Stockton Family Court: The 6 Basics Things You Should Know for Family Courts
What is the purpose of a family court? What happens in family courts
? Anything involving the law can be scary and is often tricky, including the vocabulary. Let’s find the answer to these questions together.
1. Family Court
A family court is a dedicated court to decide family issues. Abuse, neglect, custody, visitation rights, family offenses, children who may have committed crimes, paternity, support of children, adoption, and termination of parental rights are matters handled in family courts. More generally, issues surrounding children and parents or potential parents.
The first step, bring your case into the Family Court is to file a petition. Just for future reference, a Petitioner is the individual filing the petition. The Respondent is the person you’re filing the petition against.
Family Court Clerk’s Office provides this form and is easy to access. A petition is a sworn statement giving only the facts of the case you want the Family Court to decide. A lawyer will fill this out for you, but if you don’t have one, you’ll have to fill it out yourself. If there’s been no prior court intervention, the petition needs to state why the petitioning parent feels he or she should take care of the child or children. If there has been a previous order in either a Family or Supreme Court, the petition must clearly state a substantial change in circumstances which justifies bringing the case back to court.
3. First Hearing
During the first appearance, the judge will try to determine what exactly has happened to the child in the past and ensure the child is safe. Usually, the applicant speaks first, or the applicant’s lawyer. Let your lawyer do all the talking. If you want to speak, make sure you went over exactly what you want to say with your lawyer first. Whatever you want to say might hurt your case, so always consult your lawyer. Both parties get their chance to present their side of the story. If necessary, the child will be in the temporary custody of another guardian as the safety of the child is the judge’s primary concern. He’ll try to explain each parties rights unless both parties have lawyers. Sometimes a judge will assign a lawyer to the individual who can’t afford one.
If there is a lot of conflict between both people, both attorneys need to discuss matters with each other and the law guardian, if possible. They must then present a reasonable temporary solution to the Court. If this case includes serious charges, the judge can order a warrant for arrest. At the end of this first hearing, the judge will pick a date for the lawyers to reconvene to discuss the petition, and determine if a trial is necessary. If a trial is necessary, the judge will schedule that date.
Your lawyer is there to protect your rights. Collaborate with your lawyer, so your case will be as strong as possible. When you meet with your lawyer for the first time, make sure you get her contact information and pick a date to review your case before the next court date. Make sure you understand your position and the circumstances that brought you to the Court. You should have a copy of the petition, if you don’t have it, get it. Bring as much information and supporting evidence with you when you meet with your lawyer. The more facts, the better. Your lawyer acts in your best interest and is legally required to keep confidential information private if it doesn’t help your case.
5. Your Case
It’s crucial you appear in court each time on the date and time set. If the Petitioner fails to show up, the judge may dismiss the petition without further hearings. If the Respondent fails to appear, the judge may grant the petition without further hearings. Sometimes the court can arrest you if you don’t come as expected. On the day of your court hearing, be more than on time, be early. Make sure your lawyer knows if there are any changes, in case you need to reschedule the court date. If you’ve forgotten or lost your court date, contact your lawyer or the Family Court Clerk’s Office immediately.
The trial in Family Court may have one or two parts, depending on the situation. Custody, paternity, and visitation cases are quick and only have one part. Cases involving offenses, Juvenile Delinquency, abuse or neglect are more complicated and need two parts. The fist part is the fact-finding hearing; the second is the dispositional hearing. The judge conducts everything. During the fact-finding hearing, all relevant facts and supporting evidence come before the judge. If there isn’t enough evidence to support the reported facts, then the case ends here. Occasionally the Petitioner will be withdrawn, meaning the process discontinues. If the facts are true for the one part cases, the judge will make a call during the fact-finding hearing. If the facts are true for the two-part cases, the case moves from the hearing process into the dispositional hearing.