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 mediation and self-help services provided by the office of the Family Law Facilitator.
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."
For more information about the case resolution process visit the California Courts website
Family Law Facilitator
The Family Law Facilitator is an attorney available to provide procedural assistance to people who are representing themselves in Family Court. The Family Law Facilitator will not represent you at a court hearing, but can help you prepare your court forms for that hearing or the orders after hearing.
Family Court Services
When parents separate or divorce, decisions need to be made about where the child(ren) will live and how they will be cared for. These are important decisions. The Court has a goal of making sure children spend time with both parents, are supported by both parents, and have a plan that is in their best interest.
California law states that when parents cannot reach an agreement, they must first meet with a professional mediator before they can got to court. Family Court Services provides mediation for separated or divorced parents involved in disputes over custody and visitation of children in cases where the Sierra County Superior Court has jurisdiction.
Mediation is a cooperative problem solving process between the parties, with the assistance of a trained mediator. Mediation is confidential. One of the most important benefits of mediation is that an agreement reached in mediation is more likely to be honored by the parties and reduces the likelihood of litigation in the future.
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.
Summary Dissolution: 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.
For more information about this option, which is less complicated than a regular dissolution of marriage, visit the online self-help at the California Courts website.
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.
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 www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-support.htm.
Private and Stepparent: Before granting a petition for adoption, the court authorizes an investigation of the adoptive parents(s), regardless of whether they are related to the children or stepparents. Parties are required to pay for these investigations. Typically, the court will also consider petitions to terminate parental rights of the parent(s) who are relinquishing their children in this process.
Parties alleging domestic violence may file for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. Domestic violence forms that you can complete online are available at California Courts website.
These are also called "paternity cases". The court may make findings of parental relationship in these matters that will have an effect on child support, visitation, and custody.
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.
A minor may petition the court for a declaration of emancipation if the minor is at least 14 years of age, willingly lives separately from parents, and managing his own personal financial affairs.