Family Law FAQs
Each case is different and may be at a different stage in the process, depending upon the circumstances. In most instances in Family Law cases, you may get a court date in an existing case by filing a Request for Order (Form FL-300). Exceptions to this are: *Order to Show Cause re: Contempt and the *Application for DVRO (Domestic Violence Restraining Order). If there are no temporary orders requested, then it can be served by mail. If there are temporary orders being requested personal service is required. Packets explaining the requirements and procedures for these documents are available for purchase in the Family Law Clerk's Office. Packets and assistance with completing your forms are available in the Court's Self-Help Center.
You must submit your final judgment papers to the Clerk's Office for the judge's signature. Your divorce is not final until you receive your final judgment papers back from the Court with a termination date and a conformed copy of the judge's signature. Final Judgment packets are available in the Clerk's Office. In some cases, it may be necessary to get your case back on calendar, through a Request for Order or through requesting a family law case management conference hearing. Please contact the Family Law Clerk's Office for additional details and/or a referral to the Self-Help Center. The Self-Help Center and Office of the Family Law Facilitator is available to assist you with finalizing your paperwork at no charge to you. Please contact the Self-Help Center for additional information.
If you need formal custody and/or visitation orders, you must first file a case within the Court to proceed in obtaining formal custody orders. Packets of forms to open a case are available, for purchase, in the Clerk's Office. In addition to opening the case, you will also need to file and serve a Request for Order to bring your issues to a hearing for the Court to consider granting custody and/or visitation orders. The Self-Help Center and Office of the Family Law Facilitator provides assistance with preparing these forms at no cost to you.
To modify any current orders of the Court, you can file a Request for Order. In some instances, both parties in the case may be in agreement on a modification of orders. Please contact the Self-Help Center for additional information on proceeding by way of stipulation and agreement of the parties. Child Support cases involving the Stanislaus County Department of Child Support Services and a parent are primarily support cases only. Custody and visitation issues are ordinarily addressed in these support cases only after a judgment has been entered in the case. If there is not a judgment filed in the support case, you must file a separate case in the Family Law Division to address custody visitation issues. (See: How Can I Get Custody/Visitation of My Children?)
There are several types of restraining orders available in the Family Law Division: 1) Domestic Violence Restraining Orders - This can be filed against a spouse/domestic partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, relative or roommate/cohabiter in cases where there has been either physical or mental abuse and can include requests for child custody/visitation. 2) Elder Abuse/Dependent Adult protective orders - For persons 65 years or older or dependent adults. Packets of forms and instructions are available at the Clerk's Office or on the Court website. No fee is required to file either of these types of cases. Assistance with completing these documents at no cost to you can be obtained at our Self-Help Center, our Family Law Facilitator's Office and at Haven Women's Center of Stanislaus, 619 13th Street, Suite I, Modesto, CA (209) 524-4331. In order to request a restraining order, completed paperwork that is submitted for filing to the Family Law Clerk's office by 8:45 a.m. will be processed, reviewed by a judge and will be ready for pick up the following court day between 2:30 - 3:00 p.m. Clerk's Office hours are Monday - Thursday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and on Fridays 8:00 a.m. - noon.
All family law calendaring is handled by the Family Law Calendaring Department is located in the Family Law Clerk's Office at 1100 I Street, Modesto, CA. The office is open to the public from 8:15 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday - Friday.
The Court and clerk personnel are not permitted, under State law, to provide any legal advice. For legal advice you may want to contact a local attorney which can be found in the local yellow pages or online.
The Court does not generate legal documents for each particular case other than minute orders and restraining orders after hearing. It is the parties' responsibility to follow up with any documents that are necessary to their case. For example, if you file a dissolution case, you must follow the required procedures and paperwork to finalize your divorce. You are not automatically divorced six months after you file your case. Your divorce will not be final until you have submitted a judgment to the judge for review. Once the judge signs the judgment your case will be final and your divorce will be formally ordered. Procedural guidance documents are available without cost to you at our Self-Help Center and our Family Law Facilitator's Office.
The Order After Hearing will be prepared for you by the Court and each party present will receive a certified copy of the protective order. If the Respondent is not present, the Petitioner will receive an additional copy of the Order After Hearing which must be served on the Respondent. It is the Petitioner's responsibility to have the Order After Hearing served on the Respondent. All law enforcement agencies identified on the Protective Order will receive notice of the order the same day as the hearing. Petitioner should carry a copy of the Restraining Order After Hearing during the time covered by the Protective Order.
Packets, forms and information on filing fees are available from the Family Law Division of the Clerk's Office located on the first floor at 1100 I Street, Modesto, CA. Forms are also available at the Self-Help Center located on the second floor at 800 11th Street, Room 220, Modesto, CA. The Dissolution Packet can also be downloaded from the Common Forms and Packets page.
Summary Dissolution is a shorter and easier way to file for divorce. Briefly, a Summary Dissolutions is possible for couples who:
- Have no children together;
- Have been married and/or in a domestic partnership five years or less (this means that the time between the date you married or registered your domestic partnership and the date you separated from your spouse or partner is five years or less);
- Do not own very much;
- Do not owe very much;
- Do not want spousal or partner support from each other;
- Have no disagreements about how their belongings and their debts are going to be divided up once they are no longer married to or in a domestic partnership with each other.
Fees are required to be paid upon the filing of your first documents that open a case or to file your first paper in any case, except for filing a responsive declaration to the Request for Order. If you are filing any additional documents, you can expect to pay the filing fee that is in effect as of the date of your filing.
You may be eligible for a waiver of fees. Ask the clerk for a fee waiver packet and review the information to see if you qualify. File the application along with the required information to verify your income and submit the order to the Court for review. NOTE: If fees are waived, the Court may order payment of the waived fees and costs against the other party at the time that the judgment is signed. The Court may order the other party to pay that sum to the County or to the clerk and serving and levying officers respectively or the Court may order the amount of the waived fees and costs be added to the judgment. These fees must be paid within 30 days after entry of judgment.
At the time of your hearing several things may take place. The judge will review the case, question all appropriate parties and make a decision to either grant a petition or order or make an order to continue the matter over to another hearing date for further review. You do not necessarily need to be accompanied by an attorney. It is solely your choice whether or not you feel you need legal representation. If your hearing is regarding child custody or visitation, you will be required to attend mediation orientation prior to the hearing. At the hearing, you will meet with a mediator who will be assigned to your case to assist you with obtaining child custody and visitation orders. The mediator will submit these proposed orders to the judge for approval. If your hearing is regarding economic issues, you must file income and expense related forms, either Family Law form FL-150 Income and Expense Declaration or FL-155 Financial Statement (Simplified). These forms describe your financial status for the judge to review and consider at the hearing.
You can request a domestic violence restraining order if you are married, have ever dated or lived together or are relatives (up to 2nd degree of blood relative). There is no fee to file this type of case and forms are available at no cost. If you are seeking a restraining order against someone other than these listed relationships you must request a civil harassment or workplace harassment restraining order (depending upon the circumstances) through the Civil Division of the Clerk's Office. If you are seeking a restraining order in a situation that involves elder abuse or dependent adult abuse, you can request the elder or dependent abuse packet. There is no fee to file this type of case and forms are available at no cost. If your paperwork is properly submitted by 8:45 a.m. on any business day, you can obtain a review by a judge and receive your paperwork back by 2:30 p.m. the following day. The judge will review your documents and either grant or deny your request and/or set your case for hearing. You must then have your documents served on the person you are asking the Court to restrain. Documents may be served by either the Sheriff or someone over the age of 18 who is not a party to the case. NOTE: There will be no fee charged to you to have the Sheriff serve your documents, as long at the restrained party lives in Stanislaus County.
You may call them at (866) 901-3212 or visit their office Monday - Thursday, 7:00 .m. - to 6:00 p.m. on 251 East Hackett Road, Modesto. If you have documents to be filed regarding child support issues when the DCSS is involved (that do not involve custody or visitation) you must file them with the Court IV-D Family Support Clerk's Office, located at 1100 I Street, Window #10, Modesto, CA between the hours of 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.