Divorce in California: Responsive Declaration to Order to Show Cause or Notice of Motion

 Going through a divorce, especially when you have children, can be a messy process.

Most often it’s difficult for the two separating people to reach an agreement on custody, child support payment amounts, and even the division of basic assets. Many men and women going through a divorce will most likely encounter a piece of paperwork labeled the Superior Court of California Responsive Declaration to Order to Show Cause or Notice of Motion (Form FL-320). It’s a long title, and it sounds a little complicated & intimidating, but we brought licensed attorney Jane Ratskovskaya onboard to help us translate all the legal jargon into easy-to-understand language, just for you readers.  

Let’s start at the beginning. To keep thing’s simple, we’ll use a fictional divorce example to demonstrate. 

 The Situation

John and Cindy live in California and they are getting divorced. They have one 12-year-old child. 


John believes their kid should live with him full time (aka full physical custody). He also wants Cindy to pay him $3000 in child support every month. 

Neither John nor Cindy have hired a lawyer, so they are both representing themselves in this divorce case. 

In order for John to officially ask for full custody and his desired child support, John needs to file a motion. A “motion” is just a fancy word for an official request. 

 John will need to fill out his motion, also called an Order to Show Cause (OSC). “Cause” is the court’s word for “reason.” In other words, John needs to fill out certain paperwork telling the court what he wants from Cindy, and why he should have it. 

John’s packet should include the following: (Hint: Click the links below to begin filling out the forms now.)

 Note: If you’re using John’s example as a guide to fill out your own forms, remember that you are the “petitioner”. Do not write on the forms after the page marked “Responding Party.”  

Person making the request = “petitioner”

Person responding to the request = “respondent”

Once all the documents are completed, John must make a few copies of everything. He’ll then go to the business office of the court where their existing case is filed, (or closest to his home if it’s a brand new case) and give the originals & one extra copy to the clerk. (He’ll keep the other copies for his person records.) The clerk will immediately schedule an appointment or hearing date (and a mediation date to handle custody issues). 

Cindy will then receive copies of these documents. Cindy is “served” the paperwork, also known as the “service of process” by a third person (NOT John). The person who physically delivers John’s OSC packet to Cindy is called the “server” or “process server.”

Note: In the state of California, the “server” or “process server” can be: 

  • A friend or relative;
  • A coworker;
  • A county sheriff or marshal;
  • A professional process server; or 
  • Anyone over 18 who is NOT part of the case.

In all cases, the “server” or “process server” MUST also: 

  • Be 18 years old or older;
  • Not be a party to the case;
  • Serve the paperwork on the other side in the time require;
  • Fill out a proof of service form that tells the court whom they served, when, where, and how; and 
  • Return the proof of service to you so you can file it with the court.

Until Cindy has been properly “served” and read over all of John’s request documents, the judge cannot make any permanent orders or judgments.

Responsive Declaration to Order to Show Cause or Notice of Motion

Now, Cindy needs to formally respond to John’s request. That’s where the Responsive Declaration to Order to Show Cause or Notice of Motion comes in; this is the form Cindy will use to write her response.

Cindy (the respondent) has a few options at this point. She can completely agree with John, give John everything he wants, and mark the “consent” boxes on all the sections of the response form.

But, let’s say Cindy disagrees. She wants to have joint custody of their child (shared time) and she feels paying $3000 per month for child support is unreasonable. Cindy has the legal right to fill out her Responsive Declaration form with custody options and dollar amounts she feels are more fair.

Cindy’s response will include: (Hint: Click the links below to begin filling out the forms now.)

Here’s a few examples of what her forms may look like:

Once Cindy is finished filling out her forms, both John and Cindy will need to show up in court for the date(s) assigned earlier by the clerk. That day, the judge will either approve their agreement, or help resolve any disagreements.  

We hope this tutorial helped take the mystery out of some of your divorce court documents. If you are working in your PDFfiller editor and you run into any trouble, get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.   

Click here to get started filling out your CA Responsive Declaration to Order to Show Cause or Notice of Motion (FL-320)

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