Oct 01, 2022
A A A

Family Law Facilitator & Self-Help Center

Location: Civil and Family Law Courthouse, 3055 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa CA 95403
Office Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Voicemail: (707) 521-6545 *Telephone appointments are scheduled online. See below for details.

 

Jump to Frequently Asked Family Law Questions

IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING SERVICES

If you have an attorney of record, the Family Law Facilitator’s Office cannot assist you.
Staff at the Family Law Facilitator’s Office can provide legal assistance to help you represent yourself in your family court case.

  • They are not your attorneys.
  • They cannot give you legal advice.
  • They do not go to court with you.
  • They are not responsible for the outcome of your case.

Services at the Family Law Facilitator’s Office are not confidential. There is no attorney-client relationship between you and any staff member.
Services at the Family Law Facilitator’s Office are neutral. Staff may assist both sides of a case.
You should obtain your own attorney if you want legal advice or strategy, to have a confidential conversation or to be represented by an attorney in court.

WHAT KIND OF HELP IS AVAILABLE?

We provide information and help with forms for basic legal issues in family law cases and two types of probate cases: guardianships of the person and limited conservatorships.

The lists below are meant as a guide and not a guarantee of services.

We can help with: We connot help with:
Child and custody visitation Appeals
Child support Collections, other than for child or spousal support*
Divorce Complex property division
Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Contempt
Earnings Assignment Orders for support Discovery (subpoenas, depositions, interrogatories, admissions, production of documents, motions to quash or compel, etc.)
Grandparent visitation Enforcement of property judgments (writs of execution, liens, levies, etc.)*
Guardianships of the person Evidence
Judgments and Orders After Hearing
(if both parties are self-represented)
General conservatorships
Legal separation Guardianships of the estate
Limited Conservatorships Juvenile dependency
Nullity Name or gender changes*
Parentage (paternity) Non-stepparent adoptions
Requests for Order Non-family law restraining orders (for civil harassment, elder abuse or workplace violence)*
Service of legal papers in Mexico Other areas of law (criminal, general civil, evictions, wills, trusts, tax, etc.)*
Simple property division Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs)
Spousal support Service of legal papers in countries other than Mexico
Stepparent adoptions (if the other biological parent consents or is deceased) Termination of parental rights
Voluntary Declarations of Parentage (VDOPs) Unsealing adoption records

*The Civil Self-Help Center helps with a variety of general civil matters, including debt collection, evictions, name and gender changes, non-family law restraining orders and small claims.

HOW DO I GET HELP?

WHAT WHEN WHERE HOW
EMERGENCIES

Get walk-in help on a first-come, first-served basis to ask for or oppose a:

• Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order
• Temporary emergency custody order
• Temporary emergency property control order
• Temporary emergency guardianship
• Continuance (delay) of a hearing or trial
 

Monday – Thursday

8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

and

1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

At our office:

Civil & Family Law Courthouse
3055 Cleveland Avenue Santa Rosa, CA 95403

1. Check in at one of the two kiosks on the first floor (next to the vending machines in the lobby or outside the Family Law & Probate Clerk’s Office).

2. Then, listen and watch for your number to be called on the loudspeaker and displayed on the TV screen.
 

ALL OTHER ISSUES
Get information, forms and instructions or have your forms reviewed by appointment.
Monday – Thursday

8:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.

and

1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Remote appointments are by phone or on Zoom.

In-person appointments are at our office:

Civil & Family Law Courthouse
3055 Cleveland Avenue Santa Rosa, CA 95403

CLICK HERE TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT
BRIEF QUESTIONS

Ask brief questions about an open case through our e-mail portal.

Send us a message 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We will respond within 3 business days during our regular hours of operation.

On your smart phone, tablet or computer. CLICK HERE TO SEND US AN E-MAIL

WHERE CAN I GET FORMS AND FILING INSTRUCTIONS RIGHT NOW?

If this is your first time filling out legal forms, you may find it helpful to read about the basics of court forms and using fillable forms before you get started.

You can download forms at the following web sites. Click on the links below:

  1. Sonoma County Forms Packets: The Sonoma County Superior Court provides forms packets that can be filled out by hand or on a computer. Each packet contains all of the forms you will need for a specific purpose, like starting a new divorce. Click on the link, scroll down to “Family Law Forms Packets” and select the appropriate packet from the list.
  2. Judicial Council Forms: The Judicial Council of California provides individual forms that can be filled out by hand or on a computer. Click on the link and search for forms by topic (e.g. “divorce”), form name (e.g. “Summons”) or form number (e.g. “FL-110”).
  3. Odyssey Guide & File: Odyssey Guide & File is a free online forms preparation program that asks you a series of questions and generates completed forms based on your answers. Click on the link and select the appropriate interview from the menu.

For help on how to file documents at the Family Law & Probate Clerk's office click here.

We have written instructions to help you complete and file most forms. Click on the links below:

Instructions to File a Request for Telephone Appearance

Instructions to File a Summary Dissolution of Marriage

Instructions to File and Serve a Petition

Instructions to File and Serve a Declaration of Disclosure

Instructions to File and Serve a Request for Order

Instructions to File and Serve a Request for Temporary Emergency Custody Orders

Instructions to File and Serve a Responsive Declaration to Request for Order

Instructions to File and Serve a Wage Assignment for Spousal Support

Instructions to File a Stipulation for Custody and Visitation

Instructions to File a Stipulation for Child Support

Reimbursement of Child Care Costs sheet

Reimbursement of Health Care Costs sheet

Sample Custody Declaration

Sample Support Declaration

Sample Profit and Loss Statement

Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit and Instructions

Pleading Paper Template

WHERE ELSE CAN I GET FREE OR LOW-COST FAMILY LAW LEGAL ASSISTANCE?

Remote family law legal assistance may be available to you through the following organizations:

Legal Aid of Sonoma County

  • If you are seeking general assistance: (707) 542-1290
  • If you are seeking a Domestic Violence Restraining Order: (707) 595-6295
  • If you are age 60 or older: (707) 340-5610
  • If you are experiencing homelessness: (707) 843-4432

Free Legal Services – Information, legal advice and assistance with applications for restraining orders. Assistance with other family law forms may be available to those who qualify.

Sonoma County Bar Association
(707) 546-5297

Lawyer Referral Services – For a $50 fee, you will receive a 30-minute consultation with an experienced attorney. There is no obligation to retain the attorney following that consultation, but if you choose to do so, the fee for representation is negotiated directly between you and that attorney.

Department of Child Support Services – Sonoma County
(866) 901-3212

Neutral assistance with establishing parentage and establishing and enforcing orders for child support.

Legal Document Assistants

A legal document assistant (“LDA”) is a non-lawyer authorized to assist with the preparation of legal forms and documents. LDAs can be found in the yellow pages or online and their fees vary. Note: Unlike a paralegal, LDAs do not work under the supervision of an attorney. LDAs are required to register with the Sonoma County Clerk-Recorder’s Office.

FREQUENTLY ASKED FAMILY LAW QUESTIONS

How do I file documents with the court?

Documents may be submitted for filing by the following methods:
 
Online
Click here for information about e-filing and to access the e-filing portal.
 
Mail
Send your documents via U.S. Mail to:
Family Law Clerk’s Office
Civil & Family Courthouse
3055 Cleveland Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Be sure to include:
1. A check payable to “Superior Court” for any applicable filing fees;
2. The original and two copies of each document you are filing;
AND
3. A self-addressed envelope, with sufficient return postage, for the clerk to use in mailing the filed copies of your documents to you.

Drop Box
Leave your documents in the drop box outside the entrance to the:
Civil & Family Courthouse
3055 Cleveland Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Be sure to include:
1. A check payable to “Superior Court” for any applicable filing fees;
2. The original and two copies of each document you are filing;
AND
3. A self-addressed envelope, with sufficient return postage, for the clerk to use in mailing the filed copies of your documents to you.

In Person
Bring your documents to the Clerk’s Office at the Civil & Family Courthouse at 3055 Cleveland Avenue in Santa Rosa. You can find their current hours of operation on the Family Law Division Home Page.
Be sure to bring:
1. Payment for any applicable filing fees; AND
2. The original and two copies of each document you are filing.

Where can I go for help with e-filing?

If you have questions about e-filing procedures that are not already answered on the court’s E-filing Information and Frequently Asked Questions page, you can call the Clerk’s Office e-filing voicemail line at (707) 521-1050.
If you need technical support for e-filing, please contact your electronic filing service provider directly.

How do I calculate the filing fee(s) for my document(s)?

Go to the Statewide Civil Fee Schedule and scroll down to “Family Law Fees” to find your document(s) and the corresponding fee(s).
If you have questions about filing fees, call the Clerk’s Office at (707) 521-6630. You can find their current telephone hours on the Family Law Division Home Page.

How do I get copies of documents from my case file?

You can request copies of documents from your case file in person, by going to the Clerk’s Office at the Civil & Family Law Courthouse, or online, by submitting a Family Law Case Information or Copies Request form.
Copying fees are charged according to the “Records Related Fees” section of the Statewide Civil Fee Schedule.

Where can I find information about the status of my case or events scheduled in my case?

Information about documents that have been filed and events and hearings scheduled in your case is available through the court’s case management portal or by calling the Clerk’s Office at (707) 521-6630. You can find their current telephone hours on the Family Law Division Home Page.

If your case is confidential, you will not be able to access information online. You must either call the Clerk’s Office and make arrangements to show your photo identification via Zoom or bring photo identification to the Clerk’s Office at the Civil & Family Courthouse. You can find their current hours of operation on the Family Law Division Home Page.

Why can’t I access information about my case through the case management portal?

If your case is confidential, you will not be able to access information online. You must either call the Clerk’s Office and make arrangements to show your photo identification via Zoom or bring photo identification to the Clerk’s Office at the Civil & Family Courthouse. You can find their current hours of operation on the Family Law Division Home Page.

If your case is not confidential, you may not have entered the case number or party name exactly as it appears in court records.

Here are some tips to help you search:

• Be sure to include the letters “SFL” before the numbers in family law cases and the letters “SPR” before the numbers in probate cases (guardianships and conservatorships).
  For example, search for “SFL123456” instead of “123456.”
• If your case number is SFL74801 or higher, add a zero before the first numerical digit.
  For example, search for “SFL075000,” instead of “SFL75000.”
• If searching by name for a party with multiple last names, try adding a hyphen or reversing the order of the last names.
  For example, if you get no results searching for “Mary Smith Jones,” trying searching for “Mary Smith-Jones,” “Mary Jones Smith” and “Mary Jones-Smith.”

If you are still unable to locate your case on the portal, call the Clerk’s Office at (707) 521-6630. You can find their current telephone hours on the Family Law Division Home Page. You may have the wrong case number, your name may be misspelled in court records or there may be another issue.

Why is my former lawyer still listed as my “attorney of record?”

Ending your attorney-client relationship does not automatically update court records. You must serve and file a Substitution of Attorney (Form MC-050) to notify the Court and the other party that you are now representing yourself.
To find out whether your former attorney is still your attorney of record:
(1) Ask your former attorney;
(2) Look up your case using the online case management portal;
OR
(3) Call the Clerk's Office at (707) 521-6630. You can find their current telephone hours on the Family Law Division Home Page.
If your case is confidential, you will not be able to access information online. You must either call the Clerk’s Office and make arrangements to show your photo identification via Zoom or bring photo identification to the Clerk’s Office at the Civil & Family Courthouse. You can find their current hours of operation on the Family Law Division Home Page

What should I do if the court says it mailed a notice or document to me, but I never received it?

First, confirm that the court has your current mailing address. You can do this by calling the Clerk’s Office at (707) 521-6630. You can find their current telephone hours on the Family Law Division Home Page. If your case is confidential, the Clerk’s Office cannot provide information without first verifying your identity. You must either call the Clerk’s Office and make arrangements to show your photo identification via Zoom or bring photo identification to the Clerk’s Office at the Civil & Family Courthouse. You can find their current hours of operation on the Family Law Division Home Page

If the court does not have your current mailing address, you must serve and file a Notice of Change of Address or Other Contact Information (MC-040).

Next, request copies of any notices or documents you did not receive. You can request copies online or in person at the Clerk’s Office.

Does it matter which spouse, domestic partner or parent starts the family law case?

Generally, no.

In a family law case, the spouse, domestic partner or parent who starts the case is called the “petitioner,” and the other spouse, domestic partner or parent is called the “respondent.”

Unlike being the plaintiff in a civil case or the prosecution in a criminal case, being the petitioner in a family law case does not necessarily mean you are accusing the respondent of doing something wrong – it simply means you were the person who filed the Petition. Unlike being the defendant in a civil or criminal case, being the respondent in a family law case does not necessarily mean you are being accused of doing something wrong – it simply means you were not the person who filed the petition.

Your rights and responsibilities as a spouse, domestic partner or parent are the same regardless of whether you are the petitioner or the respondent.

What happens if I miss a deadline to file a document?

The answer depends on what the document is.

If you missed the deadline to file your Response to a Petition or your Answer to a Complaint, you can file a late Response or Answer as long as the Petitioner has not yet filed a Request to Enter Default (FL-165 or FL-620). If the Petitioner has already filed a Request to Enter Default (FL-165 or FL-620), the Clerk’s Office cannot file your late Response or Answer. Contact the Family Law Facilitator’s Office for information about the legal reasons for which you can ask the judge to “set aside” or cancel the default and the deadlines for doing so.

If you missed the deadline to file another type of document, serve and file it as soon as you can. If possible, explain in the document why you missed the deadline. The Clerk’s Office will file the document and mark it “late.” The judge will decide whether or not to read and consider the late-filed document.

How do I find out if the court granted my request for temporary emergency orders?

If you requested a temporary emergency (“ex parte”) orders, the results will be available after 2:00 p.m. on the date your request is reviewed. The results will be posted on the domestic violence and ex parte web page, and you can pick up your filed documents at the Clerk’s Office at the Civil & Family Courthouse. You can find their current hours of operation on the Family Law Division Home Page.

If your case is confidential, you will not be able to view the results online. You must either call the Clerk’s Office and make arrangements to show your photo identification via Zoom or bring photo identification to the Clerk’s Office at the Civil & Family Courthouse.

How can I have the opposing party personally served with documents?

The following people or agencies can personally serve the opposing party and sign your Proof of Service:

Any Adult Who Is Not a Party to Your Case

Any adult who is not a party to your case (or protected by your restraining order, if you have one) can personally serve your documents for you.

A Process Server

A professional process server can personally serve your documents for a fee. Process servers can be found in the yellow pages or online and their fees vary. Process servers are required to register with the Sonoma County Clerk-Recorder’s Office.

The Sonoma County Sheriff

You can request that the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office personally serve the opposing party with your documents.

Restraining Orders

The sheriff’s office will serve a restraining order free of charge. You may submit your restraining order to the sheriff’s office by e-mail, fax or by scheduling an appointment for in-person delivery as described here.

Other Documents

The sheriff’s office will serve other legal documents for a fee of $40, unless the court has granted you a fee waiver. You may submit such documents to the sheriff’s office by mail only.

Send your documents via U.S. Mail to:

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office
ATTN: Civil Bureau
2796 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Be sure to include:
1. Three copies of each document to be served;
2. Either a check payable to “Sonoma County Sheriff” in the amount of $40 or an endorsed filed copy of your Order on Application for Waiver of Court Fees and Costs (Form FW-003);
AND
3. A completed General Service Instructions form.

What if I can’t locate the opposing party for service?

If you cannot locate the opposing party for service, you can ask the judge for permission to have them served by publication or posting.

• “Service by publication” means that you publish the Summons or other document in a newspaper of general circulation in the area where your spouse or partner is likely to be. You will have to pay the newspaper a fee to publish the document. It will have to be published at least once a week for four weeks in a row.

• “Service by posting” means the court clerk posts the Summons or other document at the courthouse, in a visible place designated for court notices. To serve by posting, you must qualify for a fee waiver.

To get permission to serve by publication or posting, you will have to prove to the judge that you tried as hard as possible to find the opposing party. Please visit the California Courts Self-Help Center web site for search tips that may help you find the opposing party. Take detailed notes about your efforts to locate the opposing party and the results of those efforts, so you can include that information in your application to the judge.

Once you have completed your search, click here or contact the Family Law Facilitator’s Office for instructions and forms to ask for permission to serve by publication or posting.

How can I serve an opposing party who lives in another country?

If you need to serve someone who lives outside the United States, you may have to use the process set out under the Hague Convention, which is complicated and varies from country to country.

If the opposing party is located in Mexico, contact the Family Law Facilitator’s Office for information about and assistance with service under the Hague Convention.

If the opposing party is located in a foreign country other than Mexico, please seek legal advice from an attorney about the specific requirements for service in that country. Please note, some foreign consulates have a legal department that can provide information about their country’s service requirements.

Do I need a computer or smartphone to participate in my remote hearing or Family Court Services appointment?

No, you can call in using any telephone, including a landline.

Please refer to your paperwork about the event for telephone instructions. For a court hearing, the information will be printed on the Request for Order (FL-300), Setting Order (FL-073) or other document that told you about the hearing. For a Family Court Services appointment, the information will be printed on the Further Orders for Parties with Custody and Visitation Issues (FL-017), Setting Order (FL-073) or other document that told you about the appointment.

If you are unable to locate this information, call the Clerk's Office at (707) 521-6630. You can find their current telephone hours on the Family Law Division Home Page.

If you want to participate in your remote hearing or Family Court Services appointment by videoconference, but do not have access to a computer or cell phone with a video camera, you may be able to reserve a computer at the Sonoma County Law Library by calling (707) 565-2668.

How do I reschedule a court hearing?

Court staff have no authority to change or reschedule hearing dates. Only a judge can reschedule your hearing after receiving a written agreement signed by all parties or approving a written request from one party that establishes a good reason for the delay.

To reschedule a hearing about a Domestic Violence Restraining Order:
Please see form, How to Ask for a New Hearing Date (DV-115-INFO) for instructions and links to the necessary forms.

To reschedule a hearing about any other family law issue(s):
By agreement:
If all parties to the case agree, a hearing can be continued (delayed or postponed) a maximum of two times by filing a Notice of Stipulated Continuance (Family Law) (FL-015) no later than 12:00 p.m. two court days prior to the scheduled hearing date.

All parties to the case and their attorneys of record, if any, must sign the stipulation. A $20 continuance fee will be charged when the stipulation is filed unless all parties have been granted fee waivers or the Department of Child Support Services is a party to the case and the hearing is about child support.

If the stipulation cannot be filed in the timeframe specified above, one of the parties or their attorney of record must: (1) call the judicial assistant no later than 3:00 p.m. one court day prior to the scheduled hearing and tell them an in-person continuance will be requested based on good cause or emergency circumstances; AND (2) attend the hearing as scheduled and show good cause or emergency circumstances why a continuance should be granted.

By request from one party:

Unless all parties agree, the party who wants to continue (delay or postpone) the hearing must serve and file a written request for the judge to consider. Please see form, How to Reschedule a Hearing in Family Court (FL-304-INFO) for instructions and links to the necessary forms.

What is a tentative ruling?

When a Request for Order is filed concerning a “law and motion” issue, the judge will announce a tentative ruling at 2:00 p.m. one court day before the scheduled hearing. The tentative ruling is the order the judge plans to make based on the written information filed with the court.

If you filed or were served with a Request for Order concerning a law and motion issue, the first page of the Request for Order will have information about tentative rulings – usually a red stamp if the documents were filed manually or text printed at Item 8 if the documents were filed electronically. Law and motion issues in family law cases include:

• Requests for change of venue;
• Requests for status-only judgment;
• Requests to vacate or set aside a default, judgment or order;
• Requests related to discovery;
• Requests by an attorney to withdraw as counsel of record; and
• Other issues as set forth in the Sonoma County Local Rules of Court, Rule 9.19A.

There are two ways to check a tentative ruling:

• Go to the tentative rulings web page, scroll down to the “Family Law” section and click the link for “Law & Motion Calendar” below the name of the judge and courtroom to which your hearing is assigned. Your courtroom number is printed at Item 2 on Page 1 of the Request for Order.

OR

• Call (707) 521-6607 between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to hear an audio recording of all tentative rulings for your courtroom. You will need to listen for your case name and number.

If any party disagrees with the tentative ruling and wants to appear at the hearing to present oral argument about the issue(s), they must do the following no later than 4:00 p.m. one court day before the scheduled hearing:

1. Notify all other parties that they are going to attend the hearing and present oral argument;

AND

2. Notify the judicial assistant that they want to attend the hearing and present oral argument, and that confirm they have so notified all other parties. The family law judicial assistant can be reached at (707) 521-6732.

If no party requests oral argument, the tentative ruling automatically becomes the judge’s order and the hearing is cancelled.

RESTRAINING ORDERS

How can I get a restraining order?

Legal Aid of Sonoma County provides free legal assistance with applications for domestic violence restraining orders, civil harassment restraining orders and elder abuse restraining orders. If Legal Aid is able to assist you, they can give you legal advice and prepare your restraining order application for you. In some cases, Legal Aid can also provide an attorney to represent you in court at your restraining order hearing.
To find out if Legal Aid of Sonoma County can assist you, call:
• (707) 595-6295 if you are under the age of 60;
OR
• (707) 340-5610 if you are age 60 or older.
If Legal Aid is unable to assist you, self-help staff at the court can help you prepare your own restraining order application by explaining the restraining order process, providing you with forms and filing instructions, and reviewing your application to ensure you have completed it correctly before you file.
You can start your restraining order application right now with free, automated help available online 24 hours a day.
For self-help assistance with a domestic violence restraining order, contact the Family Law Facilitator’s Office.
For self-help assistance with civil harassment restraining orders or elder abuse restraining orders, contact the Civil Self-Help Center.

How do I find out if the court granted my request for temporary emergency orders?

If you requested a temporary emergency (“ex parte”) orders, the results will be available after 2:00 p.m. on the date your request is reviewed. The results will be posted on the domestic violence and ex parte web page, and you can pick up your filed documents at the Clerk’s Office at the Civil & Family Courthouse. You can find their current hours of operation on the Family Law Division Home Page.

If your case is confidential, you will not be able to view the results online. You must either call the Clerk’s Office and make arrangements to show your photo identification via Zoom or bring photo identification to the Clerk’s Office at the Civil & Family Courthouse.

How do I reschedule a restraining order hearing?

Court staff have no authority to change or reschedule hearing dates. Only a judge can reschedule your hearing after receiving a written request from one party that establishes a good reason for the delay.

Please see form, How to Ask for a New Hearing Date (DV-115-INFO) for instructions and links to the necessary forms.

Where can I sign up for the class the judge ordered me to take?

52-week Batterer’s Intervention Program
If you were ordered to complete a 52-week batterer’s intervention program as part of a Domestic Violence Restraining Order, the class you take must be approved by the Sonoma County Probation Department.
Click here to view a list of programs approved by the probation department as of August 2020. This list may change periodically. It is your responsibility to confirm a particular program is still approved by the department before you enroll. You can reach the probation department at (707) 565-2149.
All Other Classes
Not every court order is the same. You must read your orders carefully to understand what you are required to do in your case.
If the judge ordered you to take a specific class by name (e.g. “Parenting Without Violence”), be sure to enroll in a class with that specific name. If the judge ordered you to take a class for a specific period of time (e.g. “five class sessions” or “a three-month course”), be sure to complete a course of that length. If you cannot find a class that meets the requirements specified in your order, or if the class is not available in the timeframe specified in your order, you can file a “Request for Order” to seek additional guidance from the judge.
If the judge’s order was more general (e.g. “complete an anger management class” or “take a co-parenting class”), you may be able to find a suitable course online and/or through one of the following resources:
www.familieschange.ca.gov:
  This web site was created in collaboration with the California Courts and provides age-appropriate information to help children, teens and parents deal with a family breakup.
• Your health insurance provider:
  Many healthcare providers offer classes on co-parenting and anger management. • Local nonprofit agencies: Local nonprofit agencies may offer classes about parenting, coping skills and/or learning to decrease anger.
• Local nonprofit agencies:
  Local nonprofit agencies may offer classes about parenting, coping skills and/or learning to decrease anger.

CUSTODY & VISITATION

Do I have to complete the mandatory Family Court Services orientation again if I have already done it before?

If you completed the mandatory orientation within the last two years and know your orientation date, you may be excused from completing it again. If you completed the mandatory orientation more than two years ago, you must complete it again.

What if I miss or cannot make my Family Court Services appointment?

Family Court Services does not reschedule appointments for any reason. Only the judge can give you a new appointment. If you missed or cannot make your appointment, you should attend your court hearing as scheduled and tell the judge what happened. The judge will determine how to proceed.

Where can I find someone to supervise my visits?

Not every court order is the same. You must read your orders carefully to understand what you are required to do in your case.
Click here to watch a six-minute informational video that covers the basics of supervised visitation and exchange services in California.

Nonprofessional Supervision
If the judge ordered visitation supervised by a “nonprofessional provider,” that means a person who is not paid for providing supervised visitation services.

Unless otherwise ordered by the judge or agreed to by the parties, a nonprofessional supervisor must:
• Have no record of a conviction for child molestation, child abuse or other crimes against a person;
• Have proof of automobile insurance if transporting the child or children;
• Have no current or past court order in which the provider is the person being supervised;
AND
• Agree to adhere to and enforce the terms of the court order regarding supervised visitation.
For more information about the role and responsibilities of a nonprofessional supervisor, read the Judicial Council of California’s booklet, “Supervised Visitation: A Guide for Non-Professional Providers,” and share it with the person you want to supervise your visits.

Professional Supervision
If the judge ordered visitation supervised by a “professional provider,” that means a person paid for providing supervised visitation services or an independent contractor, employee, intern or volunteer operating independently or through a supervised visitation center or agency.
Unless otherwise ordered by the judge or agreed to by the parties, a professional supervisor must meet all the requirements of California Family Code § 3200.5. Talk to your proposed child care provider about whether they meet those requirements.
Professional supervisors must be registered as a TrustLine child care provider with the Department of Social Services. For more information about TrustLine or to find registered TrustLine providers, visit their web site or call (800) 822-8490.

Where can I sign up for the class the judge ordered me to take?

52-week Batterer’s Intervention Program
If you were ordered to complete a 52-week batterer’s intervention program as part of a Domestic Violence Restraining Order, the class you take must be approved by the Sonoma County Probation Department.
Click here to view a list of programs approved by the probation department as of August 2020. This list may change periodically. It is your responsibility to confirm a particular program is still approved by the department before you enroll. You can reach the probation department at (707) 565-2149.
All Other Classes
Not every court order is the same. You must read your orders carefully to understand what you are required to do in your case.
If the judge ordered you to take a specific class by name (e.g. “Parenting Without Violence”), be sure to enroll in a class with that specific name. If the judge ordered you to take a class for a specific period of time (e.g. “five class sessions” or “a three-month course”), be sure to complete a course of that length. If you cannot find a class that meets the requirements specified in your order, or if the class is not available in the timeframe specified in your order, you can file a “Request for Order” to seek additional guidance from the judge.
If the judge’s order was more general (e.g. “complete an anger management class” or “take a co-parenting class”), you may be able to find a suitable course online and/or through one of the following resources:
www.familieschange.ca.gov:
  This web site was created in collaboration with the California Courts and provides age-appropriate information to help children, teens and parents deal with a family breakup.
• Your health insurance provider:
  Many healthcare providers offer classes on co-parenting and anger management. • Local nonprofit agencies: Local nonprofit agencies may offer classes about parenting, coping skills and/or learning to decrease anger.
• Local nonprofit agencies:
  Local nonprofit agencies may offer classes about parenting, coping skills and/or learning to decrease anger.

CHILD SUPPORT

Do I have to pay child support if the other parent and I share equal custody of our child?

Maybe. California law establishes a “guideline” formula for calculating child support. The two biggest factors in that equation are income (how much money each parent makes before taxes) and timeshare (how much time each parent spends with the child). If the parents share equal time with the child, but one parent has more income than the other, the parent with more income can be ordered to pay child support to the parent with less income.

You can run your own child support calculation using the free guideline child support calculator from the California Department of Child Support Services or contact the Family Law Facilitator’s Office for help.

What if the other parent and I agree that neither of us needs child support?

You cannot waive or opt out of child support, but, if neither you nor the other parent receives or intends to apply for public assistance for the child(ren), you can agree to “set child support at zero,” which means you agree to a child support order that specifies a monthly payment of zero dollars.

Your first step will be to calculate the amount of child support that would be ordered based on California’s “guideline” formula. You can run your own child support calculation using the free guideline child support calculator from the California Department of Child Support Services or contact the Family Law Facilitator’s Office for help.

• If the guideline calculation says child support should be zero, your agreement will say that you and the other parent agree to “guideline child support” of zero dollars per month. A printout of your guideline child support calculation must be attached to your agreement.

Note: An order for guideline child support can only be changed if the circumstances (the information that went into the calculation) have changed signficantly.

• If the guideline calculation says child support should be an amount other than zero, your agreement will say that you and the other parent agree to “below-guideline child support” or “non-guideline child support” of zero dollars per month. Your agreement must include the declarations specified in California Family Code section 4065, and a printout of your guideline child support calculation must be attached to your agreement.

Note: An order for below-guideline child support can always be changed, even if the circumstances have not changed.

Even if you and the other parent agree to set child support at zero, your child support order must specify how you and the other parent will share two types of expenses for your child(ren): (1) childcare costs incurred so that either parent can go to work or get reasonably necessary job training; and (2) reasonable healthcare costs that are not covered by the child(ren)’s insurance (e.g. copays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses for medical, dental, vision, etc.). A Notice of Rights and Responsibilities Health-Care Costs and Reimbursement Procedures (FL-192) and a Notice of Rights and Responsibilities Child Care Costs and Reimbursement Procedures (FL-020) must be attached to your agreement.

There are several different forms that can be used for a child support agreement. Contact the Family Law Facilitator’s Office for guidance on which forms to use in your case.

Click here to read more answers to frequently asked child support questions on the California Courts Self-Help Center web site.

DIVORCE, LEGAL SEPARATION & NULLITY

What is the difference between divorce, legal separation and annulment?

Please visit the California Courts self-help web site for a detailed explanation of the differences between divorce, legal separation and annulment.

If you are unsure which option is right for you, you may want to seek legal advice from a family law attorney before you start your case. You can schedule a 30-minute consultation with an experienced lawyer for a flat fee of $50 by calling the Sonoma County Bar Association’s lawyer referral service at (707) 546-5297. Private attorneys also provide consultations, and their rates vary.

What is the process for getting a divorce or legal separation in California?

Please visit the California Courts self-help web site for an overview of the court process, a step-by-step guide to divorce and information about a simplified divorce process called summary dissolution. That web site is written for people without lawyers and provides a lot of useful information about legal issues such as child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support and property and debt.

Do I have to explain my reason(s) for wanting a divorce or legal separation?

No. California is a “no fault” state, which means that neither spouse has to prove the other did anything wrong or otherwise justify to the Court why they want a divorce or legal separation. It is enough to say that you and your spouse have “irreconcilable differences,” which is the legal way of saying there are problems or issues between the two of you that cannot or will not be resolved.

Do I have to explain my reason(s) for wanting an annulment?

Yes. An annulment (or “nullity of marriage” or “nullity of domestic partnership”) is when a judge says your marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid. After an annulment, it is like your marriage or domestic partnership never happened because it was never legal.

To get an annulment, you must prove to the judge that you have a valid legal reason for the annulment. Please visit the California Courts Self-Help Center web site for information about the legal reasons for an annulment, the deadlines to ask for an annulment and how an annulment can affect your rights and obligations relating to your minor children, financial support, property and debt.

Please note that getting an annulment does not depend on how long you have been married or in a domestic partnership. Even if you have only been married or in a domestic partnership for a very short period of time, that fact is not, on its own, a valid legal reason for an annulment.

Do I need my spouse’s consent or permission to get a divorce or legal separation?

No. You do not need your spouse’s consent or permission to get a divorce or legal separation. Please note, however, that if one spouse asks for a legal separation and the other asks for a divorce, the judge must grant the divorce.

Does my divorce or legal separation automatically become final six months and one day from the date I filed my divorce petition?

No. You are not divorced or legally separated until a Judgment of Dissolution or Judgment of Legal Separation is signed by a judge and filed in your case. This does not happen automatically.

There are several different pathways to getting a Judgment of Dissolution or Judgment of Legal Separation, including by default, by agreement with your spouse or by trial – each of which requires you to take various steps to finalize your case. For more information, please see theLegal Steps for a Divorce or Legal Separation (FL-107-INFO) and/or contact the Family Law Facilitator’s Office.

Is there any way I can avoid doing my Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure?

No. If you are a party to a divorce or legal separation case, California law requires you to prepare and serve a Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure on the other party. Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure cannot be waived – even in cases where the parties have no income, assets or debts, in cases where neither party is requesting support and in cases where the parties have an agreement.

For more information about disclosures in divorce, scroll to the “Where Can I Get Forms and Filing Instructions Right Now” section above, and click on “Instructions to Serve a Declaration of Disclosure.”

How can I move my case forward if the other party has not done their Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure?

If you have served your Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure and the other party has not, there are two ways you can move your case forward:

1. Request a Case Resolution Conference.

At your Case Resolution Conference, the judge can order the other party to serve their Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure by a specific deadline and inform the other party what the consequences will be if they do not comply.

To request a Case Resolution Conference, you must serve and file a Case Resolution Conference Request (FL-092).

2. Ask the judge for permission to waive receipt of the other party’s Preliminary Declaration of disclosure.

If you are considering waiving the other party’s Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure, you should seek legal advice from an attorney to help you determine whether or not that is in your best legal and financial interests. The other party’s Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure could reveal important information about assets in which you have an interest and/or debts for which you are responsible, and deciding to forgo that information could have negative consequences.

If you decide to do this, you must file and serve a Request for Order (FL-300) explaining why you have “good cause,” or a sufficient legal reason, to waive receipt of the other party’s Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure. Then, you must attend the hearing date to receive the judge’s ruling. If your request is granted, you can request a trial to finalize your case.

 
Click here to read more answers to frequently asked questions about divorce, legal separation and nullity on the California Courts Self-Help Center web site.

© 2022 Superior Court of Sonoma County