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Family Law Information

Family Law Information

  • Dissolution (Divorce)
  • Legal Separation
  • Nullity (Annulment)
  • Domestic Partnerships
  • Child and Spousal Support Enforcement
  • Adoptions - private and stepparent
  • Domestic Violence
  • Establishment of Parental Relationship
  • Child Custody, Support and Visitation
  • Termination of Parental Rights
  • Emancipation of Minors

There are numerous self-help services to assist parties who are representing themselves in family law proceedings. Please see some of the common links below.

Parties representing themselves may find assistance at Legal Self-Help Center, located at the Civic Center, Hall of Justice, Room C-44, San Rafael. The telephone number is (415) 444-7130.

Parties may also try the new California Courts' Online Self-Help Center. The website was created to help Californians find assistance and information, work better with an attorney, and represent themselves in some legal matters.

For parties who are representing themselves in a dissolution, legal separation or nullity case, the court offers a specialized calendar, in which volunteer attorneys, mediators and other legal professionals are available in the courtroom to answer questions and help complete various procedural steps in the case or prepare court documents.

Marin Superior Court has implemented an innovative and effective program called the Interdisciplinary Settlement Conference Program, designed to better meet the needs of families in high conflict custody matters. Once a party has filed a request for a child custody order and at the request of either party the court may set an Interdisciplinary Settlement Conference (ISC). This is a judicially supervised proceeding in which a volunteer mental health professional and a volunteer family law attorney work together with a judicial officer to help parents resolve custody disputes. The goal is to reach agreement by defusing hostility, initiating better communication and cooperation, and offering research-based information about the developmental needs of children. Self represented litigants should contact the Family Court Facilitator to obtain information and forms to file requests for order and how to request an ISC.

Due to the length of time it takes to initiate a new lawsuit, documents received in the clerk’s office after 3:30 p.m. will be time stamped with the current date and processed the following court business day. The date of filing will be the time stamped date. See more information about procedures for filing court documents by clicking here.

PLEASE NOTE: For dissolution of marriage or legal separation in California, there are only two legal grounds. The first is "irreconcilable differences," meaning that at least one party asserts that the marriage cannot be saved. The other reason is "incurable insanity" which, unlike irreconcilable differences, must be proven.

Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce): A dissolution of marriage, which is more commonly known as divorce, ends the marriage and resolves marital issues including child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, asset and debt division (real and personal property), former name restoration, restraining orders, and other issues identified by the parties.

Summary Dissolution: If you and your spouse are in agreement that you want to divorce you may be able to obtain a summary dissolution. The criteria for a summary dissolution include:

  • You were married for under five (5) years
  • There were no children born during the marriage
  • You have very few community assets and debts

View more information about this option, which is less complicated than a regular dissolution of marriage.

Legal Separation: Legal separation is similar to dissolution of marriage, except that the parties remain married to each other. The court may make orders regarding the same issues identified in a dissolution of marriage.

If you open a legal separation action, you may amend your petition before a judgment is entered to request a dissolution of marriage.

Nullity: A nullity is more commonly known as an annulment of marriage. This may only be requested if a party alleges incest, bigamy, minor without parental consent, unsound mind, fraud, force, or incapacity to consummate the marriage.

Domestic Partnerships: If you want to end a registered California domestic partnership, you may be able to do that directly through the Secretary of State’s Domestic Partner Registry. If you do not qualify for the out-of-court process, you need to file a petition in the superior court. If you are not married to your domestic partner, neither party has to live in California. If you are married, you may end the marriage and the domestic partnership at the same time, but one of you must meet California’s residency requirements.

Child and Spousal Support Enforcement: To establish parentage, obtain child support orders, or enforce existing child, spousal, or family support orders, the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is available to assist you. Click here for information about this office. You may also receive legal assistance and information from the Family Law Facilitator, located at the Legal Self-Help Center. All DCSS matters are heard in Courtroom N. If you are a party to an existing DCSS case and wish to modify an existing child support order, please refer to the Local Rules under the topic, Family Law and Motion for more information. To schedule a hearing to have a warrant recalled that was issued by DCSS, please call (415) 444-7043.

Adoptions - Private and Stepparent: Before granting a petition for adoption, the court authorizes an investigation of the adoptive parent(s), regardless of whether they are related to the children or stepparents. Parties are required to pay for these investigations. View more information on the requirements for adoptions. Typically, the court will also consider petitions to terminate parental rights of the parent(s) who is relinquishing their children in this process.

Domestic Violence: Parties alleging domestic violence may file for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. View additional information about Domestic Violence Restraining Orders.

Establishment of Parental Relationship: These are also called paternity cases. The court may make findings of parental relationship in these matters that will have an effect on child support, visitation and custody.

Child Custody, Support and Visitation: Even after marital and domestic partnership issues have been resolved, the court retains jurisdiction over issues that affect minor children in these proceedings until these children reach the age of 18. Parties may file motions to modify custody, support and visitation any time the circumstances warrant such filings.

Termination of Parental Rights: In limited circumstances, such as adoptions or juvenile-dependency cases, the court may find that a parent is unable or unwilling to care for and support his/her children. The court may then end that person’s parental rights and obligations.

Emancipation of Minors: A minor may petition the court for a declaration of emancipation if the minor is at least 14 years of age, willingly lives separately from parents, and managing his own personal financial affairs.

Starting a Dissolution Action in Marin County

A dissolution action may be started in Marin County if one or both spouses have resided in this county for at least the last three (3) months and in the state of California for at least six (6) months.

Starting a Legal Separation or Nullity Action in Marin County

In legal separation or nullity cases, one or both spouses need only be a resident of this county at the time the case is filed.

Additional Rules for Spouses Outside of California

In addition to the residency requirements for starting any termination of marriage action, there are some additional rules to consider if your spouse resides outside of California. Specifically, a spouse who lives in another state or country can object to jurisdiction by the court in California. In that event, this court may be prevented from making important orders in your case. You should seek legal advice about how to proceed if your spouse lives outside of California and likely to object to having the case handled here.

Family Law documents may be filed in person, by mail, or eFiling. Parties will be assigned a hearing date according to the statute requirements and the availability of space on family law calendars.

Please be advised of the following when filing documents:

  • The court will not accept pleadings unless they are legible and either typed or printed, as required by California Rules of Court.
  • If filing by mail, no conformed copies (file endorsed by the Clerk of the Court) of documents will be returned by mail unless a self-addressed stamped envelope, with sufficient postage, is provided.
  • All papers presented for filing must provided in triplicate.
  • If filing by mail, documents submitted for filing without the total filing fee will be returned, without being filed. If filing in person, they will be rejected by the court. For the current filing fees please click here 
  • You may qualify for a fee waiver if your income meets guidelines established by Judicial Council of California. To see the guidelines for fee waivers, please click here.
  • Filings paid with checks that are returned for insufficient funds will be stricken by the court if not subsequently paid by cash, credit card, certified check or money order within twenty (20) calendar days of the date you are notified. The bank fee(s) will be applied to the cost of the subsequent payment.

You may use a fax filing agency or eFiling to submit papers to the court if you are unable to personally deliver them.

For information on how to file for a divorce or legal separation, click here.

To finalize your case, you must have a Judgment entered by the court. Once you have taken the necessary steps (including service of summons, and disclosure of financial information), and you have completed the required forms, you will submit a proposed Judgment to the court for signature.

In a divorce case,  although you may receive your Judgment sooner, your status will not be single until six (6) months and a day after the respondent was served.

For more information about obtaining a family law judgment see the statewide overview of the process, click here.

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