The Order to Show Cause (OSC) Process

Although we go into some detail in this webpage about the Order to Show Cause process, how to select, fill out, file and serve Family Law forms, and how to prepare Orders After Hearing, as with all the other webpages in this series, the same advice holds true:

You are at risk when you represent yourself in a court of law. If you cannot afford to obtain counsel to represent you, at least seek some form of legal advice before you set forth on your own.

Please see the court's page about Lawyer Referral Services for lawyer referrals within your area.

See also the court's webpage on Resources and Assistance for further resources for those who represent themselves.

When you begin your own case for divorce or paternity nothing automatically happens just because you file a Petition to start the case or file a Response in answer to a Petition that has been served upon you. If you want orders while you are waiting to finalize your case, you must also file a motion called an Order to Show Cause (OSC) to get a court hearing for your pretrial orders. An Order to Show Cause is a court order directing the other party in your case to appear in Court and show any reason why you should not be given the orders you are asking for. You can use an Order to Show Cause to obtain many different kinds of orders relating to child custody, child support, spousal support, payment of bills, temporary use of property, property protection, Domestic Violence and other restraining orders, and ordering the other person to pay all or part of your attorney fees and costs. An Order to Show Cause may also be used to make new orders when existing orders in the case are no longer appropriate.

Some terminology is important. The person who starts a case by filing a Petition will always be the Petitioner throughout the life of the case (which could be 18 or more years, depending on the age of the youngest child, the length of the marriage, or the number of years until retirement). The person who did not file the case to begin with will always be known as the Respondent. Either the Petitioner or the Respondent may bring an Order to Show Cause at any time after a case has been filed. The person who brings an Order to Show Cause is known as the "moving party" no matter whether he or she is the Petitioner or the Respondent. The party who did not bring the Order to Show Cause is known as the "Responding Party."

In this webpage you will find answers to commonly asked questions about the OSC process such as:

What is an Order to Show Cause and under what circumstances is it used?

What forms do I use to process my Order to Show Cause?

What steps do I take to get my Order to Show Cause into court?

How do I conduct myself on the day of the hearing?

What do I do when the hearing is over?

How do I oppose an Order to Show Cause that has been served on me?

Initial and Modification OSC's

The Family Law departments of the superior court normally categorize Orders to Show Cause into two types:  

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It is necessary for you to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat viewer to access the Judicial Council forms from their website. Click the image below to do so.

If you are the party filing the Order To Show Cause (the "moving party"), you will need to complete some or all of the following forms.

Every OSC requires the following two forms, no matter what orders you are asking the court to make:

If you are asking the court to make any order that requires the other person to pay you or your attorney money (Child Support, Spousal Support, contribution to Attorney Fees, payment of outstanding bills, etc.), you must also prepare the following forms: You will also need the following forms to be served on the other party along with copies of the documents described above:
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 Steps in Filing, Serving, and Litigating the Order to Show Cause

How to prepare, file, and serve the OSC Forms

How to Conduct Yourself at the Hearing How to prepare the Order After Hearing                After the hearing is over you must write the Court's orders on the following documents as appropriate:
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If you have been served with papers directing you to appear in court at a certain time and date to show cause why the other party should not be given the orders that are being requested, you must fill out the blank Responsive Declaration (form 1285.40) and, if issues involving the payment of money are presented, the blank Income and Expense Declaration (form 1285.50), Income Information (form 1285.50a), Expense Information (form 1285.50b), and Child Support Information (form 1285.50c), or the Simplified Financial Statement (form 1285.52) which have been served on you. If the moving party's application and order to show cause have been served on you along with their completed income and expense declaration but these blank forms have not been served on you, you may wish to simply download the blank forms or obtain blank forms from  the clerk's office and fill them out rather than making an issue in court about not having been provided the required forms.


Issues That Have Not Been Raised in the Order to Show Cause

If you want different orders on the same issues that have been raised in the Order to Show Cause that has been served on you, simply fill out the Responsive Declaration and detail the orders that you would like. If you want orders concerning a subject that has not been presented in the Order to Show Cause, you may not ask for such orders simply by responding to the other party's Order to Show Cause, but you must file your own Order to Show Cause to obtain orders on the separate subject (unless you can obtain the moving party's consent to address the additional issue(s) in the Order to Show Cause proceeding that has been filed.) A common example is an Order to Show Cause that raises only issues relating to Child Custody and Visitation. A request for Child Support may not be made in the Responsive Declaration unless the moving party consents to the additional issue being considered.

What Should You Know in Responding to an Order to Show Cause

Please review the sections above that relate to
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