Self Help

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Written by Published in Self Help

Some questions are "Frequently Asked" at the LA Law Library's Reference Desk.           

This guide directs you to library resources and free websites that may help you find an answer to those questions. Many of the books listed here can be found in the Library's self-help collection. The self-help collection is designed for people doing their own legal research without the assistance of an attorney. It is an excellent starting point for people involved in lawsuits who don't have attorneys (also called self-represented litigants) as well as non-attorneys who are facing common legal problems.

For a list of free Online Legal Resources, including self-help materials and lawyer referral services, click here.

Many of the resources listed below are published by Nolo Press, a publisher of books for non-attorneys. Many of these Nolo Press titles are also available electronically at the LA Law Library through the Legal Information Reference Center database. If you need more detailed information, try using one of the other listed resources.

Please click on any of the links below to go to the FAQ category:

Section 1: Civil Law



1 - I had a default judgment entered against me. What can I do to have it removed?

These resources contain information about court rules, procedure and forms to set aside a default judgment in California state courts:

  • California Civil Procedure Before Trial, Reading Room (RR KFC1020 .C32 2004) or electronically on the law library computers, using Lexis Advance. See Volume 2, Chapter 38 “Defaults”
  • California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Reading Room (RR KFC1010.A65 C3) or electronically on the law library computers, using Lexis Advance. See Volume 43, Chapter 489 “Relief from Judgments and Orders”
  • California Points and Authorities, Reading Room (RR KFC1010 .C34) or electronically on the law library computers, using Lexis Advance. See Volume 7, Chapter 70 “Defaults and Relief from Orders and Judgments: Statutory Remedies” 

To find information online about setting aside a default judgment, the Sacramento County Public Law Library has created a step-by-step guide to setting aside a default judgment. The guide provides step-by-step instructions and sample forms that you may use for guidance in downloading their downloadable template, available on the Sacramento County Public Law Library website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/motion-relief-default.aspx.

2 - How can I resolve my dispute without going to court?

There are a number of ways to resolve a law-related dispute without a lawsuit or, if you have filed a lawsuit, without a trial. These library resources have information on mediation, how it works and how you might use it to resolve your particular issues.

  • Win Your Lawsuit (Nolo Press), Self-Help Collection (SHC KFC968 W56 and online in Legal Information Reference Center, click here ). See Chapter 3 “Can’t We Settle Somehow?”
  • California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Reading Room (RR KFC1010.A65 C3) or electronically on the law library computers, using Lexis Advance. See Volume 4, Chapter 30 “Using Alternative Dispute Resolution” and Chapter 31 “Mediation”

To find information online about mediation, you can start at the Resolving Your Dispute out of Court section of the California Courts Online Self-Help Center, click here. To obtain a county-by-county listing of dispute resolution services, go to the California Department of Consumer Affairs website, click here.

3 - Where are the California Rules of Court?

The California Rules of Court can be found online at the California Courts website, click here. The California Rules of Court are also available in print in the Self-Help Collection at the Library.
Library Resources

  • California Rules of Court-State (West), Self-Help Collection (SHC KFC992 .A197)
  • West's Annotated California Codes, Reading Room (RR KFC30.5 .W4) Note: This is an annotated version of the California Court Rules. It includes references to cases that interpret the court rules.

4 - How do I sue someone in Small Claims Court in California?

These books are written for individuals and businesses suing or being sued in a California Small Claims Court. They take you step-by-step through the set of procedures and forms that you need to use and explain how to prepare for court.
Library Resources

Helpful Websites

To find information online about going to Small Claims Court, you can start at the Small Claims section of the California Courts Online Self-Help Center, click here.

For information about suing or being sued in a Los Angeles County Small Claims Court, click here

5 - How do I sue someone in California state court?

These books show you how to sue a person or a business for up to $25,000 in a California superior court, without using a lawyer. They also show you how to defend yourself in certain types of cases where you are sued for less than $25,000. They provide forms and step-by-step instructions. 

  • Win Your Lawsuit (Nolo Press), Self-Help Collection (SHC KFC968 W56 and online in Legal Information Reference Center)
  • Litigation by the Numbers (Lawdable Press), Self Help Collection  (SHC KFC995.A65 G67 2003)

To find information online about filing a lawsuit in California state court, you can start at the California Courts Online Self-Help Center, click here.


Section 2: Criminal Law

1 - What do I need to have my arrest record erased?

The key word is expungement. These library resources contain information about the expungement of criminal records in the State of California:

  • California Criminal Defense Practice, Reading Room (Main KFC1155 .C342) or electronically on the law library computers using Lexis Advance. See Volume 5, Chapter 103 Expungement of Criminal Records
  • California Criminal Practice: Motions, Jury Instructions & Sentencing (Main KFC1155.A65 .R83 2004). See Chapter 59

To find information online about expunging criminal records, you can start at the “Cleaning Criminal Records” section of the California Courts Online Self-Help Center, click here.  More information about expungement as well as instructions for filling out the forms and a step-by-step guide walking you through the process can be found on the Sacramento County Public Law Library’s website, click here.


Section 3: Credit Card Debt

1 - I have been sued by a credit card company. What do I do now?

These library resources contain information about responding to a credit card lawsuit:

  • Win Your Lawsuit (Nolo Press), Self-Help Collection (SHC KFC968 W56 and online in Legal Information Reference Center, click here). See Chapter 8 “Lawsuits from the Defendant’s Point of View”
  • California Debt Collection Practice (CEB), Main Reading Room (RR KFC256.C6 D39 1999) or electronically on the law library computers using CEB OnLaw. See Chapter 4 “Representing the Debtor Before Judgment”
  • Collection Actions: Defending Consumers & Their Assets (National Consumer Law Center), Self-Help Collection or electronically on the law library computers using  consumer law center database
Helpful Websites
  • To find information online about credit card lawsuits, you can start at the Collection of Credit Card Debt section of the California Courts Online Self-Help Center, click here.
  • More information about being sued by a credit card company as well as instructions for filling out the forms and a step-by-step guide walking you through the process can be found on the Sacramento County Public Law Library’s website, click here.

Section 4: Divorce, Custody and Child Support

1 - Where can I find information on getting or changing a court order for child support in California?

These resources contain information about the procedures and forms for getting and changing a child support order in California.

  • Practice Under the California Family Code: Dissolution, Legal Separation, Nullity (CEB), Main Reading Room (RR KFC126 .P73) or electronically on the law library computers using CEB OnLaw. See Chapter 8 “Child Support” 
  • California Child and Spousal Support: Establishing, Modifying and Enforcing (CEB), Main Reading Room (RR KFC130 .C344 2006) or electronically on the law library computers using CEB OnLaw. 
  • California Family Law Practice and Procedure (Lexis Advance), Main Reading Room (RR KFC115 .C342 1994) or electronically on the law library computers using Lexis Advance. See Chapter 41 “Child Support Orders” and Chapter 42 “Modification of Child Support Orders”

To find information online about child support, start at the “Child Support” section of the California Courts Online Self-Help Center, click here.
To get or respond to a court order for child support, you can find the forms online at the California Courts website, click here.
The family law facilitator or self-help center in your court may be able to help you with filling out your forms. For more information on the services of the Family Law Facilitators, click here. For hours and locations of the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Family Law Facilitator Offices, click here.  For hours and locations of the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Self-Help Centers, click here.

2 - Where can I find information on getting or changing a child custody order in California?

These resources contain information about the procedures and forms for getting and changing a child custody order in California.

  • Practice Under the California Family Code: Dissolution, Legal Separation, Nullity (CEB), Main Reading Room (RR KFC126 .P73) or electronically on the law library computers using CEB OnLaw. See Chapter 7 “Child Custody and Visitation” 
  • California Child Custody Litigation and Practice (CEB), Main Reading Room (RR KFC130 .C344 2006) or electronically on the law library computers using CEB OnLaw. 
  • California Family Law Practice and Procedure (Lexis Advance), Main Reading Room (RR KFC115 .C342 1994) or electronically on the law library computers using Lexis Advance. See Chapter 33 “Custody and Visitation Orders” and Chapter 35 “Modification of Custody Orders and Change of Child's Residence.”

To find information online about the child custody and visitation process, start at the “Custody & Parenting Time” section of the California Courts Online Self-Help Center, click here. To get or change a court order for child custody, you can find the forms online at the California Courts website, click here. The family law facilitator or self-help center in your court may be able to help you with filling out your forms. For more information on the services of the Family Law Facilitators, click here. For hours and locations of the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Family Law Facilitator Offices, click here.  For hours and locations of the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Self-Help Centers, click here.

3 - What do I need to do to get divorced in California?

These books contain step-by-step instructions on obtaining a divorce without a lawyer:

  • How to Do Your Own Divorce in California (Nolo Press), Self-Help Collection (SHC KFC126 H69)
  • How to Solve Divorce Problems in California (Nolo Press), Self-Help Collection (SHC KFC126 H695)
Helpful Websites

To find information online about filing for divorce in California, start at the “Divorce or Separation” section of the California Courts Online Self-Help Center, click here.  If you would like to file for divorce, you can find the forms online at the California Courts website, click here.  If you need help filling out the forms, the Los Angeles Superior Court offers free do-your-own divorce workshops to help you prepare the necessary paperwork for filing for divorce. Click here for more information.

4 - Is there an easier way to get divorced in California?

Some people can use an even easier process to end their marriage called Summary Dissolution. If you have been married less than five years, don’t have any kids, and have limited assets and debts (including no real estate), you may qualify. To figure out if a summary dissolution is the right option for you, start at the “Summary Dissolution” section of the California Courts Online Self-Help Center, click here.


Section 5: Landlords and Tenants

1 - One of my tenants had her boyfriend move into the apartment. Can I raise the rent?

Landlord-tenant law specifically lays out the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant. These books and free websites explain the law (including rent increases) California landlords need to know.

  • The California Landlord’s Law Book: Rights and Responsibilities (Nolo Press), Self-Help Collection (SHC KFC145 .C352 and online in Legal Information Reference Center, click here.

To find information online about the rights and responsibilities of the landlord, start with the “California Tenants” handbook on the website of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, click here.

2 - I moved over a month ago and still don’t have my security deposit back! Can I sue to get my deposit back?

A landlord must follow certain procedures and a timeline after the tenant has vacated the premises. These books and free websites explain California tenants’ rights and responsibilities, including return of security deposits.

  • California Tenants Rights (Nolo Press), Self-Help Collection (SHC KFC145 .C37 and online in Legal Information Reference Center). Start with Chapter 13: Security Deposit’s and Last Month’s Rent

To find information online about the return of security deposits, start with the security deposits section on the California Courts Online Self-Help Center, click here.

3 - My landlord came into my rental unit without asking for my permission. What are my rights?

Landlord-tenant law specifically lays out the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant. These books and free websites explain California tenants’ rights and responsibilities, including privacy and the landlord’s right to enter.

  • California Tenants Rights (Nolo Press), Self-Help Collection (SHC KFC145 .C37 and online in Legal Information Reference Center, click here).  See Chapter 5 “The Obnoxious Landlord and Your Privacy”

To find information online about the rights and responsibilities of the tenant, start with the “California Tenants” handbook on the website of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, click here.


Section 6: Probate

1 - How do I write a simple will?

California law provides for a “fill-in-the-blanks” will form. The will form is designed for single, married or divorce people with relatively small estates. This form can be printed out from the California legislative website click here.

For more information, read the following State Bar of California pamphlets:

  • “Do I Need a Will?” Click here.
  • “Do I Need a Living Trust?” Click here.
  • “Do I Need Estate Planning?” Click here.  

2 - Is there a process for transferring small estates in California without going to court?

In cases in which the estate value is $150,000 or less, probate may not be required. These resources contain information about small estate probate procedures in California:

  • How to Probate an Estate in California (Nolo Press), Self-Help Collection (SHC KFC205 .H69) and online in Legal Information Reference Center, click here. Start with Chapter 14 “Conducting a Simple Probate Proceeding”

California Decendant Estate Practice (CEB), Reading Room (RR KFC210 .C35 2009) or electronically on the library computers using CEB OnLaw
To find information online about small estate probate procedures, you can start the California Courts Online Self-Help Center, click here. More information about small estate probate procedures as well as instructions for filling out the forms and step-by-step guide walking you through the process can be found on the Sacramento County Public Law Library’s website click here.


Section 7: Name Change

1 - How can I change my name in California?

These resources provide information on the procedure to change your name through the California courts. They provide step-by-step instructions for changing your name, including information on birth certificates and also instructions for completing a legal gender change.

  • How to Change Your Name in California (Nolo Press), Self-Help Collection (SHC KFC109 .H69) and online in Legal Information Reference Center, click here).
  • California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Reading Room (RR KFC1010.A65 C3) or electronically on the law library computers, using Lexis Advance. See Volume 33, Chapter 377 “Name, Change of”

To find information online about the process to change your name through the California Courts, you can start at the “How-to Guide to Changing Your Name” section of the California Courts Online Self-Help Center, click here.  

A step-by-step guide walking you through the process can also be found on the Sacramento County Public Law Library’s website, click here.  This step-by-step guide includes sample forms and instructions for preparing, copying, assembling, and serving the forms involved in a civil name change.


Section 8: Domestic Violence

1 - I am a victim of domestic violence. Is there a court procedure in California that can help protect me?

If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Ask the responding officer to issue an Emergency Protective Order. The emergency protective order starts immediately and can last a week.

If you want protection for more than a week, you can ask your local family court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). If the restraining order is granted, it typically requires the abuser to stay at least 100 yards away from you, and have no contact with you, including no email or telephone contact.

If you would like to obtain a temporary restraining order, you can find the forms online at the California Courts website, click here. If you need help filling out the forms, the Los Angeles Superior Court has a domestic violence clinic that can show you how to fill the forms that you will need and help you prepare for Court. No appointment is necessary. For hours and locations of the domestic violence clinic, click here.

For a referral to a local domestic violence or legal assistance program, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at -800-799-7233 or visit www.ndvh.org. It is free and private. They can help you in 100 languages. You can visit California Partnership to End Domestic Violence at www.cpedv.org and California Coalition Against Sexual Assault at www.calcasa.org for more information and resources.

Need more help?
The California Courts Online Self-Help Center has information about restraining orders that can help you, click here. To read information sheets about Domestic Violence Restraining Orders in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese, click here.


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Every superior court in California has legal help available in family law and in small claims cases and, in some cases, other legal issues as well. For example, the Los Angeles Superior Court has legal help available for people who are representing themselves in the following areas of the law

  • Family Law
  • Probate
  • Domestic Violence
  • Conservatorship and Elder Abuse
  • Guardianship
  • Landlord / Tenant

Below is an overview of court services provided by the Los Angeles Superior Court:

  • Family Law Facilitators
    Offered in each California court, a family law facilitator is a lawyer, or a paralegal supervised by a lawyer, with experience in family law who gives free legal help with child, spousal and partner support problems. Although the family law facilitators can't represent you in court, they can help you in preparing your own court forms and can give you general information. For hours and locations of the Los Angeles Superior Court's Family Law Facilitator Offices, click here.
  • Self-Help Centers
    Supervised by attorneys and provide assistance with the completion of court forms and court procedures related to a variety of legal problems, Los Angeles Superior Court's Self-Help Centers also offer free legal workshops for divorce, paternity, probate, guardianship and conservatorships. For hours and locations of the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Self-Help Centers, click here.
  • Small Claims Advisors
    Provide free legal advice and assistance to individuals and businesses suing or being sued in a Los Angeles County Small Claims Court. Small claims advisors can assist you with court forms and court procedures.
  • Family Court Services (FCS)
    Provide mediation services to help divorcing and separating parents resolve disagreements about the care of their children.
Read more...
STATE JUDICIAL COUNCIL APPROVED FORMS

When you are involved in a court case, you must file legal documents explaining to the court what the dispute is and what you are asking for. To make sure your court documents have the information the court needs, the California courts have created a set of court forms called Judicial Council Forms which can be used in every Superior Court in California.

Judicial Council Forms provide you with an easy "check-the-box" format and are available for many civil, family law and criminal cases. The first step in completing a Judicial Council form is to see if the California Courts have developed a form for your specific legal problem. To view a complete list of Judicial Council forms, click here.

The California Courts also provide information and instructions about how to complete court forms in order to make a specific request in your case. Find your legal topic and related Judicial Council forms by clicking here.

Most Judicial Council forms are "fillable" and can be downloaded to a local computer and filled out. You can also print out any form and fill it out by hand. For help understanding how to use fillable court forms, click here.


LOCAL SUPERIOR COURT FORMS

In addition to Judicial Council forms, each Superior Court adopts court-specific "local forms" that you may need to start your case or as your case continues. To view a list of Los Angeles Superior Court local forms, click here.


FILE AT HOME FORM PROGRAMS

Fill out court forms online using the LA Superior Court's user-friendly forms completion programs. Programs available for Divorce, Child Custody & Visitation, Child Support, Domestic Violence, Civil Harassment, Guardianship, Limited Conservatorship, Evictions, Name Changes and Small Claims. To access the forms completion programs, click here.


PLEADING PAPER TEMPLATE

If you cannot find a Judicial Council Form for your exact legal problem, then you will need to create your own legal document on 28-line pleading paper in a very specific format. For pleading paper formatted for the Los Angeles Superior Court, click here. The California Rules of Court, starting with Rule 2.100, tell you what is required for any document you file with the court. You can find samples of legal documents created on pleading paper at the Library. A good starting point is Litigation by the Numbers or a form book set such as California Forms of Pleading and Practice.

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Find Your Court

Written by Published in Self Help

Learn to identify the proper courthouse in Los Angeles for your case type.    

You must file your lawsuit and associated documents at the proper courthouse. There are a number of factors that determine the appropriate filing location.  Some of these factors include:

  • the amount of your lawsuit
  • the court with jurisdiction for your case
  • the proper venue for hearing the case

 

The term jurisdiction refers to the authority a court has to decide a case. The term venue refers to the correct location of a court that may hear your case. To learn more about venue and jurisdiction and whether your case belongs in in California Superior Court, click here.  For help in determining whether you can file your case in federal court, click here.

Each of California’s 58 counties has at least one court location that handles small claims, limited and unlimited civil cases. If you are not sure what type of case you have, click here. For help locating your county’s court website, click here. If you do not know your county, you can also search by city or zip code and you will get a link to your county’s superior court.

Many California counties, including Los Angeles County, have more than one courthouse. If you do not know which courthouse handles cases like yours, use the Filing Court Locator on the Los Angeles Superior Courts website and search by city or zip code. For the address, hours, parking information and directions for each courthouse in Los Angeles County, click here.

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Contract Law

Written by Published in Self Help

Contract Law: How to make an agreement legally binding (through formation of a contract), and what happens when one side doesn’t perform as agreed (breach of contract).

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Credit, Debt & Money Issues: A legal process to protect a person or business who cannot pay their debts, and ensure that creditors are treated fairly.

Bankruptcy - A legal process to protect a person or business who cannot pay their debts, and ensure that creditors are treated fairly.

Credit & Debt - Money that is owed such as credit card bills, loan payments, etc., and the rights of the person who owes the money (debtor) and the person to whom it is owed (creditor).

Auto Loan Payments - Payments relating to the purchase of an automobile or other vehicle.

Student Loans - Money borrowed by students to pay for or support their education. Federal student loan borrowers may be entitled to COVID-19 related relief.

Tax Filings / Tax Breaks

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Criminal Law

Written by Published in Self Help

Criminal Law: Laws that are punishable by imprisonment and the procedures for enforcing them.

Cleaning Criminal Records - Certain misdemeanors can be changed to "expunged" on your record showing the case was effectively dismissed.

Prisoners' Rights and Prison Release Protocols: Prison inmates' civil rights and procedures for obtaining release from incarceration.

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