What to Expect in Court

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In California, divorce and dissolution of registered domestic partnership hearings take place in a courtroom in front of a judge or a commissioner. In the same courtroom there will also be a court clerk Opens new window and a bailiff, Opens new window and usually other people in the room. For example, there may be people waiting for their case to be heard.

Special Note:  The following are general guidelines.  The actual rules may be different in each court, so learn your county's local rules of court on trial procedures.

  • To find your county's court website, click here. Opens new window

When the case is called, the judge will speak to each of you (or your attorneys) and then make a decision about how to divide what you own and what you owe, whether one spouse or partner will be responsible for paying support to the other, and any other issues that are appropriate for your case.

The judge may make orders for:

  • Spousal support
  • Value and divide property
  • Value and divide debts
  • Award one party control of property.

If you have children, the judge may also make orders (if this hasn't happened already) that:

  • Establish child support
  • Determine how much time (custody) the child or children will have with each parent
  • Decide who has the authority to make medical decisions
  • Establish parentage
  • Order medical support
  • Order transportation expenses for visitation
  • Order the parties to equally share the cost of day care, and insured medical expenses, and
  • Other orders as needed

There may be more than one court hearing before the case is completed. 

The court may order a Family Centered Case Resolution Plan to assist it and the parties in managing the case.

It is the responsibility of the people bringing the case to court to do all of the paperwork. When it is completed correctly and the judge has made a decision, he or she will sign a court order clearly stating what the decision is.

ALERT! The case is not finished even after the judge makes a decision. See After You Get Your Judgment.


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