Introduction to the Three Courts that Handle Family & Children Matters

This section will explain the three courts in California that make legal decisions about family issues and the care of children. Just because your situation seems to fit into the description of cases that happen in one type of court…does not mean the case will definitely be heard and decided by a judge in that court.

Family law cases can be long, complicated, and difficult to navigate. Every case is different and every county handles cases dealing with family and children a little bit differently. It can even vary by judge within the same county!

But don’t let this overwhelm you. There are people you can contact to get help with your family law situation so you do not have figure things out alone:

    First, there are Family Law/Self-Help Centers in every county that can help you decide which court to go to, where to file your forms, and what kinds of documents to show as evidence.
    Second, you can also read this Chapter and call Root & Rebound’s Reentry Hotline (any Friday, 9AM – 5PM, at phone number 510-279-4662) for more information about reunifying with your children or working through a family law case when you have a criminal record. We accept Collect Calls.
    Third, for a list of legal aid offices in your region of California that may be able to help you, see PG. 1075.
  1. What are the different courts in California that make decisions about family and children?

  2. Where can I find the court forms I need to start a case in one of the 3 family-related courts?

  3. I am currently incarcerated. Can I go to a court hearing for a case involving my child?

  4. I am currently incarcerated. Can I get visitation ordered with my child?