Family Law FAQ

What type of cases can be filed in the Family Law Departments?

  • Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)
  • Legal Separation
  • Annulment
  • Petition for Custody and Support
  • Petition to Establish Parental Relationships (Paternity)
  • Registrations of Foreign Orders/Decrees
  • Requests for Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
  • Adoption (Filed only in Metropolitan/Justice Building)
  • Abandonment (Filed only in Metropolitan/Justice Building)
  • Cases initiated by the Department of Child Support Services (Filed only in Metropolitan/Justice Building and Ridgecrest Branch)

Where are the Family Law Departments in Kern County?

When are the Family Law Departments open to the public?

  • Monday-Thursday 8:00 am to 4:00 pm
    Friday 8:00 am to 12:00 pm

What can the Court Clerks' Office do for me?

  • The Clerks’ Office CAN:
    • Explain and answer questions about how the court works;
    • Direct you to agencies where you can get legal information;
    • Give you information about court rules, procedures, and practices;
    • Provide Court schedules and information on how to get a case scheduled;
    • Provide you information from your case file;
    • Provide you with Court forms and instructions that are available;
    • Check your papers for completeness, signatures, attachments; and/or
    • Can answer questions about Court deadlines and how to compute them.
  • The Clerks’ Office CANNOT:
    • Tell you whether or not you should bring your case to Court;
    • Tell you what words to use in your Court papers or in Court;
    • Give you an opinion about what will happen if you bring your case to Court;
    • Talk to the Judge for you;
    • Let you talk to the Judge outside of Court; and/or
    • Change a Court order signed by a Judge.

Is there bilingual staff to assist the public in the Clerks’ Office?

  • Although most Courts have Spanish speaking staff, their availability cannot be guaranteed.
  • Please bring someone who can adequately interpret or translate on your behalf so that you have a complete understanding of the information being provided on your behalf.

How can I find my Court case number?

  • Case numbers are issued when cases are initially open.
  • They are also found on most documents filed throughout your personal case.
  • Public case information can also be found online. Search by your name here: Search Hearings
  • You may also contact the Clerks’ Office in the Court where your action was filed to conduct a search.
  • For the search, the Clerks’ Office will need your name, the name of the other party, the type of case, and the approximate date it was filed. The Clerks’ Office will then conduct a search and provide you with the case number. If your case was initiated before the year 2000, it may take more time to search for the information.
  • Case searches taking more than ten (10) minutes will incur a search fee charge of $15.00.
  • The Court will advise you if the search will incur charges prior to conducting the search.

Can I view/inspect my case?

  • Most Family Law cases are public and subject to inspection on request.
  • If you would like to view a file, you may contact the Court and schedule a dedicated appointment to come into the Clerks’ Office to do so.
  • The Clerks’ Office will make your file available for you to review.
  • Walk-in requests to view files are also allowed, however, many files are housed off-site and require time to locate and retrieve them for viewing.
  • Confidential and/or Sealed cases are not accessible to the public.

How do I know if my Family Law case is public or confidential?

  • Public cases:
    • All Family Law cases, except those listed below as confidential or sealed.
  • Confidential Cases - Accessible only by parties with valid photo identification:
    • Petition to Establish Parental Rights (Paternity)
  • Sealed Cases - Court permission required to access:
    • Adoptions
    • Abandonment
    • Sealed Cases
  • Valid Photo Identification:
    • Drivers License
    • Identification card issued by State Dept. of Motor Vehicles
    • Military Identification
    • Naturalization Identification
    • US Passport
    • Tribal Identification
    • Any other photo identification approved by Court

How can I get copies of documents in my file?

  • Copies are 50 cents per page.
  • Certification of Dissolution (Divorce) Judgment is $15.00.
  • Other Certifications are $25.00.
  • Copy requests can be made by contacting the Court Clerks’ Office where your case was filed by telephone, mail, or email request.
  • Copy requests should include your case number, the name of the document needed; whether you require certification; and the number of copies requested.
  • Be prepared to pay copy fees in advance to receiving your copies.
  • Copy orders are prepared in the order received and may take 15-30 days to fill for larger orders.
  • Fees can be paid with cash, check, or credit card. Additional credit card fees may apply.
  • Contact the Court directly if requesting copies of paternity or other confidential cases.

Can someone else view my case or get copies of my case?

  • Unless a case is confidential or sealed by the Court, Family Law cases are public record and open to anyone requesting to view, inspect, or copy.

How do I know where to file my case?

  • Filing guidelines for new filings are based on the filing party's zip code*.
  • Lamont and Taft residents file in the Metropolitan/Justice Building.
  • Kern River residents file in the Ridgecrest Branch.
  • If you are filing in an existing case, you will file in the Court presently assigned and listed on your paperwork.
  • If you are not certain where to file, please refer to this chart: Appendix A
*Domestic Violence Restraining Order filings can be filed in any Family Law Court-regardless of guidelines.

How do I begin the process?

  • Family Law packets containing various forms used to file for the various case filings are available to the public at all Courts handling Family Law matters.
  • Packets are free.
  • Individual forms are also available online at www.courts.ca.gov/forms and are searchable by form name or form number.
  • Only California forms can be filed in Kern County. You cannot file forms used in another State in California Court.
  • If there is no form for you request or filing, you can submit your filing in writing or typed onto numbered pleading paper using the same format as required on forms.
  • We encourage you to seek legal advice to answer any legal questions or discuss the ramifications involved with your filing as the Court/Court Clerk's Office is prohibited from providing legal advice.

Who can help me fill out the packet/paperwork?

  • Many packets and forms contain information explaining how to complete forms.
  • Assistance may be available at the Self-Help Center located in the Law Library on the 3rd Floor, 1415 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield, CA.
  • The Family Law Facilitator is also available to provide assistance to self-represented litigants.
  • They are located on the 1st floor at 1215 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield, CA.
  • Regional locations may refer to their schedule on the Family Law Homepage to enroll in classes: Family Law Workshops
  • Specific Schedules can be found here:

How much does it cost to file for Divorce or any other documents in Family Law?

  • Filing fees vary depending on the document you are filing.
  • Filing Fees range from $60.00 hearing fees to up to $435.00 for first appearance fees.
  • The State Fee Schedule can be found here: State Fee Schedule
  • If you cannot afford to pay the filing fees, you may be eligible to have your fees waived by the Court. Ask the Court Clerks' Office to provide you with the necessary packet to Request the Court Waiver of Fees. The Court may order you to pay back all or part of the fees and costs that the Court waived for you or the other party.

Where/how do I file documents?

  • Documents can be filed in person at the Clerks’ Office in the Family Department.
  • Documents can also be filed by mail. Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope in order to return endorsed (filed) copies back to you.
  • Documents can also be filed by E-filing. For information on e-filing, Online Services - eFile
  • Each Courthouse, also has a drop box where you can drop off your filing. These are available until 5 pm daily even after the Clerks’ Office has closed to the public.
  • Note: Filings submitted in the drop box are deemed filed the same day if dropped before 5:00 pm.

What will I need to file my documents?

  • All filings should include an Original and up to three(3) copies of initiating documents.
  • An original and up to two(2) copies for responsive documents.
  • Filing fees should also be included with filing documents.

How can I find the status of my filing or case?

  • You can search your case online by clicking here: Search Hearings
  • You can also contact the Court where you filed.
  • Please be prepared by having your Court case number available for reference.

I submitted my documents but I have not received them filed?

  • Documents may take up to seven (7) days to process filings.
  • Orders and Judgments for a Judge to sign, may take longer.
  • If you submitted documents and they have not been filed, please contact the Clerks’ Office.
  • Have your Court case number available for reference.

My copies have a Notice of Rejection/Correction form attached or a similar entry online?

  • The Notice of Rejection/Correction notifies the filing party of a problem with the documents.
  • It also provides you the opportunity to make the necessary corrections to the filing and re-submit them.
  • Some of the most common corrections needed are listed below, but not limited to:
    • Incomplete areas on forms
    • Missing signatures/dates
    • Missing attachments
    • Missing filing fees
  • Questions on the Notice of Rejection/Correction can be referred to the Clerks’ Office.

I’ve moved. Do I need to inform the Court?

  • Parties have a responsibility to notify the each other and the Court when their address of record is changed.
  • A change of address must filed if your move affects your address of record with the Court as all notifications, whether now or future, will be provided to the address of record-despite the amount of time lapsed in your case.
  • Parties are to file Form MC-040 Notice of Change of Address or Other Contact Information with the Court after providing copies to all parties involved in the case.
  • The form must be filed in every pending case.

Do the Courts provide Interpreters in Family Law cases?

  • The Court provides interpreters in Domestic Violence cases.
  • It is important to inform the Court if you, the opposing party, or a witness will require an interpreter and the language necessary.
  • In all other cases, parties are required to provide a certified or registered interpreter at their hearing.

How can I speak to a Judge?

  • Judges are prohibited from informally speaking to parties about their case.
  • This is considered Ex Parte communication and is prohibited when it is outside of the presence of the other party and their attorneys, if any.
  • This includes reading letters or other documentation not formally filed or exchanged with the other party in your case.
  • Filing for a formal hearing by filing motions, Request for Orders, or other documents which will provide a hearing date will provide the forum for parties to speak to the Judge about any requests/concerns.
  • Ex Parte Communication means, “A communication between party/counsel and the Court when opposing party/counsel is not present.”

Can the Court appoint an attorney to represent me in my Family Law case?

  • No, the Court does not appoint attorneys to parties in Family Law cases.
  • In some cases, however, the Court may deem it necessary to appoint an attorney (minor's counsel) to represent child(ren).
  • If minor's counsel is appointed, the Court may order one or both parties to pay counsel fees.

How can I get a Court date?

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  • The Clerks’ Office will schedule a hearing, giving you the date, time and department which should be noticed on your paperwork.

If I don't appear at Court can the Court make orders against me?

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  • The Court will listen to parties who are present at a hearing and make any necessary orders it deems necessary and just.
  • It is in your best interest to file any Responsive Declaration or documentation necessary depending on your type of case and hearing.

How soon can I get divorced?

  • The soonest the Court can terminate your marital status and declare you divorced is no less than 6 months and one day from the date of service of Petition on the opposing party or date of Response.
  • Most litigants are divorced once the Court grants the Dissolution of Marriage either at Trial, by Default, or by Agreement.
  • Your divorce is based on how quickly and effectively you complete all necessary steps to complete the process:

If I married in Mexico or elsewhere, can I file for Divorce here?

  • As long as you have been a resident of the State of California for the last 6 months and of the County of Kern for the last 3 months, you can file for Divorce in Kern County.
  • California recognizes marriages conducted in Mexico.

Is there a fee to amend my Petition?

  • No, there are no fees to file amended documents.

How can I finish a case if the other party refusing to help or move the case forward?

  • There are various ways you can move the case with or without the participation of the opposing party.
  • Please seek legal advice to discuss all aspects and ramifications of your actions in the case.
  • Assistance may be available at the Self-Help Center located in the Law Library on the 3rd Floor, 1415 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield, CA.
  • The Family Law Facilitator is also available to provide assistance to self-represented litigants.
  • They are located on the 1st floor at 1215 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield, CA.
  • Regional locations may refer to their schedule on the Family Law Homepage to enroll in classes: Family Law Workshops
  • Specific Schedules can be found here:

How can I get a restraining order against my spouse?

  • If you are in immediate danger, please contact 911.
  • Ask the Clerks' Office for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Packet.
  • The packet is free and the filing is free of charge.
  • Some agencies available to provide services in this area such as completing forms, providing counseling, representations, and other necessary victim services:
  • Alliance Against Violence and Sexual Assault, 661-322-0931.
  • Women’s Center High Desert, Inc. 661-917-8116.
  • Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Inc., 661-325-5943.
  • Self-Help Center located in the Law Library on the 3rd Floor, 1415 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield, CA.
  • The Family Law Facilitator is also available to provide assistance to self-represented litigants. Located on the 1st floor at 1215 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield, CA.
  • Regional locations may refer to their schedule on the Family Law Homepage to enroll in classes: Family Law Workshops
  • Specific Schedules can be found here:

Can my child(ren) pick where they want to live?

  • Under certain circumstances, the Court may give consideration to the preference of a minor.
  • For more information regarding this, please contact an attorney to seek legal advice in this regard.

What is mediation?

Where can I obtain more information about Child Custody/Visitation and/or other issues related to Family Law?