In California, divorce or dissolution of registered domestic partnership hearings take place in a courtroom. These hearings are often very short (sometimes as little as 10 - 15 minutes), so you really need to plan ahead if you want to give the judge your information before he or she makes a decision. To get ready for your court hearing:
Know Your Own Case
Read the court papers carefully. Understand what you asked for, and what your spouse or partner has asked for in their papers.
Before your own hearing, organize and write down the key points you want to tell the judge. Try to make it as clear and simple as you can. Be ready to explain why the judge should approve (or not approve) each request. Practice speaking a few times - if you can, practice in front of friends or family.
Make an outline listing your reasons for each request and how the other named parent responded. This will help you to speak to the judge if you get nervous in court.
Be sure to focus on the issues that are the reason your court date was scheduled. The judge cannot address issues that are not identified in the original paperwork filed to request the hearing. If you have other problems to resolve, you can schedule a separate hearing for that purpose.
If you filed papers with the court, be prepared to explain what you are asking for and why. For example, if you are asking that your child live with you, you will be asked to explain how living with you will be in the child's best interests.
Get ready to bring copies of all of your paperwork with you to court, including:
Copies of everything you've filed with the court concerning your case,
Copies of everything that has been served on you in this case, and
Any other paperwork that is related to your case.
Also bring a copy of any documents you have filed recently to show the judge - just in case the paperwork did not make it into the file.
Prepare, File and Serve a Witness List
If you intend to call witnesses (other than yourself and your spouse or partner) you must prepare a witness list prior to the trial. This list must include the names of all witnesses you intend to call, as well as a brief description of their expected testimony.
Once you have finished this list:
Make two copies of the list - one for the court and one for your spouse or partner. Then take (or mail) the original and two copies to the court to be filed by a court clerk.
You must serve a copy of this list on your spouse or partner.
Make sure your witnesses know how to find the court and what time to be there. It might be a good idea to give them a copy of the checklist on this website for how to dress and how to behave in court.
Find out Where to go and What These Cases are Like
Learn how to be on time for all court dates. Look on a map and find out where the courthouse is. Learn the schedules of the buses that will get you to the courthouse, or figure out what roads would be best if driving. Learn where to park.
It may be a good idea to go to the family court and observe another divorce or dissolution of registered domestic partnership hearing before going to yours so that you can get a better idea of what to expect.
NOTE: If you know ahead of time that you are unable to attend the hearing in person, there may be a possibility for you to arrange to participate by telephone. Call the court clerk in your county for information and to make the necessary arrangements.
Arrange for childcare for your children. Children are not permitted in the courtroom.
Arrange for an interpreter if you will need one. You may use an adult friend or relative to interpret for you.
Plan to dress for your court date as if going to a job interview. If you are coming from or going to work, your uniform or work clothes are fine. Make sure that you have made an effort to be neat, clean, and well groomed.
For a checklist for preparing for your court date, click here.
To view a short video called “Tips on Going to Court”, click here.