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Going to Court

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Location of Hearing | Restraining Orders | Meet and Confer | Telephonic Hearings

Learn more about the child support process on the day of a court hearing. Click HERE to watch the new Child Support Informational Video Series "Going to Court."

This section provides an overview of the child support court process and addresses most common questions and concerns.

Both parents will be notified of their assigned court date by phone, through the mail and/or by personal service. Some cases can be settled without having to go to court. If parties would like to settle their case without going to court, they should contact DCSS well in advance of the scheduled court date. If the case cannot be settled, parties will need to appear for the scheduled court hearing.

What to Bring

If the case involves determining what amount to pay for support, then you must file a completed Income and Expense Declaration (FL150) with the court and serve it on DCSS and all other parties to the action. You must also attach the following:

  • Your prior year’s W-2 and last two months paycheck stubs or,
  • Year-to-date profit-and-loss statement and your IRS 1040 tax returns (with Schedule C or C-EZ) filed with the IRS the last two years if self-employed or are an independent contractor

The following information may also be helpful at your hearing:

  • Proof of health insurance costs
  • Proof of child care and/or uncovered medical expenses
  • Proof of support you pay in another case
  • Proof of disability and/or disability benefits, if applicable
  • Proof of incarceration and/or current rehabilitation status, if applicable
  • Proof of timeshare (time you spend with the child(ren))
  • Proof of custody, if applicable

Please understand that your Income and Expense Declaration, proof of income and anything you would like the court to consider must be filed with the Court and served on the DCSS and all other parties in the action prior to your scheduled court hearing.

If you reside out of state or in Northern California or you are disabled, it may be possible to participate in the court hearing by telephone. Click here for information about telephonic hearings.

Location of Hearing

Most hearings will take place downtown at the Central Courthouse. However, hearings related to existing Department of Child Support Services cases in which both parties reside in northern San Diego County could be scheduled at the Vista Courthouse (see address below). Please use the below form to determine the location of your hearing.

Parking

The use of public transportation is highly encouraged. Parking is not provided by DCSS and can be expensive in the downtown area. Due to time considerations, it is recommended that metered parking spaces not be used.

Checking In

If the court hearing is scheduled at the downtown San Diego Courthouse (220 W. Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101), check in with DCSS at the 5th floor customer service window before going to court for your scheduled hearing.

If the hearing is scheduled at the North County Courthouse (325 S. Melrose, Vista, CA), check in with DCSS at our office located in the traffic court annex of the court complex. The annex is located next to the law library. Proceed through traffic court annex and turn right down the hallway, exiting through the set of double doors. Once through the double doors, follow the signs to the DCSS office.

Parties should check-in at 8:00 am for morning hearings and at 12:45 pm for afternoon hearings (NOTE: check-in for afternoon hearings scheduled in North County begins at 1:00 p.m.). When you arrive, inform the customer service representative that you are checking-in for a court hearing. You will be handed a Declaration of Facts information sheet to complete before meeting with a representative. Have a seat in the waiting area to wait for your name to be called. During your wait, you will have an opportunity to watch a video explaining the court process in more detail.

Wait and meet times will vary. Factors that can affect wait time are the number of cases scheduled for hearings that day, whether or not a case requires the other parent’s presence, and the complexity of the case issues. Plan on blocking out either the entire morning or the entire afternoon on the day of your hearing, depending on when your hearing is scheduled.

Restraining Orders

If restraining orders are in effect or there is a past history of domestic violence involving the other party, please let us know when checking in for your hearing and indicate this on the Declaration of Facts form. If necessary, arrangements can be made to meet with each party separately.

Meet and Confer

The court requires the parties meet with a DCSS representative to discuss your case before going to court for the hearing. If an attorney represents either party, that attorney must be present.

During the meeting, the DCSS representative will talk with the parents to review the case. Relatives and friends cannot take part in the meeting. However, limited exceptions can be made such as when a third party is acting as an interpreter.

If the parties can reach an agreement, a DCSS representative will draft a stipulation for each party and a DCSS attorney to sign. Each party will receive a copy, and there will be no need for either party to go to court. Instead, a DCSS attorney will present the terms of the stipulation to the court and the court will conform (approve) the agreement. Once approved by the court, the agreement becomes a valid court order.

If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the DCSS representative will prepare the case to be heard in court. Each party will be asked to read and sign an Advisement of Rights form prior to going to court. The DCSS representative will inform the parties of the time and courtroom for the hearing.

Interpreters

Spanish interpreters are readily available. For other languages, parties are encouraged to bring family or friends who can act as interpreters for the mandatory meet and confer. However, a court certified interpreter will need to be available during the courtroom proceedings. If assistance in a language other than Spanish is needed, please contact the Superior Court business office in advance of the court date at 619-450-5799.

The Court Hearing

Once in the courtroom, a child support Commissioner will hear the case. The Commissioner is appointed by the Superior Court to act as a temporary judge to hear all child support cases. The DCSS attorney presents the case to the court, including each party’s position and informs the court of any unresolved issues. However, it is important to understand that the DCSS attorney does not represent either party.

Once the court is informed of the issues, the Commissioner may ask questions of both parties, usually related to income and visitation. Parties may not be required to take the stand and witnesses are generally not allowed to orally testify in these proceedings. Parties are required to follow all court rules for presenting evidence to the court. Court rules are available on the Court’s website at www.sdcourt.ca.gov.

If the Commissioner feels enough information is available to render a decision, an order may be taken and the clerk of the court will prepare a legal document called a “Minutes and Order” for both parties. The “Minutes and Order” is the written order of the court. Included on the back of the Minutes and Order is payment and contact information.

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 information required for the court to make a decision on the issues.

If one of the parties does not attend the hearing, a decision could be rendered in default. If the party who filed the motion does not appear, the matter could be removed from the calendar and/or denied. Depending on the individual case, a bench warrant may be issued if the individual who has been ordered to appear and does not appear, especially in a contempt or probation revocation action or when a party has been subpoenaed to personally appear.

Please note, the court will not allow anyone under 18 years old to attend the court hearing. Please do not bring children to the hearing.

Telephonic Hearings 

Arrangements can be made for a telephonic hearing in those cases that meet one of the following criteria:

  • Anyone in San Diego who is physically disabled and unable to attend the hearing in person (ADA forms and court procedures govern)
  • Individuals who reside in Northern California
  • Anyone who resides out of state

A telephonic hearing is generally not available in contempt or probation revocation actions.

Procedure

If you are scheduled to participate in a telephonic hearing, you will be mailed copies of the procedures by the court and/or you will be contacted by a DCSS representative prior to the hearing date.

Requesting a telephonic hearing

If you meet the above criteria under "Telephonic Hearings," select the above link to complete and submit the “Request for Telephone Appearance” form directly to the Superior Court Business Office for review. If you need this form mailed to you, please contact the Superior Court Business Office directly at 619-450-5799.

Any documents that a party to a telephonic hearing requests to be considered by the court must be filed with the court and served on DCSS and any other party to the action in a timely manner before the hearing in accordance with court rules.

Parties appearing telephonically must be available by phone two hours prior to the scheduled time for their hearing for a meet and confer. Parties must provide a phone number where DCSS can reach them during this timeframe. A DCSS representative will contact the party appearing telephonically on the day of the hearing. After the telephonic meet and confer process is completed, the representative will inform the party to call the courtroom directly at the specified time previously set by the court.

If the court is not ready to hear the case at the exact time scheduled for the telephonic hearing, the court clerk may instruct the party calling in to call back in 10-15 minutes.

Link to legal FAQs.