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Family Law

Family Law

The family law serves parties who need to file for dissolution, separation, nullity of marriage, or termination of domestic partnership; establishment of parental relationship; petitions for custody and support; motions for child custody, support, or visitation; support enforcement; adoption; domestic violence; elder abuse; emancipation; and mediation.

Family Law Assistance at Self-Help Center

Parties who need assistance filing any of the paperwork associated with custody, support, or protection can find assistance in our Self-Help Center, either through appointments or classes.

The Self-Help Center is located on the first floor of the Justice Center Courthouse at 12855 Justice Center Drive, Sonora, CA.

Disclaimer: The Tuolumne County Superior Court has made every effort to provide accurate information at this website; however, inaccuracies and outdated information may be found here on occasion.


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

Child Support and Spousal Support

To obtain or modify family support orders, establish parentage, or enforce existing family support orders, the Department of Child Support Services is available to assist you. Information concerning this office is available at

Cooperative Parenting Workshop

For persons going through matters involving custody and visitation of minor children, it is mandatory that both parties attend this workshop and file their certificate of completion with the clerk’s office.

The meeting place for the Cooperative Parenting Workshop: Justice Center Courthouse 12855 Justice Center Drive Sonora, CA 95370

Click here for more information about the Cooperative Parenting Workshop

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is abuse or threats of abuse when the person being abused and the abuser are or have been in an intimate relationship (married or domestic partners, are dating or used to date, live or lived together, or have a child together). It is also when the abused person and the abusive person are closely related by blood or by marriage.

Domestic Violence forms that you can complete online are available here.

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse cases are filed in the civil division. To speak to a clerk regarding elder abuse cases, please call 209-533-5555. There is no fee for filing an elder abuse/dependent elder abuse case. To qualify to file for an elder abuse case, the person asking for protection must be 65 years of age or older. Elder abuse forms are available on line or you can pick up a packet from the civil clerk’s office. You can fill out printable form by clicking

Related resources: Senior Support Services: (209) 586-1320 Tuolumne County Adult Protective Services: (209) 768-7753 Tuolumne County Department of Social Services: (209) 533-5711; or after hours, nights, weekends and holidays: (209) 533-4357 (emergencies).


What is emancipation?

Emancipated allows a youth to be freed from the custody and control of their parents and to have many of the rights and responsibilities of an adult.

Learn more

Establishment of Parental Relationship — Paternity

A paternity case is a legal action filed by an unmarried mother or unmarried father to establish who is the legal father of a child or children. In order to get child support or custody and visitation order unmarried parents must first establish paternity.

For more information on paternity cases, click here.

Family Law Facilitator

The Family Law Facilitator can assist people who are not represented by an attorney and who need to file or answer a petition to establish parental relationship; obtain genetic testing to determine parentage; calculate or modify child and/or spousal support; enforce child support orders; establish or question child or spousal support arrearage; challenge a wage assignment; respond to Department of Child Support Services complaints or motions; prepare an income and expense declaration; obtain court review of the revocation or denial of your driving privileges due to nonpayment of child support and assist with orders after hearing, if so directed by the court.

The Family Law Facilitator cannot give you legal advice or represent you in court, but can meet with both parties in a case.

To make an appointment with the Family Law Facilitator, please call 209-533-6565.

Family Law Case Types

Residency requirement: To obtain a divorce in California, you or your spouse or partner must have lived in California for the last six months, and have lived for the last three months in the county where you file for divorce.

No "fault" required: No one has to prove that either spouse or partner is "guilty" or "innocent".

  • Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)
  • Summary Dissolution
  • Legal Separation
  • Nullity
  • Domestic Partnership

Legal Terms Related to Custody and Visitation

  • Legal Custody: The rights and responsibilities of parents to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of their children.
  • Joint Legal Custody: Both parents share in the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.
  • Sole Legal Custody: One parent has the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.
  • Physical Custody: How much time the children spend with each parent; where the children live; how day-to-day responsibilities are fulfilled.
  • Joint Physical Custody: Children spend a significant amount of time with each parent.
  • Sole Physical Custody: Children reside primarily with one parent and have visitation with the other parent.
  • Joint Custody: This term means both joint legal and joint physical custody. Parents agree to share it all.
  • Visitation: Times when one parent has the children and is fully responsible for them.
  • Supervised Visitation: Visitation is limited to special situations in which a third party, specified by the court, is present. Supervised, monitored visitation may occur when there is a need to protect children because of drug or alcohol abuse, child abuse or neglect, family violence, or other serious problems, or when children are getting to know an absent parent.


Mediation services are available to litigants who have a current case involving the custody and visitation of their minor child(ren). The goal of our mediators is to facilitate a custody/visitation arrangement between the parents that is in the best interest of the minor child(ren). A mediation appointment can be made by calling 209-533-6565. When calling to make an appointment, please make sure that you have your case number and the mailing address of the other party. The mediators will not make an appointment for just one party, both parties must participate. If your case involves domestic violence restraining orders, please advise the clerk’s office when making the appointment, and one of the parties will be instructed to call in at the appointment time so that the restraining order is not violated, and the protected person has a safe environment for mediation. Mediation services are non-recommending, which means the mediator does not testify in court or write any recommendation to the court.

Service of Legal Papers

Service is the procedure used to give notice to a person (such as a respondent) of the papers you filed with the court. This notifies the other party of the action and allows the other party to respond to the proceeding if they so choose. Service is completed by delivering a set of court documents to the person to be served.

Who can serve the papers?

You are NOT allowed to personally serve papers in your own case. Any person 18 years or older may serve papers, except the petitioner or respondent in your case. The person can be a friend, relative, or anyone else. You can also hire a professional to serve the papers for you.

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