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Civil Division

Civil Division

Civil cases involve disputes between private parties rather than the violation of criminal law.

A civil matter may involve a lawsuit in which one party sues another to recover money or property, to enforce a contract or other obligation, to collect damages for injury or to protect a civil right. Some examples of civil cases include claims for personal injuries arising from automobile accidents, alleged wrongful termination from employment, evictions from a house or commercial building or disputes regarding the use of an easement.

Frequently Asked Questions

A Limited Civil case is a general civil case that involves an amount of money of $25,000 or less.

An Unlimited Civil case is a general civil case that involves an amount of money over $25,000.

Unlimited civil cases also include other types of disputes that do not involve money, like cases to resolve (or “quiet”) title to real property, cases asking for civil restraining orders, and requests to change your name or your child’s name. Basically, an unlimited civil case is any case that is not a limited civil case under the definition of California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 86.

Family Law Cases

Divorce (called dissolution of marriage), legal separation, annulment (nullity of a marriage or domestic partnership), child and spousal support, and child custody cases. See the Family Law section of this website.

Juvenile Cases

Cases about child abuse and neglect (called juvenile dependency), or when someone under 18 breaks the law (called juvenile delinquency). See the Juvenile section of this website.

Unlawful Detainer OR Landlord/Tenant: Cases about renting or leasing a property, and whether or not the tenant can stay on the property.. See the Unlawful Detainer section of this website.

Small Claims Cases

Civil cases that are worth $10,000 or less if you are filing as an individual. If a business is filing, the claim must be $5,000 or less. You can’t have a lawyer present with you in court. The people in the case (called the parties) represent themselves. See the Small Claims section of this website.

Probate Cases

Cases about taking care of people and/or their personal affairs. See the Guardianship or Probate & Conservatorship sections of this website.

Some examples of probate cases:

  • Using a Will or Trust to transfer property after someone dies;
  • Guardianship of a minor child whose parent cannot care for them;
  • Conservatorship of an adult who can’t take care of themselves or handle their own finances.

Delay Reduction cases are civil cases in which the court imposes timelines in order to make sure these cases are resolved quickly, usually within one year.

Current fees for filing an initial complaint, petition or application

If you are low-income, you may be able to qualify for a fee waiver and not have to pay a filing fee. Fee waiver forms and Information

The Judicial Council has developed several forms which can be used in civil cases.

There are many common responses to a civil complaint, the most common are:


A response from the defendant setting forth the grounds of the defense to the allegations contained within the complaint or the response from the plaintiff setting forth the grounds of the defense to the allegations contained within the cross-complaint.


A demurrer is a motion brought by a defendant to challenge a defective complaint. Usually a demurrer is brought when the defendant does not believe the plaintiff has stated sufficient facts to support the legal theory, or cause of action, upon which the plaintiff’s claim is based. Sometimes a demurrer may be brought because the statute of limitations has run.

A demurrer can be brought as to the entire complaint, or as to one or more causes of action.

Motion to Strike

A motion to strike is usually brought to request the court delete an improper allegation or statement from a complaint. Sometimes a motion to strike is directed to one word or phrase, sometimes it is directed to an entire cause of action. A motion to strike can also be filed with a demurrer, but the court charges a separate motion fee for each motion.

Motion to Quash

A request for the Court to quash (void) service of the summons and complaint. The motion is usually made on the grounds that the litigant is not under the jurisdiction of the Court.

General Denial

A response from the defendant denying all allegations contained within the complaint or the response from the plaintiff denying all allegations within the cross-complaint.

If the defendant fails to respond within the time required after service of the complaint, the plaintiff can request the court to enter a default and issue a default judgment. The clerk can review and enter defaults and default judgments in simple cases; more complex cases require a Court default judgment.

There are different methods of gathering information in a case to prepare the case for trial. These methods, which include depositions, interrogatories, demands to produce documents, requests for admission, and site inspections, are collectively referred to as "discovery".

Yes, if the parties are willing. You can use alternative dispute resolution, generally called ADR. ADR refers to a number of ways of resolving conflicts without a lawsuit or, if you have filed a lawsuit, without a trial.

These alternative ways are used for many types of disputes, including divorces, business and real estate disputes, landlord/tenant disputes, disputes with contractors, financial disputes, employer-employee disputes, inheritance disputes, and conflicts between neighbors.

Rules of court, statutes, case law and other materials that may be useful to understanding the procedures in civil cases are available at the Inyo County law library on the Inyo County Law Library on the ground floor of the Independence Courthouse. The phone number for the Library is (760) 878-0260. Please note that the law librarians can only direct you to helpful books and other materials. They cannot answer legal questions or assist you in preparing your case.

You can also contact Inyo's Self-Help Center & Family Law Facilitator.

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