Every superior court in California has legal help available in family law and in small claims cases. Several superior courts can also help you with other legal issues, but it varies between courts. This section gives you information on what types of problems court-based services can help you with and how to find out what services are available at your court.
|NOTE: For any of these court-based programs, if you do not speak English well, ask for an interpreter. If these programs do not have an interpreter who can help you, bring someone to interpret for you. Do not use a child to interpret for you.If you are disabled and cannot travel to the courthouse to get help from one of the self-help programs, you may email, write or telephone the program you need help from, like the family law facilitator, the small claims advisor, or the self-help center. This may take more time than going to the office for help. To help you, these programs may need copies of documents and other information from your case file, so be prepared for the process to take longer.|
A family law facilitator is a lawyer with experience in family law who works for the superior court in your county to help parents and children for free.
The family law facilitator gives you educational materials that explain how to:
- Establish parentage (paternity); and
- Get, change, or enforce child, spousal, or partner support orders.
The family law facilitator can also:
- Give you the court forms you need;
- Help you fill out your forms;
- Help you figure out support amounts; and
- Refer you to your local child support agency, family court services, and other community agencies that help parents and children.
The family law facilitator in your county may be able to help you in other ways, too. Some family law facilitators can help you with divorce, child custody, domestic violence, and other family law issues.
Working with the family law facilitator
- The family law facilitator is not your lawyer. He or she works for the court and is a lawyer who can help parents or children who do not have their own lawyer. If you already have a lawyer, the family law facilitator cannot help you.
- You do not have attorney-client privilege with the family law facilitator. What you say to the family law facilitator is NOT confidential.
- Both sides can get help from the family law facilitator.
- The family law facilitator is free. Anyone who does not have their own lawyer can see the family law facilitator. It does not matter how much money you make.
When you meet with the family law facilitator, take:
- Your court case number(s).
- A copy of any orders or judgment in your case(s). If you do not have your court documents, ask the court clerk for copies. The clerk will charge you a copying fee. The court clerk can also give you the court case number.
- If you want help with child support, spousal support, partner support, or court fees, take the following information so the facilitator can better help you calculate support payments or fill out your court forms:
- Your pay stubs for the last 2 months (or bank statements showing direct deposit of your paycheck),
- Proof of unemployment benefits if you are not working,
- Proof of income and expenses from self-employment, and
- A copy of your most recent federal and state tax returns.
Most counties are required to have a small claims advisor to give free legal information in small claims cases. The kinds of services offered vary from county to county. The court clerk’s office can tell you about the services available in your court.
- The small claims advisor is not your lawyer. Lawyers are not allowed in small claims court and you represent yourself.
- You do not have attorney-client privilege with the small claims advisor. What you say to the advisor is NOT confidential.
- Both sides can get help from the small claims advisor.
- The small claims advisor is free. Anyone who needs help with a small claims matter can go to the small claims advisor. It does not matter how much money you make.
All courts in California have a self-help center that can provide free legal help to people who do not have a lawyer. How much help you can get, and with what types of legal problems, varies from court to court.
In some courts, the services are very limited, and the self-help center may only be able to help you with a few family law issues beyond child support and paternity (which the family law facilitator can help you with). In other courts, self-help centers may be able to offer more services and not just in family law but for things like evictions, name changes, guardianships, and others.
Not all self-help centers are called “self-help center” but your court clerk will know what you mean if you ask for information on what the self-help center can help you with.
The rules for self-help centers are the same as with other help from your court:
- The self-help center lawyer is not your lawyer. He or she works for the court and is a lawyer who can help people who do not have their own lawyer.
- You do not have attorney-client privilege with self-help center staff. What you say to the staff or lawyer is NOT confidential.
- Both sides can get help from the self-help center.
- Self-help center services are free. Anyone who does not have their own lawyer can get help from the self-help center. It does not matter how much money you make.
from California Courts