Services at Your Court

Most people think courts are just for trials. But courthouses offer many services.

Court Clerk

The court clerk is the official record keeper of the courthouse.

The clerk:

  • Files your papers with the court;
  • Collects filing fees;
  • Helps you find court forms;
  • Helps you find the local court rules;
  • Tells you about places where you can go to talk to a lawyer; and
  • Tells you about court schedules.

The clerk can also help you find old records like a divorce decree, or give you information about what documents have been filed with the court. Click to find out how to get court records.

Read Form MC-800 to find out more about how clerks can help you.

Self-Help Centers, Small Claims Advisors, and Family Law Facilitators 

Every superior court has some help available to people who do not have lawyers and need legal information. The types of cases you can get help with and how much help you can get varies in different counties.

In every county you will find:

  • Family law facilitators (FLFs), to help with child support and paternity/parentage problems. You may also be able to get help with other family law issues, so contact your FLF to find out.
  • Small claims legal advisors (SCLAs) to help with small claims cases.
  • Other self-help assistance such as self-help centers (SHCs), which can help with many kinds of problems like divorce, custody, restraining orders and evictions, depending on the county.

The FLF, SCLA, or SHC in your county may also refer you to others who can help you.
Our web page on Help From Your Court gives you a lot more detail about these self-help services and links for finding the right help in your court.

Court Interpreters

By law, in California all official court business must be conducted in English. So, when 1 of the parties or witnesses in a case does not speak English well, that person will need a court interpreter (who speaks English and the non-English speaker’s primary language) so he or she can understand what is going on and talk to the judge, if needed. 

An interpreter is different from a translator because while interpreters translate what is being said, translators translate written materials. Some interpreters are translators and some translators are interpreters. But just because someone is a translator does not mean they can interpret, especially not in court, where the legal language is very specialized and can be complicated and confusing to someone who does not know it well.

In some cases (such as criminal cases), the interpreter is paid for by the court and may be a court employee. Often, as in most civil cases, the person needing the interpreter must get and pay for his or her own interpreter or get a friend to help interpret. 

If you need an interpreter, start by asking someone who speaks English to call the court clerk at least a week before your hearing and ask for a court interpreter for you. You may have to pay a fee.

If the court interpreter is not available, it is your responsibility to get your own interpreter. You can ask a friend, relative or someone else to interpret for you when you go to court.  Do not ask a child or a witness to interpret for you.

Keep in mind that just because someone you know speaks both English and your first language does not mean he or she would be a good interpreter. A court interpreter needs to be familiar with legal terms and concepts in both English and your first language, and most people are not. If you get someone who cannot accurately interpret everything the judge or the lawyers are saying to you, you may miss important information and be at a disadvantage. Court hearings are your 1 chance to tell your side of the story to the judge. If you have an interpreter that does not get across what you are saying exactly as you are saying it, you will not have a second chance to talk to the judge. That is why it is very important you have an interpreter with experience.

Using a court interpreter can be awkward because you have to go through a third person to get your information or talk to the judge.  Get tips to help you work with a court interpreter.

To make sure you get an experienced court interpreter, you should consider a professional interpreter who has passed the required examinations and has officially registered and been approved as a court interpreter by the Judicial Council of California.

There are 2 types of officially approved court interpreters in California:

  • Certified court interpreters:  Only interpreters who pass the Court Interpreter Certification Examination and register with the Judicial Council are referred to as “certified" in 1 or more of these 13 languages:

American Sign Language AND
Arabic Mandarin
Eastern Armenian Portuguese
Western Armenian Russian
Cantonese Spanish
Japanese Tagalog
Korean Vietnamese
  • Registered court interpreters: Interpreters of spoken languages for which there is no state certifying examination are called “registered interpreters of non-designated languages.” They must pass an English proficiency examination, and register with the state’s Judicial Council.

Click for a list of certified and registered court interpreters.

ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) Coordinators

California and federal law require that the courts (and government agencies) provide appropriate accommodations for persons with disabilities. 

Each court has an Americans With Disabilities Act Coordinator to help persons with disabilities. You can ask a court clerk to speak with your court's ADA coordinator. Visit your court's website to find your court's ADA coordinator.

You can receive reasonable accommodations from the courts if you have a disability, have a record of a disabling condition, or are regarded as having a disability that limits 1 or more major life activities, like caring for yourself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, breathing, learning and working. 

To request an accommodation from the court, fill out the Request for Accommodations by Persons With Disabilities and Response (Form MC-410 | video instructions ).  You can find this form online, or at your clerk’s office. The form and instructions are available in different formats, like Braille and large print, on request.   If the form is unavailable, you can make your request in writing or verbally to your court’s ADA coordinator. 

For Persons With Disabilities Requesting Accommodations gives you more information about the court's policy for providing accommodations for persons with disabilities.  You can also ask your court’s ADA Coordinator for more information.

Children’s Waiting Rooms

Some courthouses have waiting rooms for children. Before you go, call your court clerk and ask if they have one. Find out their hours and their policies (like, whether there is a minimum or a maximum age requirement).  Click to find your court's website.

If your courthouse does not have a children’s waiting room, try to leave your child with a babysitter, a friend, or a relative.  It may be very hard for you to make other arrangements for your children, but you will be more relaxed if you do not have to worry about your children while you are in court.   Also, in family law cases where you may have to face your former partner or spouse, ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, or your children’s other parent, bringing your children with you can expose them to fighting between the 2 of you and can put them in the middle of your disputes.

But if the judge orders your child to come to court, make sure you follow the court order.