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Answers to Frequently Asked California Legal Questions

Find quick answers to frequently asked California legal questions about a variety of routine legal matters.

Many online services have failed to comply with state law requiring registration and bonding which is required by California law to offer legal document assistant services in California. These companies are not legally recognized services under California state law, and as a consumer, you are offered no protection when things go wrong! A People’s Choice is registered and bonded. As required by California law, this information is disclosed on our site. A People’s Choice is also a member of CALDA (the California Association of Legal Document Assistants); Sandy McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice, proudly served as President of CALDA from 2004-2005. CALDA is the ONLY association in California that demands high standards of excellence from its Registered Legal Document Assistant members. A People’s Choice is also a member of the Tri-County Better Business Bureau and has been granted its prestigious A+ rating.

If you have ever taken a trip to the local court’s self-help service, you might be able to answer this question yourself. Most courts in California are understaffed and short-handed. This results in long lines at the self-help centers, requiring consumers seeking help to arrive early and wait hours before the doors open if they want to get in and be helped. By using the services of A People’s Choice you will never have to wait in line and in many situations, will not have to take time off work to deal with your legal document preparation needs. A People’s Choice offers early evening appointments and even provides many services that can be easily completed through our online system or over the telephone.

The philosophy of the court’s self-help service is a “one box fits all” solution. This usually creates confusion for people, particularly in divorce proceedings. There are a multitude of ways to complete a divorce, and some paths or options are substantially easier than others. Typically in a divorce situation, the self-help center provides consumers packets of family law forms that may or may not be needed in their particular case. The consumer is then required to sort through them and try to figure out which forms they need in their particular situation. A People’s Choice is familiar with what it takes to get your case through the court process in the fastest time and with the least amount of difficulty. We have had over 35 years to streamline our processes to make it easy and hassle-free for our customers.

The Court self-help service does NOT prepare paperwork. They offer limited direction regarding document preparation, and you must prepare the documents yourself.  When you use the services of A People’s Choice, your documents will be fully prepared and completed, ready for your signature. As a courtesy, in most situations, we will even file your documents with the court.

Our flat fees cover all document preparation as specifically outlined in our Contract For Services. Our flat fees always include a courtesy allocated amount of communication via email. This allocation should adequately cover most client’s email needs. Our business strategy in offering competitive pricing is based on our volume of document preparation. We understand that clients will have questions, and we want our clients to be informed about their legal process. When approaching us with questions, clients should try to be thoughtful, and consider including multiple questions within each email. We do recognize that some customers have special needs. Therefore, to provide a cost-effective solution for everyone, if a client exceeds the allotted number of emails offered for their particular type of legal proceeding, emails that exceed a client’s allotment will be charged.

Customers can typically expect a swift response, even after hours and on the weekends, although we do not “guarantee” a specific after-hours email response time. This program allows complete customer control over their overall legal fees. In addition, it has allowed us to keep our fees at “rock bottom” prices for those extremely price-conscious consumers; while maintaining flexibility and convenience for those customers who want to pay for that extra service.


Over our 40+ years of being in business, our number one goal has been to provide a high-quality professional service at the very lowest cost possible. Time is money and we found that some clients were abusing our old “flat fee” policy which allowed clients unlimited calls to our office during their case. At one point, our office staff was so inundated with certain clients calling over and over, (sometimes 5-10 times a day) making it difficult to get work done during the day which resulted in a backlog in our work flow.

After considering all options, it came down to two:

1) raise everyone’s fees and hire extra staff just to cover the phone demand or
2) keep the fees the same, and provide a free email allocation/allowance based on the type of case. For those clients who require extra hand-holding, they can pay for any “extra services” they need.

In the end, we felt having people pay for their extra needs was the best resolution so that everyone was not penalized for the actions of a few.

As required under California law, all clients must sign a mandatory Contract for Service at the time we are hired. Payment in full for our document preparation services is required at that time. Third-party costs such as court filing fees, etc. are not included in our service fees and are paid as they are incurred.

When you choose A People’s Choice, you can be assured your case will be assigned to a real person, with whom you can communicate during the entire period of your case. Most of our fees are flat fees with a complimentary allocation of email communication which allows customers to communicate with us by email at no extra charge. We pride ourselves in making a personal relationship with every client a top priority! As a legal document assistant, our services are not limited to merely preparing your paperwork. We want to make sure that you are able to navigate through the legal system as painlessly as possible, and we are there to help you along the way.

A People’s Choice is NOT an attorney’s office. We cannot give you legal advice and some questions we may not be able to answer. We strictly adhere to the laws governing our profession, so please keep that in mind when you ask us questions that we cannot provide answers to. We offer customers many options to get answers to legal questions including our extensive self-help law library in our corporate office as well as information offered through our online library. We can also refer you to an attorney in your area who may be able to help get answers to your questions.

Clients that use our services are ultimately responsible for their own case. Our office is not an attorney’s office and we do not handle cases in the same way as an attorney would.  If you need excessive hand-holding in your legal matter or are expecting “attorney like service” at non-attorney prices, you should probably hire an attorney to help you. If you simply need professional legal document help and are willing to take personal responsibility for your case with a little professional help and direction, then using our services is an excellent choice and will save you a substantial amount of money.

Your responsibility as our client is to respond to any communications from us in a timely manner and to cooperate with us as necessary until your file is closed. If we email you and we do not hear from you, your file may be put “on hold” until you respond. For this reason, it is critical that you regularly check your email and/or voice messages while we are handling your document preparation.

Our contractual obligation as a Registered Legal Document Assistant is officially limited to preparation of your legal documents. As a self-represented person, all communication, if any, from the court will be directed to you, not to our office. If you receive communication from the court, you should send a copy to us if you have questions about it.

Our long-standing policy has been to help with the processing and/or filing of any legal paperwork we have prepared with the appropriate entity when it is conducive to do so. We offer several levels of processing service. We may defer the court filing of prepared documents back to the client when there is an upcoming filing deadline or other unique situation.

Our Court Filing Authorization  is a form we send clients so they can choose the level of filing service they wish our office to use when filing forms with the court or other agency. There are several different levels of filing service:

Court filings by mail.  Our office will mail your documents to the court or other agency for processing. Keep in mind that filing documents by regular first-class mail is unpredictable and may cause delay in the timely filing of my paperwork. The fees for postage will be added to your account.

Court filings by Filing Service.  A People’s Choice contracts with a state-wide filing service with a daily pick-up at our corporate office. All documents submitted to the court by our filing service will be done in person at the court clerk counter. Documents will be submitted by courier at the court clerk counter under “standard processing” which means the documents will typically be filed within 1-4 court days. There is an extra fee for this level of service which varies based on where the papers are being filed/processed but is estimated between $40-$55 for each batch of documents filed in the case at one time. Rush filing (same day processing) is available at an extra fee. A People’s Choice cannot give you a definitive fee for the added “rush service” but it typically adds $50-$75 to the standard cost.

Court filings by EFiling (if available). Efiling is NOT available in all circumstances. If efiling is not available, A People’s Choice will use the in-person filing service. Documents will be uploaded via an e-filing service for fast processing. There is an e-filing fee charged by the service provider for this service (based on number of pages) plus a staff processing fee of $35.00 to scan and prepare the documents for e-filing. E-Filings are typically processed same or next day by the court. Although a rare occurrence, any Efiling service that requires more than 15 minutes of staff time to compile/scan unusually large documents will be assessed an additional surcharge based on amount of time expended at the rate of $80/hr. (no charge for the first 15 min.).

Client will file their own documents:  Our clients always have the option to file their documents themselves. A People’s Choice will copy and prepare the package to present to the court. The client will incur postage costs for this process to send the “ready to file” packages. It is then the client’s responsibility to deal with the court clerk directly about the processing of their paperwork.

A People’s Choice makes every effort to keep our clients informed about what our office is doing. What does this mean?

  1. We try to email clients an acknowledgment when our office receives communication by mail.
  2. We notify clients by email when our office has taken action on your file. For example, when we send documents to the court for filing, we will send you an email indicating so.

What this does NOT mean:

A People’s Choice does not assume responsibility for client inaction. A People’s Choice uses email to communicate with all of our clients. This means it is the client’s responsibility to regularly check their email for communications from our office. A People’s Choice maintains detailed notes on every client’s matter. This enables all staff to efficiently work on every case.

Our procedures include identifying all actions and communications in the client file. When we contact a client for information or with a question, it is the client’s responsibility to promptly respond to our communication.  If we fail to receive a reply, the matter will simply be placed “on hold”.  Receiving the client’s response triggers our office proceeding to the next step. Therefore, if we do not receive a response, the file will stay in “pending” mode.  A People’s Choice does not “calendar” a follow-up to see if a client has responded to a request for information. If a client has not heard from our office and is concerned they may have missed or overlooked a communication from us, you should email us requesting a status of your case.

All documents and other correspondence should be mailed to our corporate office in Ventura. The address is:

A People’s Choice Inc.
5755 Valentine Rd. #303
Ventura, CA 93003

It is not recommended to send communications that require a signature as that could delay in the package being delivered if someone is not available to sign for receipt.

Sometimes our office may ask that you write an “open check” payable to the court or other agency to whom you are paying a filing fee. The reason we ask for an “open check” is that we are not sure of the exact amount the court will want to process your paperwork. In lieu of wasting time having it rejected for the check being a wrong amount, we ask the client to write an “open check” leaving the amount of the check unspecified up to a specific amount.

How to write an Open Check: Since the cost of processing certain legal documents varies depending on number of pages, etc. we ask clients to issue an “open check” to the appropriate agency.

  1. Fill in the Pay to the Order to the court or agency that will be processing the paperwork.
  2. DO NOT fill in the amount on the check.
  3. DO NOT write out the amount on the check.
  4. In the MEMO line of the check put the words “not to exceed $(amount specified by our office)”.
  5. When we send the documents for processing, the agency will then issue the check for the correct amount.
  6. After your documents have been processed, our office will give you a receipt from the court or agency which will show the amount your check was processed for.

As a self-represented individual, the client is always in control of their own legal processes. Once our office has emailed a client completed paperwork for signature, it is up to the client when they want to proceed with the next step of signing and returning the documents for further processing. Clients should keep in mind, however, that California forms are subject to updates and revisions by the Judicial Council of California. A substantial delay in returning completed documents could result in paperwork having to be reprocessed due to a form update, which would incur a reprocessing fee.

Many courts are converting to efiling. This, unfortunately, does not eliminate the need for our office to have original, signed documents returned to us. When returning signed documents, please make sure you mail the original, signed documents to our corporate office by mail. In some instances, we can start the processing with an electronic version of signed documents, but this is not the case in all circumstances. Either way, our office will always require original signed documents to be returned to us if we are processing them with the court or other agency.

Court Call is a service that allows parties in a court case to appear at their scheduled hearing by the phone. If you are unable to personally attend the hearing as scheduled, some courts allow you to appear by phone through CourtCall. CourtCall is a service that allows parties to appear at a hearing by phone and serves Courts and Judges, throughout the United States, Canada and worldwide. Appearing through Court Call is not an option in every county nor with every type of legal proceedings. A Judge’s listing on the CourtCall website does not necessary guarantee that CourtCall Appearances are allowed on all matters and deadlines for scheduling do vary. Each Court and Judge listed will include details on whether video, audio or remote interpretation services are available, participant fees, and whether online scheduling is available. Therefore, you should check with the court to make sure that appearing through Court Call in your particular matter will be permissible. To arrange an appearance through Court Call, visit their website to see if your case is being heard at a participating court.  You will need to register your account and let the court know that you intend to appear at your hearing using Court Call.