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Family Law

Family law issues include dissolution (divorce), legal separation, child custody and visitation,  guardianships, child support, spousal support, domestic violence, and elder abuse.

Family Law Cases

The Family Law division serves parties who need to file for Dissolution, Separation or Nullity of Marriage; Establishment of Parental Relationship, Petitions for Custody and Support, Motions for Child Custody, Support, or Visitation, Support Enforcement, Guardianship of Minors, or who seek protection from Domestic Violence, Workplace Violence, Civil Harassment, or Elder Abuse. Parties who need assistance filing any of the paperwork associated with custody, support, or protection can find assistance in our Self-Help center.

Trinity Superior Court provides an Access to Justice Self-Help Center, located on the first floor of the courthouse, which includes the services of a Mediator and a Family Law Facilitator who can assist with filling out forms.  Office hours are 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM Monday through Thursday. Call (530) 623-5641.

Dissolution /  Separation

Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce):

A dissolution of marriage, which is more commonly known as divorce, terminates the marriage and resolves marital issues including child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, asset and debt division (real and personal property), former name restoration, restraining orders, and other issues identified by the parties.

There are only two legal grounds for dissolution of marriage or legal separation in California. The first is "irreconcilable differences", meaning that at least one party asserts that the marriage cannot be saved. The other reason is "incurable insanity" which, unlike irreconcilable differences, must be proven.

Summary Dissolution:

If you and your spouse are in agreement that you want to divorce you may be able to obtain a summary dissolution. The criteria for a summary dissolution include:

  • You were married for under five years,
  • There were no children born during the marriage,
  • You have very few community assets and debts.

Legal Separation:

This is similar to dissolution of marriage, except that the parties remain married to each other. The court may make orders regarding the same issues identified in a dissolution of marriage.

If you open a legal separation action, you may amend your petition prior to judgment to request a dissolution of marriage. That will allow you to "start the clock" on the waiting period for divorce (six months from date of service), provided that you follow some special instructions.

Child Custody

Family Code Section 3170 requires mediation, or Child Custody Recommending Counseling (CCRC) services, in Family Law cases when separating or divorcing parents cannot agree on custody and visitation arrangements for their child.  The parenting plan addresses such topics as legal custody, physical custody, timeshare or visitation schedules, telephone contact, transportation and any other special needs or issues pertaining to child custody and visitation.  Other topics that may be discussed include domestic violence and substance abuse issues.

However, if the parents cannot agree on the issues and are unable to develop a parenting plan together, the Child Custody Recommending Counselor will prepare a recommendation regarding custody and visitation issues for the Judicial Officer’s consideration.  The Judicial Officer will then make orders regarding the custody and visitation issues in the case.

For further information see:


A guardianship is a court case in which a person who is not the parent of a child asks for custody of the child, the power to manage the child’s property, or both. There are two types of guardianships. Most cases go to the Probate Court. But if the child is a dependent or ward of the juvenile court, guardianship must be decided in Juvenile Court.

Child Support / Spousal Support

Child Support:

is the amount of money that a court orders a parent or both parents to pay every month to help pay for their child's living expenses. California state law says that every parent has a duty to financially support his or her child.

Child support may be requested by either parent of a child, or by the person that has legal or physical custody of the child. There are different ways to ask for child support orders, depending on the situation. A parent can ask for child support alone, or as part of another family law court case, for example, a Divorce, or Domestic Violence case. If the parents of the child are not married, paternity (legal fatherhood) must be established before support can be requested.

Child support is for the purpose of providing food, clothing, medical care and ability to get an education.

The Self-Help Center can calculate child support and temporary spousal support payments using the state guideline calculator.  The Center is available to help you prepare the necessary forms to obtain an initial support order or modify an existing order.

Spousal Support

When two people separate or divorce, the law tries to ensure that each former spouse or partner has a just and reasonable amount of money to live on.

Often, the former spouses or partners can agree on the amount of money for support that they both think is fairly reasonable.  However, if they cannot agree, the court may be requested to order one former spouse or partner to pay the other an amount for a period of time that the court determines is just and reasonable.

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence can be physical violence, a verbal threat of physical violence or a pattern of harassing behavior.

The victim and the abuser must have a close relationship (married, divorced, separated, dating or used to date, live together or used to live together as a couple), or be related (parent, child, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, in-laws).

Domestic violence is also called “abuse”. "Abuse" means to hurt, throw things, pull hair, follow, harass, sexually assault, murder, break into the victim’s home or work, destroy or steal the victim’s property, intimidate or to threaten to do any of these things. Abuse can be spoken, written, emotional or physical.

Domestic violence is always bad for children. It is never OK, in any family.

If you are in danger, ask a law enforcement officer to ask for an Emergency Protective Order from a Judge. You can ask for an Emergency Protective Order any time of the day or night. But, an Emergency Protective Order only lasts for 5 court days or 7 calendar days. To get a restraining order that lasts longer, you must file papers in Family Court.

Elder Abuse

You can ask for an Elder or Dependent Adult Restraining Order if:

  • You are 65 or older,
  • or you are between 18 and 64 and have certain disabilities;

And  you are a victim of:

  • Physical or financial abuse;
  • Neglect, abandonment; or
  • Treatment that has physically or mentally hurt you.

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