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Is it legal to give me notice to appear in court by a phone call? How do proceed from here?

San Bernardino, CA |

I currently have a temporary restraining order in Washington on my son's dad and step mom who reside in California due to the abuse of my son. Yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from his cousin informing me I was to be in court tomorrow at 830 in the morning for custody of my son. I live 1300 miles away and cannot possibly appear on such short notice. Also being the week end I can not reach an attorney to appear on my behalf. We had a residential schedule that expired in 2010. Visitation had been drawn up through my son starting school. He began this year and has been attending and living with me ever since. I am unsure what to do to protect my son and concerned about the pending court tomorrow. Any advice would be appreciated

I am unsure exactly what kind of hearing this is. All she told me was I had court monday morning at 8:30 and that it was for custody of my son. She gave me the department number but I was caught up in the thought of it being a violation of the protection order (I did not see it as mailing or service of process of court documents as there was no document and the protection order states no contact by any means directly or in directly except for...)

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Attorney answers 4


Yes, you can appear by phone. When is the hearing? Another way to do it would be to hire a lawyer and have them either (1) represent you; or (2) specially appear regarding your case and ask for a continuance.

This is tomorrow morning? Call courtcall and see if they can assist you.

Absolutely call the court. Is this an ex parte hearing? That's not a reasonable request IF they know that you reside in Washington and puts you in a difficult situation.

My suggestion: call the courtroom clerk and the calendar clerk first thing in the morning. If you can't get through, call the main courthouse and see if they will be kind enough to have someone notify the judge of your situation.

It could not even be true for all you know. I would absolutely make sure that you appear by phone or get in touch with the court clerk.

Just to be clear, no judge is going to adjudicate custody on an ex parte basis when there's a restraining order against the father in another state. Is he represented by counsel or proceeding in pro per? If he's represented by counsel, call the lawyer. Do you have the cousin's email address? Email the person and indicate that you won't be appearing although you will call the court to appear by phone.

Rebekah Ryan Main

Rebekah Ryan Main


This is good advice but its difficult to call the clerk if you do not know the department!



I have appeared in court via telephone many times. I use a company called AppearByPhone. They are wonderful. There are no long hold times, and they are so much more affordable. If you are going to appear in any court by phone check out


Telephone the court first thing in the morning (around 8:20). Keep trying until someone answers. Ask to speak with the clerk. Explain to the clerk what happened and that you wold like to appear at the hearing by telephone. They might tell you that you need to appear by "Court Call" (it's a service the court's use). If so, tell them ok, can the judge trail the request to the next morning or the afternoon so you can arrange it. They should work with you. Then first chance you get, hire a local lawyer. Good luck.

Marshall Waller may be reached at 800-655-4766 or by email at: Follow him on Twitter: @feinbergwaller. Responses to questions posted by Mr. Waller on AVVO are intended as general information based upon the facts stated in the question, and are provided for educational purposes of the public, not any specific individual, and the response to the question above is not legal advice and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you would like to obtain specific legal advice about this issue as it pertains to your particular situation you must contact an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your state.


If you received a phone call yesterday afternoon (meaning Saturday) then the other party has not given you proper ex parte notice for the hearing tomorrow (Monday).

He must give you ex parte notice by 10 a.m. the day before the hearing (not including weekends). That means he would have had to call you by Friday at 10 a.m. for an ex parte hearing on Monday morning.

Call the Court Department where your case is being heard and explain to the clerk that you were not given proper ex parte notice. Those are the words you want to use.

If jurisdiction is in Washington, then great--the father has to litigate the case there. But WA may only have emergency jurisdiction so it could issue the protective order.

If the case is in California, then it will be very difficult for you to litigate here since you will have to travel here for court appearances or appear by Court Call. The best option for you is to hire local counsel to make appearances on your behalf. If there is a jurisdictional argument to be made, your attorney will make it for you. Good luck to you.

If you found this answer helpful, let me know by clicking the "Mark as Good Answer" button at the bottom of this answer. By answering this question, the Law Offices of Cathleen E. Norton does not intend to form an attorney-client relationship with the asking party. The answers posted on this website should not be construed as legal advice. The Law Offices of Cathleen E. Norton does not make any representations about your family law matter, but rather, seeks to provide general information to the public about family-law related matters. You should consult with an attorney to discuss the specific facts of your case. Thank you.

Hillary Johns

Hillary Johns


Ms. Norton is right and that's exactly why I mentioned that the veracity of your cousin's phone call is circumspect. I can't speak for Ms. Norton although she's in Beverly Hills and I handle cases in that area. Call one of our offices. Ms. Norton's is on her profile and mine is (866) 402-4038.



Thank you all for your support and guidance. For reference, I was informed this morning by the clerk, that the requirement for ex parte was actually only 4 hours verbal notice, but the clerks were most helpful in getting me approved this morning for courtcall who was also incredibly patient and supportive of getting me set up despite multiple setbacks. I am actually most fortunate that my lawyer from the original custody case almost 6 years ago was in the courtroom for another case. He heard the case called and stepped in to represent me. I was so thankful when he announced himself. It was like a sign from god. I hadn't been able to reach him to notify him but he was still there. I am honored that he remembered me, and was willing to step up on my behalf that way. However I still appreciate any input anyone may have to offer, I am sure I will have future posts as I have been informed by multiple attorneys and legal advocates that my case is a bit unique and complex and they are constantly consulting with other lawyers in regards to it. I have advisors but no representation in the court room here in Washington so I really am trying to be well informed.


I agree, you need to speak with an attorney… I practice in that area. Give me a call. 909-891-0906.

Best of luck to you.

Attorney Rebekah Ryan Main – visit us on the web at or call 909-891-0906 to set up a consultation.

If you found this answer helpful, let me know by clicking the "Mark as Helpful" button at the bottom of this answer. It’s easy and appreciated.

This response is intended to be a general statement of law, should not be relied upon as legal advice, does not create an attorney/client relationship and does not create a right to continuing email exchanges.

This response is intended to be a general statement of law, should not be relied upon as legal advice, does not create an attorney/client relationship and does not create a right to continuing email exchanges.

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