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Civil & Family Law


The Civil Division of the Court processes actions brought by people, businesses or parties to recover property, to force someone to honor a contract, or to protect one's personal rights.

This Division handles all civil matters, including family law, probate, guardianships, conservatorships, minor's compromises, civil, small claims and adoptions.

The Civil Division provides family law information, referral assistance to the public, legal forms and procedural guidance. Court employees are available to assist you, but are prohibited by law from giving legal advice.

Family law is the general term used to refer to the various actions regarding marital relationships and relationships between parents and children, as well as domestic violence.

Civil Law FAQs

Civil cases involve a lawsuit in which one party sues another to:

  • Recover money or property.
  • To enforce a contract.
  • To collect damages for injury.
  • To protect some civil right.

Civil matters include family law, probate, guardianships, conservatorships, minor’s compromises, civil, small claims and adoptions.

Civil lawsuits (other than family, juvenile, probate, unlawful detainer, and civil harassment cases) can generally be divided into three categories depending on how much money is involved:

When the dollar amount is ….

This case is usually called a ….

Under $10,000 Small Claims case
Up to $25,000 Limited jurisdiction civil case
Over $25,000 Unlimited jurisdiction civil case

Please see our Self-Help page for more information.

When filing documents, you need to provide the clerk with one original and the appropriate number of copies. The clerk cannot accept documents that are not stapled and organized. Please make sure all documents are dated and signed. Please include the appropriate filing fees (see Statewide Civil Fee Schedule (effective January 1, 2022) or submit an Application for Waiver of Court Fees and Costs (also see below)

Fee Waivers are available for indigent plaintiffs and defendants. See Information Sheet on Waiver of Court Fees and Costs For Fee Waiver eligibility guidelines.

You may appear in person at the clerk’s office to request copies or you can mail a request for copies to the clerk’s office. See Contact Information above for address, phone number, and open hours.

If requesting copies by mail, write a letter specifically stating what it is that you want, along with a case number and payment. You must include a self-addressed, stamped envelope to receive copies through the mail. Turnaround time is usually within 1 to 2 days.

Copies are $.50 per page (double-sided sheet equals 2 pages). If you need a document certified, the cost is $40.00 in addition to the copy price. Payment may be made by check, cash, credit card or money order.

In order for the court to receive faxed signatures, you will need to go through a fax filing agency, otherwise an original signature is required.

Yes, please see our Case Management Conferences page for more information.

Family Law FAQs

Please refer to the California Court’s website to learn about Divorce, Legal Separation and Annulment.

A summary dissolution is a simplified way to get divorced. See the California Court’s website to find out if you qualify for a Summary Dissolution Qualifications.

A paternity suit establishes parentage. An action is filed by an unmarried mother or by an unmarried father who have minor children together. Through this action, the Court will determine paternity (or non-paternity if the father is found not to be the biological father of the minor children), and make custody and visitation as well as child support orders.

Child support is the amount of money that the court orders one parent to pay the other parent every month for the support of the child(ren). California has a formula (called a "guideline") for figuring out how much child support should be paid in all cases. See the California Court’s website to learn more about how Child Support is calculated.

Legal custody determines which parent will make decisions concerning the child’s health, safety, education and welfare. If one parent is authorized to make these decisions alone it is known as sole legal custody, and it is called joint legal custody if both parents retain those rights. If there is joint legal custody, the parents should cooperate in making the decisions, but one parent can make the decisions alone.

Physical custody determines where the child will reside. If sole physical custody is ordered, the child will live with one parent and visit the other parent.

A restraining order is a Court order issued to prevent the recurrence of acts of abuse by a batterer. Under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, abuse is defined as any of the following:

  • Intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury.
  • Sexual assault.
  • Placing a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another.
  • Engaging in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined such as molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, battering, harassing, telephoning, destroying personal property, contacting the other by mail or otherwise, disturbing the peace of the other party.

The act(s) of abuse/violence must be recent, and the batterer must be a spouse, ex-spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend, someone with whom the victim has or has had a dating relationship, an immediate family member (mother, father, in-laws, siblings, adult children), or a person with whom a party has a child/ren together. See the California Court's website for more information on Domestic Violence Restraining Orders.

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