Inundated California courts impact divorce, child custody cases

Choosing to divorce may not be an easy process, but when couples make the decision it is likely time to move forward. As this choice is made, many people probably don’t think about the current state of California’s court system and how it could affect proceedings. Before a divorce can be finalized it must be approved by a family law judge, so the court system is going to be involved at some point.

At this time, California’s budget cuts have proven especially difficult for the state court system. As people head for divorce, they might experience long lines to file paperwork with the county court’s clerk or may have to wait to move forward with a hearing. In fact, reports indicate that people seeking to modify child custody arrangements may have to wait up to four months due to staffing shortages.

Of course, the time it takes to move forward depends on the jurisdiction and the circumstances behind each case. If a couple has an uncontested divorce and doesn’t have children, then their marital dissolution could be processed and finalized relatively quickly. On the other hand, choosing to litigate a divorce could create delays, especially as the case will need to be heard before a judge.

Given the backlog in California’s court system, choosing a collaborative approach to settle divorce and child custody questions may be in the best interests of everyone involved. Through this process, couples can nail down the terms of their divorce without having to go through a litigious trial. Not only that, but the process can be less stressful, as couples work toward a mutually agreeable settlement. Although this might be the best option in some cases, every family has different needs.

Above all, it’s important to keep in mind that even a divorce case settled collaboratively will still have to be reviewed and approved by a judge, but could expedite the overall process. If there are children involved, then it could still take a little more time. Even though both parents had a hand in reaching an agreement, the judge will want to ensure that the best interests of the child are met.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, “Cutbacks in California court system produce long lines, short tempers,” Maura Dolan, May 10, 2014

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