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Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the court procedures for cases that involve custody and visitation?
Most cases go through the Family Law Facilitator and Self Help Center in Room 509 if you do not have an attorney. After your papers have been prepared and reviewed by the Facilitator’s Office, they must be filed in Room 402. You will be assigned a Monday morning hearing date. This court date is called the Readiness Calendar. Your filed papers must be properly served on the other party in the timeframe required by law. The proof of service should be filed with the Court before the hearing date. You should always keep copies of all of your court paperwork.
Cases that include a dispute over custody or visitation are set on the Monday morning Readiness Calendar. When cases are called, the Court orders the parties to orientation immediately following the calendar call (the orientation is from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.). You also will be given the dates for a mediation session and a court hearing date before you leave the courtroom for orientation.
Cases that include a request for a restraining order, in addition to custody and visitation issues, are set on Wednesdays. The parties proceed from Court to separate 1-hour orientations. Immediately after the orientation, the parties meet with a mediator, one at a time, to work out a parenting plan. The mediation session does not address the restraining order request. That issue will be dealt with after the mediation when the parties return to Court for a short hearing. (See Family Court Services for more information related to mediation services).
- What should I bring to my court hearing?
- You should bring a list of all the things you want the Court to order. You should also bring any papers that will show the Court that it should order what you want. For example, if you don’t want your child to spend the night before school with his or her other parent because your child is late to school on the days following overnights, bring in a signed paper from the school that shows your child’s absence or tardiness on those days.
- Can I talk at the court hearing?
- If you do not have an attorney, the Court is counting on you to act as your own attorney. The Court needs you to say what you’re requesting and why. This is why it’s a good idea to write down your ideas so you don’t forget anything. The Court will want you to describe your request and to present any evidence you have as quickly as possible. Always talk directly to the Judge. You should never talk directly to your child’s other parent or his or her attorney.
- When are other Family Law matters heard?
Requests for Orders and Orders to Show Cause that do not include requests for custody and/or visitation are heard on the 9 a.m. short cause hearing calendar on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Departments 403 and 404. Parties are limited to a total of 20 minutes for their hearing. Requests for Restraining Orders when the parties do not have children together are heard on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. in Departments 403 and 404.
Mandatory Settlement Conferences are scheduled every Friday morning.
Status Conferences are on Monday mornings at 10 a.m. in Departments 403 and 404.
For Discovery motions, please call the Discovery Clerk at (415) 551-3688 for a hearing date.
- How do I calendar a matter that doesn’t involve custody or visitation issues?
Law and motion matters and orders to show cause may be put on the 9 a.m. calendar in the appropriate department on Tuesdays or Thursdays only. These are short cause hearing calendars and parties may not exceed a total of 20 minutes for their hearing. Please select one of these days and put the date on your order to show cause or notice of motion. The clerk will try to accommodate the date as court time allows.
If you are interested in how crowded the court calendar is, or to find out if the Judge is available on a certain date, contact the calendar clerk at (415) 551-3906.
- How do I have both custody and financial issues heard on the same day?
- You may file your Request for Order for both custody and financial issues together. The Court may hear the financial issues on the same day as the custody issue if time permits. Otherwise, the custody matters will be given priority.
- How do I calendar an adoption proceeding?
- All adoptions are heard on Monday morning at 8:45 a.m. in Department 405. The calendar is maintained exclusively by the Adoptions Coordinator. No adoption will be calendared until copies of the decree of adoption, the consent and agreement, and the accounting report have been lodged with the Adoptions Coordinator. The Coordinator can be reached at (415) 551-3900.
- How do I get a copy of a transcript?
Due to state budget cuts, Official Court Reporters will only be provided by the Unified Family Court at the following calendars: Family Law & Motion; Domestic Violence Calendars; Domestic Violence and Contempt Long Cause matters; Self-Represented Litigants Law & Motion calendar; All Child Support matters in department 416; and all Dependency matters. Official Court Reporters will not normally be provided by the Court for Family Law Long Cause hearings or trials. To obtain a transcript, call the Department in which the matter was heard and ask the Clerk who the Court Reporter was on a given date. The Clerk will put you in touch with the correct reporter. If the Clerk is unable to provide you with the Court Reporter's name, call (415) 551-3778. Requests for transcripts also may be made by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Why won’t the courtroom clerk help me?
- Superior Court staff are not permitted, under state law, to give legal advice. You can call the Bar Association of San Francisco Lawyer Referral line at (415) 989-1616 for a possible referral. Please consult the Family Law Facilitator and the Family Law Self-Help Center for other services to help you.
- Is there help to get my papers filled out properly?
- The Family Law Facilitator and Family Law Self-Help Center is located in Room 509 of the Civic Center Courthouse. They will help you put together your own paperwork and will tell you what you do after you’ve finished the paperwork. The Family Law Facilitator services are free and are available in English and Spanish. The Family Law Facilitator does not give legal advice but will help guide you through the paperwork necessary to get into Court. You can contact the Family Law Facilitator at (415) 551-3991 for information on when you can be seen by them.
- Where can I get information about child support payments?
- In many cases the Department of Child Support Services can help you bring a request for child support to Court. In all cases, the Department can help you recover child support payments once the Court has made an order for payment. The Department also can help file papers related to the paternity of a child. You can reach the Department at (415) 356-2700 at the Mission Office. If your zip code is 94124 or 94134, call (415) 550-3500 for the Bayview Office.
- Who can I call if I suspect child abuse?
- If a child is in need of immediate help you should dial 911. If you want to make a child abuse report for investigation, call (415) 558-2650 or 1-800-856-5553. If the abuse is not in San Francisco, call that county’s Child Emergency Services. You can get the phone number by calling information in that county.
- What are the fees for filing papers?
- Call the Clerk at (415) 551-3900 for information or use the link to Fees
- How do I get information about guardianships?
Most guardianships are established through the Probate Department, not through the Unified Family Court. More information is available here.