Emergency Court Actions and COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

During this emergency, local courts can decide to close some services. This may mean that you are unable to file papers at a courthouse or go to your court date.

Check your court’s local website to see if the court has made special orders that apply to you, like giving you more time to file papers, cancel your court date, or extend a restraining order that you have.

If you have an emergency and need a restraining order, please call 911. A police officer can request an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) from the court to protect you when there is an emergency with domestic violence or someone is hurting you or threatening to hurt you.
If you need a restraining order while the court is closed you can call the police to ask for an Emergency Protective Order, or EPO.

Police can ask for an EPO to protect you if you or your child are in immediate danger of:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Stalking
  • Being kidnapped

This includes situations where you are afraid that someone will use a gun to hurt themselves or others. If you are age 60 or older and in immediate danger of abuse, you can also ask for an EPO. 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 by phone and online chat in English and in Spanish. They can give you information about local resources, like shelters, and how to keep yourself safe. Visit www.thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-7233. For TTY, 1-800-787-3224. 

How to Ask the Court for a Restraining Order
California’s emergency rules say the courts must allow you to:

  • File for a restraining order at a courthouse or online, and
  • E-sign or sign by hand

Courts Can Help You Online
Check the Self-Help website to see different kinds of restraining orders you can ask for.
Then check your local court’s website to see how to file for the restraining order you want.

Use a FREE program to Ask for Your Order
This free program lets you fill out your court forms online. Then:

  • Print the forms and file them at court, or
  • File the forms online if your local court allows “e-filing.”.

Extend a Restraining or Protective Order that Ends Soon
If your restraining or protective order ends soon, California’s emergency rules say the courts must extend:

  • any of these orders up to 90 days:
    • a temporary restraining order,
    • a restraining order, or
    • a gun violence emergency protective order;
  • any emergency protective order up to 30 days;
  • any criminal protective order up to 90 days or until a hearing can take place, whichever comes first.

Important! The court may have already extended your order. Check your court’s website. If it was extended, ask them for a copy of the extended order.

Many Hearing Dates Are Rescheduled
Check your court’s website. The court may have already extended the date for your restraining order hearing. If so, ask for a notice of the new hearing date. 

Wills and Other Important Legal Documents You May Need During COVID-19

If you are like most people, COVID-19 is probably on your mind. You may be worried about what would happen to you or your loved ones if you became sick or died of the coronavirus. Now can be a good time to make or update important documents.
California has free, approved legal forms to help you. Some of the forms let you name someone you trust to make certain decisions for you if you become too sick to do so yourself. Other forms say what you want after your death.

Important! For most of these forms to be valid, you must sign in front of a notary or two witnesses who are not involved in your estate.  

Here’s a summary of forms you may want to use:

If you become unable to care for yourself or others…

  • Power of Attorney for Finances and Property. The California Statutory Power of Attorney form lets you appoint someone you trust to handle some or all your financial, real estate, tax, or other matters. You decide which ones. For example, all bank accounts, or just some. You can also specify the period of time the person will have control. For example, only when you are too sick to do those things yourself, or starting now.
  • Power of Attorney for Health Care. The California Advance Health Care Directive lets you say what kind of health care you would want if you cannot speak for yourself, including for pain relief and end-of-life decisions. It also lets you appoint an agent to communicate your wishes. 
  • Power of Attorney for Minor Child. This form lets you appoint an adult to take care of your minor child (under 18) for a while if you become unable to provide care. It’s easier than a legal guardianship.
  • Caregiver's Authorization Affidavit. This form allows the person caring for your child to enroll the child in school. If the caregiver is a relative, the form also lets the caregiver get medical care for the child.

If you die…

  • Wills. The California Statutory Will form lets you appoint an executor to make sure your wishes are carried out. This form also lets you indicate who will inherit your assets when you die. Assets can include money, accounts, real property, and other property, such as your car or furniture.
    • If the total value of these assets is more than $166,250, the executor will have to go to Probate Court to open a probate case.
      Probate Code § 6240
    • If the total value of these assets is $166,250 or less, the executor does not have to go to Probate Court. But the person inheriting the property must fill out the Affidavit and present it to the bank or the person who has the possession of the asset.
    • You can also hand write a will in California. You can use the statutory will form as a template, but write out everything by hand, and then sign and date the will. That is called a holographic will and you don’t need a witness.
  • Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property. Your executor or the person inheriting uses this form to take possession of your items. These include funds in your bank account, your car, or furniture in your home when someone else might still be living there.

Evictions During the COVID-19 Emergency

Effective October 5, 2020: Changes have been implemented to eviction cases.  For more information, read about the New Laws that Apply to Eviction Cases.

Visit Turtle Talk for:

  1. tribal court (in-state and out of state) emergency orders/declarations, and
  2. child welfare state court items, including for CA tribes/ICWA representatives. 

Owens Valley Career Development Center (OVCDC)

OVCDC is a dedicated American Indian organization. OVCDC offers services in

  1. career education
  2. family literacy
  3. language and temporary assistance programs

It has centers in Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Tulare, Ventura and Mono.
OVCDC provides Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Visit OVCDC or call 1-800-924-8091 for details. Please visithttp://www.ovcdc.com/blog/ or call 1-800-924-8091 for more details.

Other resources

Family Law

Filing papers

If you had to file papers by a specific date and the court is closed:

  • Check with your court to see if you have more time to file your papers.
  • The court can make any court business day it is closed a court holiday, so you will have more time to file papers.

How to fill out and file court forms
Most courts are closed to the public, but some are still accepting court papers. Check with your court to see if you can:

  • File online (called e-file)
  • File by U.S. Mail
  • File in drop-box (usually located near main entrance)

You may be able to complete forms online and then print them for filing or to e-file.  Please check with your court to find out what the options are.

Use a FREE program to Ask for Your Order
This free program lets you fill out your court forms online. Then:

  • Print the forms and file them at court, or
  • File the forms online if your local court allows “e-filing.”

Court dates

If you have a court date when the court is closed:

  • Check with your court to see if you will be given a new court date.
  • If the court date is changed:
    • Check with your court to make sure they are sending you a paper with the new date; and
    • If you have to deliver a copy to the other party or if the court will do it for you.

Do you want to change your child support order because you are working less hours?

If you need to change your child support order, it’s important to act right away.
There are two ways to change your order:

  • by written agreement
  • in court

Change the order by written agreement

 If you and the other parent agree, put the agreement in writing.     

 You can use form FL-350 and file the agreement in court. Learn how to prepare and file the agreement.

 Note: if the Local Child Support Agency is involved in your case, they also need to approve the agreement.

Change the Order in Court

If you and the other parent can’t agree, then you must ask the court to change your order. To ask the court, you need to fill out and file a couple of court forms. You will then get a court date.

Learn how to ask the court to change your support order.

You can use a free program to fill out the forms online. When you’re done, you must print the forms. In some courts, you can file these forms online (called e-file).
Guide & File Request for Order
California Child Support Modification Request

Don’t wait to ask the court

A court can only change a support amount as far back as the day you filed papers asking for a change.  The court can’t make any changes to the amount before that day.

 For example:

  1. you lost your job on March 1st
  2. you file a request with the court on July 1st

By law, the judge can only change how much you owe starting July 1. The judge can’t change what you owed in March – June, even though you lost your job in March.

Where to get help

Free help: Every county has a family law facilitator that can help explain the process and help you fill out paperwork. Depending on your county, the facilitator may still be open or offer help online or by phone. Find the facilitator in your county for more information.

Local Child Support Agency: If the Local Child Support Agency is involved in your case, they may be able to help you lower your support payments or help you with other issues like license suspension. Find a local office.

The California and local “stay at home” COVID-19 orders may affect your custody and visitation orders
Generally, child custody and visitation (parenting time) orders must be followed. However, during this public health crisis, parents may find it difficult to follow the current orders. Also, parents may not be able to get new court orders right away because courts in some counties are closed or offer limited services. 
If this is your situation, you and the other parent can:

  1. Learn about the “stay-at-home” orders to understand how they affect your family.
  2. Work together to make a temporary, written agreement to change the court order during the “stay-at-home” period, if needed.
  3. Learn what other legal options you may have if you can’t come to an agreement.

Learn how “stay-at-home” orders may affect your family.
California’s Governor issued “stay-at-home” orders in March 2020, to protect the public health of Californians and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The orders are not intended to stop parents from leaving their homes with the child or stop them from following the court order for parenting time. In fact, many “stay-at-home” orders allow people to leave home to provide care for children, elderly parents, or friends who need help. Also, some counties have specifically defined “essential travel” to include travel for custody arrangements and following court orders.
You and the other parent can read more about the “stay-at-home” orders and COVID-19 to better understand how they affect your family:

Communicate, work together to find alternatives
For cases not involving domestic violence or abuse of any kind, parents can talk to each other if they find that the current orders are difficult to follow. Because the health and safety of the child can be a major concern, parents should talk about whether the child custody and visitation orders can be followed safely given COVID-19 “stay-at-home” orders.
Important! If the child or anyone in the household is showing symptoms of COVID-19, or any signs of serious illness, parents should contact a doctor immediately and carefully follow any medical advice.
Parents should also consider whether:

If the answer is “yes” to any of the above concerns, parents are encouraged to work together and plan how to still safely continue contact with the child remotely through the use of technology, if in the child’s best interest. For example, parents can consider using telephone visits or video conferencing applications like FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or other social media platforms instead of in-person parenting time.
For a child with less serious health issues during this time, parents can consider the following factors before deciding to make changes to the child’s regular parenting time:

  • the child’s age and seriousness of the illness;           
  • the distance between the 2 homes;
  •  anything in your court order that already gives specific directions to be followed when a child is sick;
  • the responsibility and obligation of both parents to care for a sick child;                                     
  • the child’s feelings;                                                
  • the ability of the parents to care for the sick child, including giving the child prescribed medications; and
  • meeting your children’s basic needs for love, protection and guidance, a healthy diet, good medical care, and enough rest.

Read more information about:

If local court services are not available at this time to help get your agreement signed by a judge, and if you and the other parent want to make significant changes to your parenting plan that continue beyond the public health crisis, be sure you get a new court order when your local family court reopens.
Significant changes can include:

  • how much time your children will spend with each parent;
  • where both parents will live;
  • who will pick up and drop off the children at the time of the exchanges; or
  • how you will make sure your children’s other needs are met.

Legal options
A parent who believes that a child’s health, safety, and welfare are at risk by continuing the court’s parenting time order and is unable to reach an agreement with the other parent can talk to a lawyer or local self-help center. For help finding a lawyer, see the Finding a Lawyer page.

A parent who refuses to follow the court order can face legal consequences. The parent who is denied time with a child when there is a court order may ask for help to enforce the court. For more information, see the Enforcing a Custody Order page.

If you have been denied your parenting time, and you have to go back to court, you should keep accurate records of all visitation violations. Keep a journal or mark up a calendar, with the dates and times that the other parent did not follow the order and did not show up, or showed up late, or created other problems.
Enforcing a court order can be very complicated. Talk to a lawyer or your local self-help center to find out what is best in your case. For help finding a lawyer, see the Finding a Lawyer page

Use a FREE program to Ask for Your Order
This free program lets you fill out your court forms online. Then:

  • Print the forms and file them at court, or
  • File the forms online if your local court allows “e-filing.”

Family Court Services appointment while the court is closed.
You will be notified if your appointment with a Family Court Services professional will be  rescheduled or will be held electronically,  telephonically or using a video conferencing application.  For questions check with your local court.

Some Family Court Services appointments will be by phone or online
The office hours and operations of local Family Court Services programs vary based on current conditions. Check with your local court.

What happens to court orders for professional supervised visitation
Supervised visitation and exchange providers can temporarily suspend or end supervised visitation under the law, if a visit for the child and noncustodial parent cannot safely happen. Check with your local supervised visitation provider to see if they are still providing services in person or remotely. You can also check with your local court to see if emergency requests for temporarily changing custody and visitation orders can be filed.  If you don’t have a lawyer in your case, check with your court to see if Self Help Center services are still available.

For additional information on Virtual Visitation and Supervised Visitation during COVID-19, please see materials on the Access to Visitation page.