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Preparing for Court
This guide is for people in family law disputes who must appear in Court before a judicial officer and who do not have a lawyer to represent them.

If you are representing yourself, you are still held to the same standards as someone who is an attorney.

This guide will help you to understand what you should do when you come to Court.

By following some simple guidelines, and the rules of Court, you will be well-prepared to manage your case and you should feel more comfortable with the Court surroundings.

Getting ready for court:

Getting your documents ready

Whenever possible, it is best, and sometimes required, to file papers, and provide the other party with copies, several days before the hearing.

Before coming to Court for your hearing, make sure you have all your documents together. If you did not already provide the other side with copies of your filed documents, bring extra copies.

It is best to have your documents labeled and organized in date order so you can find them quickly.

Bring paper, a pen, and a self-addressed stamped envelope (if an order is made, the Clerk will mail you a copy).

Dressing appropriately

The courtroom is a formal place. You should dress appropriately. No shorts, tank tops, hats, or sunglasses (unless prescription) are permitted.

Children in court

It is best to leave children at home. The court does provide supervised child care for children over 2 1/2 years and toilet trained. If you must bring a young child with you, bring another adult to watch your child while you attend to court business.

Copy requests
How do I obtain copies of documents in my file?

The fee for a copy is .50 cents per page and certified copy fee is $15 per judgment and $25 per any other document.

You can request copies online or by mail by sending your completed Copy Request Form (available on our website) to Superior Court of California, County of Orange, Family Law Division, 341 The City Drive, Orange, CA 92863, Attn: Records Department. Please include a postage paid, self addressed envelope for your copies to be returned to you and a check made payable to the Clerk of the Court. If you do not know the exact charge for the documents you are requesting, please write the amount as “Not to exceed fifty dollars” in the memo section of your check. The court will only charge applicable fees. Please allow ten business days for your request to be processed. Your copies will be returned to you by mail. If this is a confidential paternity file, review the information provide below.

For Paternity cases, please include a copy of valid photo identification with your written request. 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,
  • Tribal photo identification.

To obtain copies in person, please visit the Family Law Clerk’s Office on the 7th Floor, Room 706 at 341 The City Drive, Orange, California 92868.

If a case is sealed by order of the court or if you are not a party to a Paternity case you will be required to obtain an order from the judge before you are able to view or obtain any copies.

What type of photo identification may be required?

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,
  • Tribal photo identification.

Arriving in court:

Personal safety

If you have any concerns when you are in the court building, please speak with Court staff or personnel from the Sheriff’s Department.

Checking in with the clerk

When you arrive at the courtroom where your case is being heard, give your name to the clerk or bailiff. If you do not have a lawyer, let the clerk or bailiff know.

Waiting for your case to be heard

A number of cases may be scheduled on the same day and time as your hearing. You will be required to wait until your case is called – sometimes this can be an hour or more. Remain in the courtroom until your case is called. Some of the courtrooms are very small with limited seating, so if you come to court with a relative or friend, that person(s) may be asked to wait outside of the courtroom.

While in the courtroom:
Pagers and cell phones should be placed on “vibrate” or “silent” mode. Should you need to accept or make a phone call, step out of the courtroom and into the public area for your call. Do not bring food or drinks into the courtroom.


During your case hearing:

Calendar call

After everyone that is scheduled for a court hearing checks in with the Clerk, the judicial officer will come out to the courtroom, and call each case on calendar. When your case is called, stand and tell the court who you are; the judicial officer may ask you some questions.

Responding to the Judicial Officer

Wait until you are addressed to start speaking. Do not talk over the other person or the judicial officer. If there is a court reporter present they can only record for one person at a time.

Addressing the Judge or Commissioner

You should address the judicial officer as “Your Honor.”


After your case hearing:

Court orders about your case

After hearing your case, the Judicial Officer may make orders about your case. You should write down these orders. Ask for the orders to be repeated if you do not understand. The Judicial Officer could direct a “Formal Order” be prepared by:

  1. The attorney, if there is an attorney on the other side,
  2. The clerk and a copy be mailed to you. You must provide a self-addressed-stamped envelope, or
  3. You. Necessary form is available online or at the Self-Help Center.
© 2014 Superior Court of Orange County