1. What is a Civil Case?
Civil cases generally refer to disputes between parties. The parties may be individuals, businesses or government entities. The dispute may involve issues related to money or to issues such as determining ownership rights in real estate or personal property.
The term "civil cases" does not include criminal matters, family law (such as dissolution of marriage and support), probate, adoption, small claims or cases filed in juvenile court.
2. What do I need to do to start an action?
Before commencing a civil action a party should thoroughly read the California Rules of Court, Civil Rules, Civil Code of Procedures and the Local Rules of the Stanislaus County Superior Court: Civil Cases.
There are mandatory forms created by the Judicial Council which must be used by all parties and optional forms that may be used. The forms are available online at http://www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm. Reviewing those forms may answer certain questions that you may have.
3. What if I am served with a Complaint or a Petition?
Generally, you must file a written response to a complaint or petition no later than thirty (30) days after you have been served. Read the summons to make sure that you have thirty (30) days. For example, in unlawful detainer cases, you have to file your written response within five (5) days.
You probably will be served with other documents at the same time. You may be served with a document that advises you of the date, time and location of a case management conference or other hearing. Please read this document carefully and calendar the date, time and place that you are scheduled to appear. If you have been served with notification of a Case Management Conference hearing you will want to note the last date that you must serve and file a written case management conference statement with the Civil Division Clerk's Office.
If you have insurance please turn over all the papers served upon you immediately to your insurance agent or insurance company.
4. What if I don't file a timely written response - can I just show up?
If you fail to file a written response with the Clerk's Office within the time period set forth in the summons the other party may enter a default. If you are defaulted against, the other party can seek to have judgment entered against you without your presence and opposition.
If your default is entered, you must act quickly. There is a time limit and if you delay, you may be too late. You may request the party who is suing you to stipulate - agree in writing - to set your default aside. If this is done, you then can ask the Court to allow you to file an answer based on the written stipulation.
You may need to file a written motion with the Court to set aside your default, any default judgment that may have been entered against you and allow your proposed answer to be filed. There are a number of procedural requirements for such a motion and you must meet all of the requirements.
5. What if I am acting as my own lawyer?
First, you may represent only yourself and not anyone else including any of your children.
Second, you are required to follow all the rules and procedures required of a lawyer.
Third, the judge assigned to your case cannot be your lawyer or give you legal advice since the judge must be impartial to all sides.
You may also wish to utilize the services of the Court's Self-Help Center which is located in Room 220 of the courthouse.
6. How do I file a response to an unlawful detainer?
You may purchase the Answer and Proof of Service forms from the Clerk's Office located at the Turlock Court at 300 Starr Avenue between the hours of 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday - Thursday or 8:00 a.m. - noon on Friday. The forms may also be downloaded from the Court's website at www.stanct.org. There is a first appearance fee of:
$225.00 per defendant in a Limited Unlawful Detainer action (under $10,000)
$370.00 per defendant in a Limited Unlawful Detainer action (amount over $10,000 up to $25,000)
$435.00 per defendant in an Unlimited Unlawful Detainer action (over $25,000)
The Answer and Proof of Service must be filled out completely before the Clerk's Office will accept it for filing. All documents must be signed, dated and either typed or hand printed (in black or blue ink).
7. What if I cannot pay first appearance fees?
You may request that the Court waive the filing fees by filing a Request to Waive Court Fees and Costs and Order on Request to Waive Court Fees and Costs. These forms may be obtained from the Civil Division Clerk's Office or downloaded from the Judicial Council website on the link provided. Your fee waiver application and order must be submitted at the same time as you are filing the document(s) requiring fees.
Fee waivers cover filing fees and reasonable copies, but do not cover the costs of forms or packets.
8. How many days do I have to file an Answer?
It depends on the type of Complaint in which you were served. You must read the Summons to determine how many days you have to file a written response with the Court.
In Unlawful Detainer actions you have five (5) calendar days from the date you were served with the Complaint and Summons to file an Answer with the Court. To calculate the five days, count Saturday and Sunday but do not count other court holidays. If the last day to answer falls on a Saturday, Sunday or a court holiday then you have the next court day to file your response.
9. Where can I go for assistance in completing the paperwork?
The Clerk's Office cannot make recommendations or referrals to attorneys, paralegals or typing services. You may contact the Stanislaus County Bar Association's Lawyer's Reference Service at (209)571-5727.
For Unlawful Detainer cases, you may also seek the assistance of the Landlord/Tenant Clinic located in the Court's Self-Help Center at: 800 11th Street, Room 220, Modesto, CA 95354. The hours of operation are: Monday - Thursday from 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. They are closed on Fridays.
10. Are there any websites that offer guidance?
11. What is a Restraining Order?
A Restraining Order is a Court Order that protects you from physical or emotional abuse. It can also protect you from being stalked or harassed.
The following types of Restraining Orders are filed in the Civil Division:
If you are seeking a Domestic Violence Restraining Order or an Elder Abuse Restraining Order, you must seek such orders with the Family Law Division.
12. How much does a Restraining Order cost?
In most cases, there are no Court fees to get a Restraining Order. A filing fee of $435.00 may be applicable in Civil Harassment, Workplace Violence and School Violence Prevention cases.
13. What kinds of orders can I get from the Court?
There are five types of restraining orders that can be filed with the Court:
Elder or Dependant Abuse
If you are the victim of a criminal offense, the Court may order a protective order be issued to protect you from the perpetrator of the crime. It is usually ordered upon the request of the District Attorney on your behalf during the criminal proceeding. This type of restraining order is a Criminal Protective Order. You may contact the District Attorney for more information.
Domestic Violence Restraining Order
You can ask for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order if a person has abused you and you have a close relationship with that person (married, divorced separated, dating or used to date, live together or used to live together**) or you are related (e.g. parent, child, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, mother-in-law, son-in-law) or you have a child with the person. ** You have to be more involved than just roommates.
Civil Harassment Restraining Order
You can ask for a Civil Harassment Restraining Order if you suffer harassment by someone who is not related to you as specifically defined above. A Civil Harassment Order can be used to protect you from roommates, neighbors and co-workers. You may seek a Civil Harassment Order if someone is harassing you, stalking you, has committed acts of violence against you or threatened you with violence. If the other person has used or threatened to use violence against you or stalked you, you do not have to pay a filing fee.
Elder/Dependant Adult Protective Order
You can ask for an Elder/Dependant Adult Restraining Order if you are 65 or older OR you are between the ages of 18-64 and have certain disabilities AND you are the victim of physical or financial abuse; neglect, abandonment, treatment that has physically or mentally hurt you. There is no fee for filing a request for an Elder/Dependant Adult Protective Order.
Workplace Violence Prevention Restraining Order
You can ask for a Workplace Violence Restraining Order if you are an employer AND you are seeking a restraining order to protect an employee who has suffered violence or a real threat of violence at the workplace.
School Violence Prevention Restraining Order
These orders are only available for students attending private post-secondary institutions and must be requested by an officer of the institution.