Tips

  • Read your court papers. Understand what each form asks and how the other side has responded.
  • Make a list of your reasons for each request. Write down the answers the other side gives to each request.
  • Observe hearings ahead of time, if you can, in front of the same judge or for the same type of case as yours. Watch lawyers and how they act in the courtroom, how they speak to the judge, how they ask questions, etc.
  • Research any remaining legal issues in your case.
  • Review all discovery (if there has been any).
  • If you are going to have a jury trial, make sure you understand the rules for selecting a jury. Prepare the questions you want to ask prospective jurors.
  • For a formal trial, outline your opening statement.
  • Prepare all your evidence.

One of the most important steps you can take when preparing to go to court is preparing your “evidence.” Evidence is information a party can present in court to prove their case.

Evidence can be in 2 main forms:

1. Witness testimony (people):
  • The party involved in the lawsuit;
  • Other people who have direct and relevant information about the case;
  • People who keep relevant records; or
  • Experts qualified to given an opinion about some aspect of the case.

Usually, any witnesses must be present in court for the hearing or trial.

2. Exhibits (things):

  • Documents or objects used to prove your case (or disprove the other side’s);
  • Photographs; or
  • Records: police records, medical records, bills, appraisals, school records, financial statements, etc.

To prepare your evidence:

  • Review all your evidence and sort it and organize it so that, even when you get nervous and rushed, you can find what you are looking for.
  • Make sure your witnesses are ready, not just for questions you will ask them but questions the other side may ask.
  • Outline questions to ask your witnesses. Make sure you know what your witnesses will say. And, in your outline, make notes about any documents or other evidence you need to ask your witnesses about.
  • Outline questions to ask the other side’s witnesses. Try to predict what they will say and be prepared with follow-up questions or documents to ask them about.
  • Research and consider likely evidence issues that may come up.

The following guidelines should always be followed in court:

  • Dress neatly and respectfully, as if you were going to a job interview.
  • Take all the papers that have been filed or served and any other documents that you will need to show to the judge.
  • Take blank paper and a pen.
  • Be on time. Allow extra time for traffic or other possible delays. (If you are delayed or unable to attend the hearing due to a car breakdown, sudden illness, or other emergency, contact the clerk for the court department where your hearing will take place on or before your hearing time.)
  • Turn off your cell phone or pager when you enter the courtroom.
  • When your case is called, walk to the table or podium in front of the judge and stand facing the judge.
  • Be prepared to state your name and your relationship to the case.
  • Speak clearly and loudly enough that the judge can hear you. Speak only when it is your turn.
  • When you speak to the judge, act respectfully and call him or her “your honor.” NEVER interrupt the judge.
  • Summarize your point of view.  Explain why the judge should approve (or not approve) each request you have made.
  • If you get nervous in court, look at your list. This will help you to speak to the judge.
  • If you are asking for court orders, make sure that the judge makes an order on EACH item you have asked for.
  • Do not depend on the judge to remember everything you have asked for. If something has been overlooked, tell the judge.
  • Answer all of the judge’s questions and stop talking immediately if the judge interrupts you.
  • If you do not understand something, say that you do not understand. Someone will try to explain it for you.
  • Do not leave the courtroom unsure of what the judge ordered. Make sure you understand the court order and also what you need to do when the hearing is over. You may have to prepare an order for the judge to sign. You may have to wait around for the judge to sign an order. Just ask if you are not sure.

  • Accordion Pro Shortcode

    For married people to get a divorce in California, one of the two situations must apply:

    1. One spouse must have lived in:
    • California for six months AND
    • the county they plan to file in for 3-months.

    NOTE:If you want a divorce, but do not meet residence requirements yet, you can file for a legal separation, and then amend the petition to ask for divorce once you meet the requirements.

    1. OR, in the case of a marriage between two people of the same-sex, the spouses must:
    • have been married in California, but now live in a state or country that will not grant a divorce. The divorce must be filed in the county where the marriage took place.

    Divorce

    Most couples end their marriage or domestic partnership by getting it legally dissolved. This is called getting a divorce.

    • Once a divorce is final, each person is single. Each is again legally able to marry or register a domestic partnership.
    • Each person can ask the judge to order child support, spousal or partner support, child custody and visitation, division of property, domestic violence restraining orders, and other orders.
    • The couple must meet California's residency requirements to get a divorce.

    Legal Separation

    Sometimes, people don't want to get divorced, but they want to live apart and make their own decisions about money, property and parenting issues.

    • Legal separation does not end a marriage or domestic partnership. The people are not legally free to marry or register a domestic partnership with someone else.
    • Like a divorce, each person may ask the judge to order child support, spousal or partner support, child custody and visitation orders, division of property, domestic violence restraining orders and other orders.
    • The couple does not have to meet the same residence requirements to get a legal separation as they do for a divorce.

    Annulment

    Rarely, a court will rule that a marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid. A marriage or domestic partnership that involves incest, for example, is never valid. Other marriages or domestic partnerships can be declared "void" because of force, fraud, mental incapacity, or because one of the spouses or partners was too young to legally marry or register a domestic partnership.

    • Like divorce, annulment ends a marriage or registered domestic partnership. Each person is legally free to marry or register a new domestic partnership.
    • Unlike a divorce, to complete an annulment, you must have a hearing before a judge.
    • Unlike divorce, the couple does not have to meet California's residency requirements to get an annulment.

    The only two grounds for divorce in California are:

    • irreconcilable differences, or
    • permanent legal incapacity to make decisions.

    Normally, people just give "irreconcilable differences" as their reason for wanting a divorce. They don't have to prove anything. There is no "guilty" or "non-guilty" person, from the court's point of view. Sometimes you will hear this referred to as a "no fault" divorce. This means that you can get a divorce without having to prove that someone did something wrong or is "at fault" for the divorce. The only thing the court is interested in is helping the separating spouses or partners reach a fair agreement about how their life will change after the divorce so they can move ahead to rebuild their lives.

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