The court process is initiated by the filing of a motion and the scheduling of a hearing. Notice of the hearing is typically sent to you and any other involved party through the mail or personal service. The papers you receive will explain the reasons for going to court and the steps that you must take prior to your scheduled court date. Please follow the instructions carefully and plan on attending the hearing on the date set forth in the papers received.
Common Questions and Answers-Court Process
- Where do I appear?
- What if I need an interpreter?
- What happens in court?
- What documents should I bring to the hearing?
- What if I cannot attend?
- What if my case has a history of domestic violence or a restraining order?
Q: Where do I appear?
A: Court hearings involving the Department of Child Support Services are heard in Department 416 at the Superior Court located on the fourth floor at 400 McAllister Street in San Francisco. Public transportation (BART and MUNI) is available with a final destination stop of Civic Center. Limited parking is also available on McAllister Street under the Civic Center Plaza (Parking is not free).
Q: What if I need an interpreter?
A: Interpreters can be made available. If assistance in a language other than Spanish is needed, please contact the Department of Child Support Services in advance of the court date.
Q: What happens in court?
A: Upon arrival in Department 416, parties will be required to check in with a representative from the Department of Child Support Services. Shortly thereafter, the commissioner will commence calling cases listed on the court calendar.
Hearings generally begin with the child support attorney presenting the case to the court, including each party’s position, and informing the court of any unresolved issues. After which time, the commissioner may ask questions of both parties, usually related to income and visitation. Parties are not required to take the stand and witnesses are generally not allowed to orally testify in these proceedings.
If the commissioner feels enough information is available to render a decision, an order is taken and the clerk of the court will prepare a legal document called a “Order After Hearing” for both parties. The “Order After Hearing” is the written order of the court. Parties are asked to remain in the courtroom after the hearing to receive a copy of the order.
Should the commissioner feel that more information is needed, he or she will schedule a continuance. A continuance is a re-scheduled court hearing that allows the parties to return to court with the desired information.
Q: What documents should I bring to the hearing?
A: If the case involves establishing a child support amount or modifying the amount of an existing child support order, then please bring a copy of the following documents to court:
1. A completed Income and Expense Declaration
2. Copies of your most current pay stubs
3. Copies of last year’s tax return
4. Proof of health insurance costs
5. Proof of child care and/or medical expenses
6. Proof of disability and/or disability benefits, if applicable
7. Proof of prior incarceration, or current rehabilitation status, if applicable
8. Proof of custody, if applicable
9. Copies of any restraining order, relative to this case
Avoid bringing anything that may be considered a weapon. Please note, the court will not allow anyone under 18 years old to attend the court hearing. Do not bring your children to Department 416. Child care is available in the basement of the courthouse at no cost.
Q: What if I cannot attend?
A: For those unable to attend the court hearing, it may be possible to request a continuance (i.e. rescheduled court date) or to participate in the court hearing by phone. Typically, phone appearances are approved only if the requesting party does not reside in the Bay Area and a written application is made prior to the hearing date. (Please call DCSS to obtain a “Request to Appear by Phone” form if needed).
If you fail to attend the hearing, a decision could be rendered by default (without contest/argument) or the matter could be removed from the calendar. In some cases, a failure to appear will result in an issuance of a bench warrant if the individual who fails to attend the hearing has been ordered to appear or personally served with a subpoena.
Q: How long will I be in court?
A: Expect to be in court anywhere from two to four hours. Most hearings only last 15-20 minutes, but your matter may not be the first case called. Other hearings are scheduled for the same date and time as your hearing. This means you could wait anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours before your case is called.
Q: What if my case has a history of domestic violence or a restraining order?
A: To ensure your safety and the safety of others, deputy sheriffs are located at the front entrance of the courthouse and in each courtroom. Patrons are also checked for weapons and scanned by metal detectors as they enter the building.
Parties with restraining orders or prior domestic violence issues should inform the courtroom deputy and the representative present from the Department of Child Support Services. After the hearing, parties will be asked to leave at different times to avoid conflict or a possible confrontation outside of court. (Note, it is not a violation of a restraining order if parties appear in court on the same case at the same time.)