaration and Order, and there is no court form for this, it must be written on pleading paper or on the Declaration (form MC-030). It should be noted that this can be requested for typographical or clerical errors on paperwork, but not in cases where no actual service has taken place.

STARTING A CASE
What’s the difference between an annulment (nullity), a divorce (dissolution), and a legal separation?
  • An annulment is a request to make a marriage or registered domestic partnership entered under false pretenses void. For specific legal reasons for annulment please refer to Family Code §§ 2200, 2210.
  • A dissolution terminates a legal marriage or registered domestic partnership. It also addresses any relevant matters of property, spousal support, and child custody, visitation, and support. For information please refer to Family Code § 2310.
  • A legal separation does not terminate marital or registered domestic partnership status. It does address relevant matters of property, spousal support, and child custody, visitation, and child support. For more information please refer to Family Code § 2310.
Am I done after I file my Petition?

No, a case is not final until a Judgment has been entered and all issues have been resolved in the case. There are several steps to take before a Judgment can be approved by the Court.

I filed my petition and summons. When do I see the judge?
What if there’s something wrong with my Petition and Summons? Do I have to file new forms to correct the problem?

In most cases where there is an error on the Summons, the court encourages litigants to file a second Summons Issued. In cases where the Petition is incorrect, or the requests being made of the court need to be changed, you must file an Amended Petition and a Summons on Amended Petition. This also means that the Amended Petition and Summons on Amended Petition will need to be served. The jurisdiction date will be based on the first valid service on the Respondent or the Respondent’s first appearance, so if the names appeared correctly on the original Petition and Summons, then the service will still be acceptable to the court even if the Amended Petition and Summons on Amended Petition were issued later than the original service. Any time a Response has already been filed, or a previous Amended Petition and Summons on Amended Petition have been filed, the Petitioner must get permission from the court to file the new Amended Petition and Summons on Amended Petition.

WRITS
What is a writ?

A writ is a court-issued document which may be used by local sheriff’s departments to extract fees and funds owed by one party to another. Typically, these fees are seized from bank accounts, or other financial accounts.

Where do I file the issued writ?

A writ should be deposited with the levying officer (sheriff) nearest to where the moving party wishes the order enforced.


© 2014 Superior Court of Orange County