What to Expect in Court

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In California, spousal or partner support 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 and a bailiff, 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
  • Before the case is called, the former spouses or partners (or their attorneys) are to meet to exchange information and copies of any documents they have for the court. They also are to discuss what they want to happen, and see if they can reach any new agreements.
  • If the two former spouses or partners are able to agree to anything new, then when their case is called they are to let the judge know what issues they agree on and what issues they still need the court to decide.

When the case is called, the judge will speak to each of the former spouses or partners, and any other people involved, and then make a decision about ordering support based upon many considerations. Some of those considerations are:

  • the standard of living established during the marriage or registered domestic partnership;
  • the age and health of both people,
  • how long they were married,
  • how much each earns or could earn on their own,
  • the expenses of each,
  • the number of children at home, and
  • how they handled their finances when they were together.

The judge will use (California’s Family Code, Section 4320) Opens new window as the basis for his or her decision.

At the hearing, the judge may also order:

  • medical support;
  • the costs of counseling, retraining, or education;
  • or other issues.

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

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 yet. See "After the Hearing".


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