California Courts Overview
It helps to understand how the California state court system works when you’re trying to find court records. The California trial court system consists of Superior Courts.
California has a unified court system, so all court proceedings are conducted in Superior Courts. Superior Courts are organized into court divisions based on case type. Divisions within a Superior Court may include Civil, Criminal, Family, Probate, Juvenile, Traffic, Small Claims and Drug Court.
If you prefer, you can start your search by going to California courts by county.
California Superior CourtsSuperior Courts have jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases.
Superior Courts are organized into court divisions based on case type. Divisions within a Superior Court may include Criminal, Civil, Small Claims, Family, Probate, Juvenile, Traffic and Drug Court.
Criminal Divisions generally handle felony and misdemeanor cases.
Civil Divisions may be split into divisions for "Unlimited" cases and "Limited" cases. Generally, "Limited" cases involve claims for less than $25,000, and "Unlimited" cases involve claims for more than $25,000.
Small Claims Divisions generally handle civil claims for less than $7500, if the case is eligible for the simplified Small Claims process. Additional restrictions on Small Claims jurisdiction exist, including financial and other limits on the use of the Small Claims process by businesses and organizations.
Family Divisions generally handle cases involving families and children, including dissolution of marriage, legal separation, paternity, child custody, child support, domestic violence, division of marital property and spousal support.
Probate Divisions generally handle cases related to estate administration, guardianships, conservatorships, trusts and wills.
Juvenile Divisions generally handle cases involving juvenile delinquency, child abuse and neglect, and children in need of supervision.
Traffic Divisions generally handle traffic-related citations, including parking and other offenses punishable by fines. Some juvenile traffic cases may be heard by this division.
Drug Courts are specialized court divisions that focus on rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration for certain types of criminal cases.
In addition to Superior Courts, California has independent Tribal Courts.
Where to Find Court Cases in California
The chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of California court.
|Case Type||Court Type|
|General Civil - Unlimited|
|General Civil - Limited|
|Foreclosures and Liens|
|Real Estate Title and Boundary|
|Landlord / Tenant|
|Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders|
|Administrative Agency Appeals|
|Felony Preliminary Hearings|
|Traffic and Infractions|
|Domestic Relations||Superior Courts|
|Child Custody and Visitation|
|Domestic Violence Protection Order|
|Child Abuse and Neglect|
|Termination of Parental Rights|
|Children in Need of Supervision|
|Mental Health||Superior Courts|
|Other Mental Health Cases|
|Wills & Estates|
|Guardianships and Conservatorships|