The process of litigating a Family Law or Divorce case is generally identical to the procedures used in any other type of Civil Litigation matter. A new case if field with a Summons and a Petition for Dissolution. The responding party will subsequently file a document with the Court called a Response to Petition for Dissolution.
The process of actually obtaining a court date to request a typical court order such as a request that the Court make orders for Child Support, Spousal Support or Child Custody starts by filling and serving a form called a Request for Orders. This document will have on the cover the address of the Court House, the topics that the requesting party is asking the Judge to consider, and the date and time of the hearing. The number of days before the court date that the papers have to be served on the other party depend on several factors, such as if the responding party was served by personal service or by mail, or if the responding party lives outside of the State of California.
In general, the responding party will have at least two weeks before the court date to prepare and file their own responding papers.
However, the California Code of Civil Procedure and the Sacramento County Court Local Rules have a process available if there is a need for a party to request a temporary emergency order.
This process is known as a request for an Ex Parte Court Order. This process is only for serious matters and it should only be used when a matter of great seriousness has come up and it is not possible to wait two or more weeks for a regular court date.
The Ex Parte process may only be used when there is a risk of immediate, and serious harm unless the Judge makes an immediate order. This will most often arise in a situation where there is an emergency situation involving the custody of the children. The requesting party must be able to show the Judge that the current situation is just too dangerous for some reason and the Court must address the problem immediately.
In Sacramento County Family Court, a request for an Ex Parte order must be brought to the Court House between 8:30 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. The moving papers must be brought directly to the Court Room. The requesting party is generally required to give telephone notice to the other party at least 24 hours before that time that the requesting party will be at the court house.
The Judge may only have a few minutes to deal with the Ex Parte request. Remember, the Judge did not know the case would be there that day and all the regularly scheduled hearings maybe given priority. A party should be prepared to sit and wait for quite a while before the Judge gets to their case.
The Judge will review the papers presented by the requesting party. The requested emergency orders will be either granted or denied. If the order is granted, it will most likely be temporary. The Court will set a further court date a few weeks out to take another look at the matter and give the responding party time to review the matter and prepare a full response.
The most important thing to keep in mind when considering an Ex Parte court appearance is that this process should not be abused. It is for serious and immediate situations only. The Courts have a very heavy case load. Unless there is an urgent situation , parties should file a regular motion.