When you first file, you will not have a case number. The clerk will stamp it on your paperwork, and that will be your case number throughout the case. Once you file as a plaintiff or petitioner, you will always be referred to as the plaintiff or petitioner. This is true even if, later in the case, the other side takes you to court for a related request of some type. Once you file your complaint or petition and your summons, you will have to serve the other side with a copy. This means that you will have to legally deliver the papers to the other side.
Read our section on Service of Process for details on how to do this.
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The respondent or defendant in your case may or may not file an answer or some other type of response. In most cases, he or she will have 30 days from the date you deliver your papers to him or her to file a response. In some cases, like evictions or domestic violence, you will have a lot less time, usually just a few days. If the respondent or defendant does not file any type of response with the court within those 30 days, the court does not just make a decision.
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You can then follow the procedures for requesting a court judgment in your favor. The individual sections on this Online Self-Help Center will explain this in a lot more detail, but for now, just remember that you are not done once you file and serve your lawsuit, even if the other side does not do anything. There are more steps for you to take to get a court order.
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If you are served with a lawsuit, you usually have to file a formal response in court if you want to participate in the case. Writing a letter to the court and either mailing it or dropping it off is NOT enough.
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You need to actually file your response with the court clerk. There are some cases where you can show up at your court hearing without filing papers like in small claims cases , but in general, you should file your response if you want to make sure the judge will hear your side of the story. Keep in mind that if you have a court hearing and have not filed any papers in response, you can still show up at the court hearing and try to explain your side. There are several ways to respond. The most common is to file an answer or a response. But there are also motions requests you can file, depending on the situation in your case.
It is very important that you get legal help to find out how you should respond to a lawsuit.
That means that you can no longer respond or participate in the case, and the court will usually order what the plaintiff or petitioner asked for in the petition or complaint. The individual sections of this Online Self-Help Center will explain how to respond and what to do in a lot more detail.
Get answers to common questions about divorce in California.
Many court filings require a filing fee. So, if you are the plaintiff and are filing a complaint, you have to pay this fee. After the first appearance fee, there are other court fees for filing documents, but they are smaller amounts. The fees are uniform in all 58 California counties except for Riverside, San Bernardino and San Francisco counties, where fees may include a small surcharge related to local court construction needs.
Also, courts have their fee schedules posted on their website. Click to find your court's website. If you are low income and cannot afford to pay the filing fee, you may qualify for a fee waiver. Click for information about fee waivers.
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Changing your address or contact information. When you have a case in court, you must always keep the court updated with any changes in your address or phone number or your name, if you change your name. If the court does not have your most current address, you will miss important court notices. Also, once a case is going, a party can usually serve the other party by mail at the address of record with the court.
If your address with the court is outdated, you will also miss important papers filed by the other side in your case. You could lose important rights. So, in order to keep the court updated, whenever your address changes, you must file an official court form called a Notice of Change of Address Form MC with the court. Changing lawyers—Substitution of attorney.
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You should also keep the court updated if you change lawyers, or if you go from having a lawyer to representing yourself or vice versa. This form is required whenever someone changes the person who is acting as his or her lawyer. If a lawyer is representing you, and you now want to represent yourself, you need to complete this form.
The Substitution of Attorney — Civil will remove one person as the lawyer in the case and replace that person with someone else you or your new lawyer if you have one. If you are acting as your own lawyer and then hire a lawyer, you will also need to fill out this form. Skip to main content Skip to topics menu Skip to topics menu. Cancel Print. The following is a very general overview of the required steps note that there may be additional forms or procedural steps that must be taken within each subsection which are not covered here. If you anticipate that you are going to have to go through your divorce without participation of your spouse, your Petition should be very detailed regarding what you are seeking and all property that needs to be divided in your divorce.
If you already filed a basic Petition and later found out that your spouse is not cooperating in the divorce, you will likely need to re-file an Amended Petition with much more detail. If you have an uncooperative spouse, you will likely need to personally serve your spouse with all of the required divorce paperwork. Proof of service must then be filed with the court. Once served, your spouse has 30 days to respond to the Petition by filing a Response.
Whether your spouse chooses to participate or not, you are required to serve the necessary financial disclosure documents and file proof of such service with the Court. Once 30 days pass without a Response filed by your spouse, you may now file your final judgment paperwork with the Court the forms necessary depend on the orders requested.
If you anticipate that your spouse will not file a Response, you might prepare your paperwork during the day period, so that it is ready to file immediately. There is a chance that, if your spouse has had absolutely no participation in your divorce, the judge may request that you appear in court to testify that all of the information contained in your paperwork is true.