Civil Frequently Asked Questions
Visit the California Courts Civil FAQs page to find useful information regarding court procedures, different types of cases, researching, preparing for court and many more topics.
Family Law Courts have jurisdiction over all cases involving dissolution of marriage, legal separation, nullity, paternity, domestic violence, child custody, visitation and support. Other support services include on-site mediation, on-site family law facilitators and a panel of qualified attorneys who handle settlement conferences.
Family Law Case Resolution Process
As of January 1, 2013, all California family courts are governed by the “family centered case resolution” process. This case management process is aimed at early settlement, quicker trial dates, reduced expense of litigation, and better assistance to families. Your case will be managed through one or more Status Conferences at which the parties, attorneys and a judicial officer will discuss a "case resolution plan."
Landlord/Tenant (Unlawful Detainer)
Unlawful detainer is the type of case which allows a landlord and/or tenant to deal with rental issues in the Court. There are specific rules to be followed for both the landlord and the tenant. For understanding the unlawful detainer process, click here.
PLEASE NOTE: For dissolution of marriage or legal separation in California, there are only two legal grounds. The first is "irreconcilable differences", meaning that at least one party asserts that the marriage cannot be saved. The other reason is "incurable insanity" which, unlike irreconcilable differences, must be proven.
Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce):
A dissolution of marriage, which is more commonly known as divorce, terminates the marriage and resolves marital issues including child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, asset and debt division (real and personal property), former name restoration, restraining orders, and other issues identified by the parties. You must wait 6 months from the date the respondent was served with the divorce documents. You will then have to submit judgment paperwork to the court for a Judge’s signature before you are legally divorced. For current filing fees click here.
If you and your spouse are in agreement that you want to divorce you may be able to obtain a summary dissolution. The criteria for a summary dissolution include:
- You were married for under five years,
- There were no children born during the marriage,
- You have very few community assets and debts.
Legal separation is similar to dissolution of marriage, except that the parties remain married to each other. The court may make orders regarding the same issues identified in a dissolution of marriage.
If you open a legal separation action, you may amend your petition prior to judgment to request a dissolution of marriage. That will allow you to "start the clock" on the waiting period for divorce (six months from date of service), provided that you follow some special instructions.
A nullity is more commonly known as an annulment of marriage. This may only be requested if a party alleges incest, bigamy, minor without parental consent, unsound mind, fraud, force or incapacity to consummate marriage.
Dissolution of a domestic partnership terminates the partnership. You must be a resident of the state of California, both parties do not have to agree to the dissolution and it takes a minimum of six months for this action to become final.
Child and Spousal Support:
To obtain or modify family support orders, establish parentage, or enforce existing family support orders, the Department of Child Support Services is available to assist you. Information concerning this office is available at the California Department of Child Support Services website or by telephone, 1-866-901-3212.
Establishment of Parental Relationship:
These are also called "paternity cases". The court may make findings or parental relationship in these matters that will have an effect on child support, visitation and custody.
Child Custody, Support and Visitation:
Even after marital and domestic partnership issues have been resolved, the court retains jurisdiction over issues that affect minor children in these proceedings until these children reach 18 years of age (or 19 years of age if still in high school). Parties may file motions to modify custody, support and visitation any time the circumstances warrant such filings.