In every family law case, the list of cast includes a Petitioner and a Respondent. No matter what role you play in your case, the rules by which the family court system conducts their business are applied evenly to all, whether you are represented by an attorney nor not. As a result, you must familiarize yourself with the family law rules, the rules of civil procedure, the local rules, as well as the “local local rules”, which refer to the rules followed by the particular department to which your case is assigned.
At every stage of the proceeding, you will be bound by strict deadlines, which, if missed, can result in severe consequences, including the potential inability for you to participate in the proceedings at all. For example, when you are initially served with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you have 30 days from the date of service within which to file your Response. Otherwise, the Petitioner may request that your default be entered and that the court will proceed without your participation.
If you’re faced with contested issues of child custody, child visitation, support, or property issues, you may have to file an Order to Show Cause or a Motion to seek the court’s assistance in resolving the dispute. As moving party, you are bound by strict notice provisions. As an example, all required documents must be served and filed at least 16 court days before the hearing. Depending on the method of service, the deadlines for service vary. If the notice is served by mail, the required 16-day period of notice is increased by 5 calendar days. If the place of mailing and the place of address are not both within the State of California, the required 16 day notice is increased by 10 days, outside of the United States by 20 days, and if by facsimile transmission the period of notice is increased by 2 calendar days.
As responding party, your opposing papers have to be filed with the court and a copy served on each party at least 9 court days before the hearing.
If missed, these deadlines may have negative outcome determinative consequences, including not having your case heard by your judicial officer or having orders made against you without the benefit of your evidence. In light of the above, as soon as you are served with any legal documents, consult with an attorney to gain an understanding with respect to what deadlines you have to meet to ensure your side of the story gets heard.