When I consult with a potential client regarding a family law matter, I find that many times litigants do not fully understand all of the free help that is available through the Superior Court which, if used, can help save them significant amounts of time and money. One of these very useful tools is the Superior Court’s website. The Los Angeles County website address is www.lasuperiorcourt.org. On this site you can find all sorts of useful information, both general and specific. For example, if you have an open case and a case number, in most cases, you can enter your case number and find a case summary showing what documents have been filed, what hearings have been held, and when future hearings are set. The site covers not only divorce cases, but information for probate, small claims, civil, and traffic matters as well, to name a few.
Another very useful free resource, especially for divorce litigants, are the Self-Help Centers. Most Los Angeles Superior Courts have some form of a self-help clinic. These are especially helpful to divorce litigants as divorce cases tend to be very paper intensive. Further, there are required documents and disclosures that must be made before a court can terminate a marriage. Without these documents, the court cannot proceed. Having your documentation in order and meeting your filing deadlines will result in less time spent returning to court to get the matter concluded.
The Self-Help Centers are not there to give litigants legal advice, but the staff is present to assist in correctly filling out the required documents. Most of the centers operate on a first-come-first-serve basis, and only at certain times and days of the week; but nevertheless, they are a very useful tool. Thus, if this is of interest to you, you are urged to review the court’s web site for phone numbers and hours of operation for your local clinics.
Another free resource that is available specifically to family law litigants with child custody and visitation issues is the Court’s Conciliation Court. This resource allows litigants to schedule a date and time to meet with a licensed professional, usually a family therapist of some designation, whose job is to assist litigants in formulating custody and visitation plans which are in the best interest of the minor child(ren), given the specifics of the case. There are significant perks associated with this service. The mediation sessions are private and privileged, the experts are solution focused, they have an enormous amount of experience and, therefore, can offer a wide variety of ideas as to practical visitation schedules. The best part of this resource is that you can use it as many times as you have a need. So, if you work out a plan and several months later things change, you can simply call the Conciliation Court and schedule another appointment.