One of the questions that we get all of the time from people who call our intake line is "How do I get a continuance for my hearing?" This may be because they are unavailable, they want time to find an attorney, etc. Although for attorneys this is generally a very straight forward process, it can be hard for a pro per (someone who represents themselves).
First you need to contact the other side to see if they will agree to a continuance. If the answer is yes, then you should get a list of unavailable dates from the other party before taking the next step of contacting the department clerk to see what date the court has available.
After you know the potential new date, you would file the proper paperwork (signed by both parties).
In Alameda county we have a local form ALA Fl-035 (find it and other local forms at http://www.alameda.courts.ca.gov/Pages.aspx/Family-Law-Forms ) . My first suggestion would be looking for a local form in whatever county your case is in. If your county does not have a local form, then you can create a pleading (word document) where you would essentially type in similar information to what is on the local form referenced here, and then after both parties have signed it, you would submit that to your court.
Now what if the other side will not agree to a continuance? Well, if you want a continuance so that you have time to find an attorney, most of the time, you can show up to court the day of the hearing and ask the court for a continuance so that you can find an attorney. This is a risk, since you likely will want to do response paperwork in advance of the hearing, just in case the continuance is denied. If you are scheduled for a hearing and this is your first continuance request,they are generally approved by the court, but there are no guarantees. I would suggest you consult with an attorney to draft your response paperwork just to be safe.
If you honestly cannot be there because you are scheduled to be out of town, have an emergency, etc and the other party will not agree to a continuance, then you can file a Request for an Ex Parte Temporary Emergency Order (FL-300 and FL-305). In that request you should 1) have provided notice to the other party that you will be filing this request since they will not agree 2) you should have attempted to get the other side to agree in advance of filing your request 3) provide the court with the reason you need a continuance and list your attempts to get the other side to agree to it and 4) provide the court with any dates that you know you or the other side are available for a hearing.
You would then file those documents (along with any local forms necessary for an ex parte. See form ALA Fl-010 for Alameda County) and the court would rule on your request within about 2 business days.