Reaching Successful Settlements in Today’s California Family Law Cases
This is the first in a multi- part series authored by Joseph P. Spirito, Jr., Esq. This series was originally published as a chapter by Aspatore Books (A Thompson Reuters Business). It can be found in its entirety in Inside the Minds: Strategies for Family Law in California 2012 ed.
The state budget crisis and the economic recession have changed the way family law attorneys practice. The budget cuts have made litigation more protracted and thus have fostered alternative dispute resolution. The economic climate has increased the difficulty of settling some cases and intensified the tensions between parties. This chapter will explain recent developments in family law and offer strategies to today’s practitioners on dealing with these changes.
The Impact of the State Budget Crisis on California Family Law Cases
The notorious deep cuts to the state budget have and will dramatically affect how family law attorneys practice. In addition to the deep cuts which have already occurred, thirty million more is to be cut from the Los Angeles County courts by July 1, 2012. By that same date, Los Angeles County will have closed fifty-six courtrooms. Supervising Judge Gordon calls these the most significant cuts in the history of California family law courts. To manage operations in the face of these cuts, Los Angeles County is changing its family law calendaring system. The County will move from the direct calendaring system currently used, to a transitional “initial assignment” system, and eventually to a master calendar system. When cases are filed, they will be assigned to a home court. The home court will make initial orders and determine if a case is ready for trial. If a case is ready for trial, it will be assigned a trial date, and on the trial date, the case will be assigned to a trial court. Post judgment matters are handled by the home court. A graphic following this chapter visually demonstrates how the master calendar system will function.
The budget cuts and the closed courtrooms have pushed hearing and trial dates further away, and so family law clients who are anxious to resolve their cases in a timely matter are turning toward methods of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), including mediation, collaboration, and arbitration. The budget cuts are causing ADR to become more mainstream, and case law has aided this progression, as explained further in the “Key Decisions Impacting California Family Law” subsection.
Next in this series: Effects of the Economic Downturn
Joseph P. Spirito, Jr., Esq. Has been in private practice in Los Angeles area since 1982 and formed McGaughey & Spirito in Torrance, California in 1990. He is a Co-founder and past president of A Better Divorce: Collaborative divorce group. Currently serving on the executive committee of the Los Angles County Bar’s family law section.