Preparing for Court FAQs

Preparing for Court - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I am the defendant in a case that was filed after the statute of limitations ran out. What should I do?

A: If you are sure the statute of limitations has run out, make sure you bring that up to the court in your response form or in some other way. Ask a lawyer how to do this.  Click for help finding  a lawyer.

Q: Can I get help filing my papers by mail?

A: Some courts have people who help with family law, small claims, restraining orders, and other kinds of civil cases. Find help from your court.

Q: What do I do if I get served with court forms?

A:

  • Get legal help as soon as possible! In many cases you only have 30 days to respond. For many hearings (like domestic violence or eviction cases) you only have a few days. The Find Legal Help section of this Online Self-Help Center will help you find people that can help you at little or no cost.
  • Read the forms. Try to figure out what they are about.
  • Take your forms with you when you go to ask for legal help.

Q: I am changing lawyers. Do I need to file anything with the court?

A: You should always keep the court updated if you change lawyers, or if you go from having a lawyer to representing yourself or vice versa.

To do this, you have to fill out and file a Substitution of Attorney-Civil (Form MC-050). This form is required whenever someone changes who is acting as his or her attorney.  If a lawyer is representing you, and you now want to represent yourself, you need to complete this form.  The Substitution of Attorney-Civil will remove one person as the lawyer in the case and replace that person with someone else (you or your new lawyer if you have one).

If you are acting as your own lawyer and then hire a lawyer, you will also need to fill out this form. 

Follow these steps:

  • Fill out the Substitution of Attorney-Civil (Form MC-050). Then, sign it and have the lawyer who is leaving your case (or joining the case) sign it too. Make a copy for each party in the case, including you.
  • Have someone 18 or older, NOT you, mail the other parties a copy of the Substitution of Attorney-Civil.  Make sure the person who does this for you, the “server,” does NOT mail the original.  The original is for the court.
  • Have the server fill out and sign the second page of the Substitution of Attorney-Civil (Form MC-050). This is the Proof of Service, telling the court you served all the other parties with the Substitution of Attorney. Make sure the server writes the names and addresses of all parties involved in the case. 
  • File the ORIGINAL of form MC-050 (with the Proof of Service on page 2 filled out and signed) with the court.  Take your copy as well and make sure the clerk stamps it “Filed.”

Q: I have moved. How do I let the court know?

A: When you have a case in court, you must always keep the court updated with any changes in your address or phone number.  If the court does not have your most current address, you will miss important court notices. Also, once a case is going, a party can usually serve the other party by mail at the address of record with the court. If your address with the court is outdated, you will also miss important papers filed by the other side in your case.  You could lose important rights.

So, in order to keep the court updated, whenever your address changes, you must file an official court form called a Notice of Change of Address (Form MC-040) with the court.


To file a change of address:

  • Fill out a Notice of Change of Address (Form MC-040) and make 2 copies.
  • Have a third person (NOT you) at last 18 years old mail 1 of the copies to the other party in the case. If the other party has a lawyer, the copy can be mailed to the lawyer. If there is more than 1 other party, have your server mail a copy to every party.
  • Have your server fill out the back of the original of the Notice of Change of Address (Form MC-040), which is the Proof of Service. Make sure your server indicates to whom the Notice of Change of Address (Form MC-040) was sent, to what address, and when. Your server also has to sign this form and then return the original to you.
  • Make 1 more copy of the original of the Notice of Change of Address, this time making sure you also copy the filled out Proof of Service on page 2.
  • Take the original and your copy to the court and file it with the clerk. The clerk will keep the original, stamp your copy "Filed," and return it to you.

Q: I want to become an interpreter. Where do I start?

A: Learn more about how to become an interpreter.

Q: I cannot find the person I am supposed to serve with papers. What can I do?

A:  Here are some ways to track someone down:

  1. Send a letter to the person’s last address.  Under your return address, write “Return Service Requested. Do Not Forward.” If the person filed an address change with the post office, you will get the letter back with a new address. Get more information from the United States Postal Service.
  2. Go to the local post office covering the area for the person’s last known address. Ask if the person left a forwarding address.
  3. Call "411" for the city or cities where you think the person may live or work.  If the person is listed, you may be able to get his or her address. Or you may only get the phone number, but you can use the phone number to try other things to get the address.
  4. Search free online telephone directories. You can do an Internet search to try to locate the person. Some Internet searches are free, and if the person is listed, you can get the phone number or address.
  5. Search online on sites that search for people. You may be able to pay a small fee to an Internet company to give you the address or phone number of the person you are looking for. In that case, the more details you have about the person you are searching for (like date of birth or approximate age), the more accurate the results you may get.
  6. Search social networking sites.  You can search popular social network sites where people often list their name, location, and perhaps other information you can find helpful. Or, you may be able to email them through the social network site if you think they may cooperate with you and give you information so you can serve them with legal papers
  7. Use a reverse telephone directory.  If you only know the person’s phone number, you can get the address from a reverse telephone directory, which allows you to search by a telephone number to get the name and address of that telephone number’s subscriber. BUT the address and name will not be in the reverse directory if the phone number is unlisted.

    • You can also use a reverse phone directory online. There are several of these. Just search for “reverse phone directory.”
    • You can also look at a reverse telephone directory at the main branch of your public library.
  8. If you know any of the person’s relatives or friends, contact them for information.  Call, write, or e-mail them and ask them if they have any contact information for him or her. They may not have all the information but even if they only know what city he or she may have moved to, the information can be helpful to you. You can also explain to them why you need to find this person and even if they do not want to give you the person’s contact information, they may be willing to contact him or her on your behalf and give him or her your contact information so he or she can get in touch with you and find out what you want. For some cases, like, for example, a divorce, the other person may also want to be divorced so it would be to his or her advantage to give you a way to get in touch with them.

  9. If you know any of the person’s past employers, contact them for information. Ask the last known employer (or even employers before that) if they have any information about the person’s whereabouts, even if it is just a city where he or she may have moved, or the name and address of the new employer.

  10. If the person you are trying to find owns property, search property records.

    • The county tax assessor's office can search the tax rolls for you. The tax rolls in the assessor’s office list the names and addresses of property owners in the county by both owner name and address of the property. The tax assessor's address and phone number is also listed in the government pages of your phone book. It is usually in the county section under ASSESSOR.
    • You can also get this information from the county registrar/recorder's office . The property owners are listed by name, and each listing includes the location of the property owned. The address and phone number of your county registrar/recorder’s office is also listed in the government pages of your phone book. It is usually in the county section under RECORDER.

  11. If you have any reason to think the person may be in prison or jail, follow these steps:

    • For California State Prison: Call the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).  You must have either the inmate's CDC number or the inmate's full name and date of birth to get information.  Find the phone numbe for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Inmate Locator.  Find a list of California correctional facilities.
    • For Federal Prison: Click for the Federal Bureau of Prison's Inmate Locator database.  You can search the database using the inmate's first and last name or the inmate's Register Number, DCDC Number, FBI Number, or INS Number.  Find a list of federal correctional facilities at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Fill in whatever information you know (like the state or city you are looking for) and hit “submit.”
    • For County Jail: Call the jail. You can usually find the phone number and address for the jail by calling the county sheriff.  Find the contact information for the county sheriffs in California.

      If you do not know if a person is in state or federal prison or county  jail, search for the person in state and federal prison and the  counties where you think the person might be incarcerated.

Be creative!!!
You do not need to know where someone lives or works in order to serve him or her with legal papers. You only need to find the person to give him or her your legal papers through a server. The more you know about someone and his or her habits or the places he or she frequents, the easier it will be to figure out a good way to serve him or her with legal papers. So even if you do not know someone’s address but you know that at a given time he or she generally goes to a certain coffee shop, or to the gym, or to some other fixed place, you can have a server there to give him or her legal papers. You may also make a plan to meet the person somewhere and then have a server with you to give him or her the paperwork when you meet up. You can also hire a private investigator to help you find someone.

Fee Waiver - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Where can I find how much court fees are?

A: Look at the Statewide Civil Court Fee Schedule.  The fees are uniform in all 58 California counties (except for Riverside, San Bernardino and San Francisco counties, where fees may include a small surcharge related to local court construction needs).  Also, most court have their fee schedules posted on their court's website. Click to find your court.

Q: I have to pay court fees that are not included in my Order on Court Fee Waiver (Form FW-003 or FW-008), but I cannot afford them. What can I do?

A:

  • Read the Information Sheet on Waiver of Superior Court Fees and Costs (Form FW-001-INFO).
  • Fill out a Request to Waive Additional Court Fees (Form FW-002), and the top of a blank Order on Court Fee Waiver (Form FW-003).  
  • Make 1 copy of your forms.
  • Turn in your forms to the clerk. The clerk will tell you how long it will take to process your application for a fee waiver.
  • The rest of the process is the same as with your original fee waiver.

Remember: You must sign your request for a fee waiver under penalty of perjury. So, on your forms, you must tell the truth, and your answers must be accurate and complete.

Q: I lost my civil case and owe money to the other side. The court ordered me to pay the other side’s fees, but they had a fee waiver. What do I do?

A: Even if the other side’s fees were waived, you are still responsible for them. You owe them to the court. The judgment against you will not be satisfied (considered paid in full) until you pay back the waived fees of the other side.

Q: I am paying child/spousal/domestic partner/family support. I received an Order to Pay Waived Court Fees and Costs (Form FL-336) that says I also have to pay my spouse’s or domestic partner’s waived court fees. I disagree with the order. What do I do?

A: You can ask for a hearing to request that the court set aside (cancel) the order to pay the other person’s waived court fees and costs.

You must request a hearing within 30 days from the date of service of the Order to Pay Waived Court Fees and Costs (Form FL-336). If you file in time, you will not have to pay the waived fees until the judge makes a decision after the hearing.

To request a hearing:

  1. Fill out a Notice of Motion (Form FL-301) or an Order to Show Cause (Form FL-300).
  2. Fill out an Application to Set Aside Order to Pay Waived Court Fees-Attachment (Form FL-337) and attach it to Form FL-301 or Form FL-300.
  3. Make 3 copies of your forms.
  4. Turn in your forms to the clerk. The clerk will give you a date for the hearing.
  5. 5. Have someone 18 or older serve the other person with 1 copy of the forms that the clerk returns to you AND include a blank Responsive Declaration to Order to Show Cause or Notice of Motion (Form FL-320).
  6. Fill out a Proof of Personal Service (Form FL-330) or a Proof of Service by Mail (Form FL-335) and file it with the clerk.
  7. Make sure you go to your hearing. If you do not go, your request will be denied and you will have to pay back the other side's waived fees and costs.

Q: I received an Order to Pay Waived Court Fees and Costs (form FL-336) that says I have to pay back my waived court fees. I disagree with the order. What do I do?

A: The court may order you to pay back fees and costs that were previously waived for you if the court believes your financial situation has changed. If you disagree with the order, you can ask for a hearing to request that the court set aside (cancel) the order.

You must request a hearing within 30 days from the date of service of the Order to Pay Waived Court Fees and Costs (Form FL-336). If you file in time, you will not have to pay the waived fees until the judge makes a decision after the hearing.

To request a hearing:

  1. Fill out a Notice of Motion (Form FL-301) or an Order to Show Cause (Form FL-300).
  2. Fill out an Application to Set Aside Order to Pay Waived Court Fees-Attachment (Form FL-337) and attach it to Form FL-301 or Form FL-300.
  3. Make 3 copies of your forms.
  4. Turn in your forms to the clerk. The clerk will give you a date for the hearing.
  5. Have someone 18 or older, not you, serve the other person with 1 copy of the forms that the clerk returns to you AND include a blank Responsive Declaration to Order to Show Cause or Notice of Motion (Form FL-320).
  6. Fill out a Proof of Personal Service (Form FL-330) or a Proof of Service by Mail (Form FL-335) and file it with the clerk.
  7. Make sure you go to your hearing. If you do not go, your request will be denied and you will have to pay back the other side's waived fees and costs.

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