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Family Law Division

The Family Law Division of the Santa Cruz Superior Court, located at the Watsonville Courthouse, handles a variety of family-related matters. Some of these case types include; ending a marriage or registered domestic partnership, identifying a child’s legal parents, determining custody and visitation issues, establishing or enforcing child and spousal support, dealing with domestic violence issues, adoptions and minor emancipations. All restraining orders are filed at the Watsonville Courthouse. For more information regarding restraining orders see the courts Restraining Order Division Page.

Family Law Information

Birth Certificate

For information regarding birth certificates, please contact the County of Santa Cruz Recorder's Office: (831) 454-2800. For more information visit the County of Santa Cruz Recorder's Office website.

Co-Parenting Class - Required in Family Law cases with children

Mandatory Online Co-Parenting Class:

This class must be completed ONLY at the website listed below. It is the only on-line course approved by Santa Cruz Court. If you take a different class on-line it will not count towards the completion of your co-parenting requirement. This class takes approximately 4 hours to complete. It can be taken in English or Spanish. There is no cost for this class. To register for this class: · Sign up at the Families Change website.  Once you have completed this class, YOU need to print out your certificate of completion and file it at the Clerks’ Office at the Watsonville Courthouse, 1 Second Street, Rm. 300 in Watsonville.

Copy/Search of Records Request

For information on how to request documents from a file, please visit our Records and Information page.

Ex Parte Communication

Letters sent to the judge are ex-parte communication. They are considered improper contact, without notice to the other side, and will not be forwarded to the judge for review. The judge may or may not consider the letter at the next court hearing. If you want to submit information to the judge to consider, then it will need to be in the proper format, with service to the other side and filed with the Court. If you need assistance with the proper paperwork, and you are self–represented, you may contact the Court's Self-Help Center.

Ex-Parte Hearings

An ex-parte hearing is an urgent request for court orders, usually when a child is in physical or mental danger, or there is a threat of abduction. It is a request by one party with short notice to the opposing side. See Local Rule 3.1.12. Ex-parte hearings are generally scheduled at 1:00 PM, Monday through Friday.

1. When and how do I give notice to the other party?

Notice to the opposing party must be provided by 10:00 AM the day before the ex-parte hearing. The moving attorney or self-represented party must give notice of the ex-parte application to the opposing attorney or self-represented party prior to submission of the request to the court, except where it is impossible to give notice. The different types of notice accepted by the Court are indicated on Judicial Council Form FL-303 Declaration Regarding Notice and Service of Request for Temporary Emergency (EX PARTE) Orders.

2. When and how do I give notice to the Court?

The same day you give notice to the opposing party, you must call the ex-parte clerk at the Watsonville Court by 11:00 AM to inform the clerk's office that you have an ex-parte hearing the next day. To reach the Ex-Parte clerk call 831-786-7200 and listen for the phone prompt for Family Law. 

3. When and where do I submit my paperwork?

All ex-parte moving papers shall be submitted to the Watsonville clerk's office no later than 3:00 PM the day before the ex-parte hearing. You will need two copies, one copy to keep for your records, the other copy to give to the other side at the ex-parte hearing.

The person filing for the ex-parte must provide a copy of the moving papers to the other side no later than 3:00 PM the day before the ex parte hearing. The papers may be delivered in person, by fax or by email.

4. When and where do I file my response to the ex-parte application?

Opposing attorneys or self-represented parties shall submit their objections to the moving papers as soon as possible after notice is received. Documents shall be submitted to the Watsonville clerk's office no later than 10:00 AM the day of the hearing.

5. Can I bring my children to Court?

Children are not allowed in the courtroom.

6. What is the filing fee to process my paperwork?

There is a fee for the ex-parte hearing, payable at the time of filing, unless you have a waiver of fees on file. Refer to the Judicial Council Web Site link for the current statewide fee schedule or you may ask the Court to waive the filing fee if your household income falls below certain guidelines. For information and to obtain forms for a fee waiver, visit the California Courts Web Site.

Parenting Classes

Below you will find a list of local nonprofit agencies offering a variety of parenting classes. A Parenting After Separation website, maintained by the Judicial Council of California, is provided for parents, youth, and children. Remember, if the court orders you to take a parenting class, you must take the type of class you were ordered to complete. For court-ordered parenting classes, an online class is usually not accepted unless specifically ordered or is the mandatory co-parenting class, however, the online class offered by the state is a good compliment to an in person class. If you are ordered to take the Co-Parenting Class, make sure you complete the one on this list.

Supervised Visitation

The court may have ordered you and the other parent to set up supervised visitation. Your court order should say if you need to use a Professional Supervised Visitation Provider (someone who will be paid to be at the visits) or a Non Professional Supervised Visitation Provider (usually a family member or friend). Professional Providers must complete certain criteria and education/training requirements; the list maintained by the court contains providers who have completed this education. Non Professionals also must meet certain criteria.

The lists and criteria for each are provided here:

Voluntary Settlement Conferences

The court offers Voluntary Settlement Conferences as an option to resolve Family Law cases. Settlement conferences are conducted by local attorneys who have volunteered to participate in the program as settlement officers. Information about the program, including what cases qualify and how to request a settlement conference, can be found in Local Rule 3.1.08 Settlement Conferences. 

Any attorney interested in volunteering to assist with the program may contact for additional information. 

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