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Child Custody Issues in California Divorce

May 16, 2013
Click the photo to visit David's website

Click the photo to visit David’s website

This is the first in a multi-part series by A Better Divorce member David Kuroda, LCSW Division Chief, Mediation and Conciliation Service Superior Court of Los Angeles (ret.) titled CHILD CUSTODY ISSUES: AVOIDING TRIAL, RESPONSES TO THE UNPRECEDENTED REDUCTIONS IN COURT FUNDING – A BILLIONAIRE CHOOSES COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE.  The article is one of 16 in the family reference materials of The Family Law Symposium, the major family law event for attorneys in So. California. 

INTRODUCTION

Family law was already reeling from longer waits, the departure of experienced judicial officers and the recession. The announcement of courtroom closures and layoffs of family law staff brought home the cascading effects of the economic crisis of the state and the country. As bad as it was last year, it has become even more challenging.

Last year Judge Lee Edmon, the past presiding judge of the Superior Court announced in March “These changes will affect every judicial officer and staff member — as well as the millions of attorneys and litigants who depend upon our courts to deliver justice.” Judge Scott Gordon, supervising judge of the family law departments, had announced pending layoffs of 300 court employees by July 1, and the closure of 50 courtrooms. It will take much longer to get hearings and parents will not have court orders to be able to see their children and for child support. Even uncontested dissolution will take longer to process.

On top of that, the reforms stemming from the Elkins Task Force will add to the delays and congestion in the courtrooms. The additional requirements will burden the courts even more.

Consensual dispute resolution (CDR) and helping litigants get divorced outside the courtroom is a timely response to the court’s problems. (The State Bar will be changing the section name from ADR to CDR, as mediation and collaborative law go increasingly mainstream).

SETTLING CASES ON THE COURTHOUSE STEPS – LONGER WAITS AND FEWER COURTHOUSES

Many military strategists justify their defense budgets by being prepared for war. The best way to wage peace is to prepare for war it is argued. When facing an election, some judges build impressive campaign funds and get the word out early on; the hope, of course, is to discourage others from even entering the race. It is no accident so many cases settle on the courthouse steps. Many attorneys prepare for trial and are willing to settle the case if the conditions are favorable. This is certainly one of the traditional ways of settling cases, yet considerable resources and time are expended. Trial preparation takes its toll on the attorney and his or her family.

With fewer courtrooms and courthouses, the pressure to settle cases will change. Estimates of doubling the time required before hearings and trials, cases will languish on the back burners while families, especially children will have to wait for court orders for parenting time and child and spousal support.

This article will present ideas and practice tips for the family law attorney who wants to promote settlement, and who seeks to calm the waters of divorce and separation. Family problems are not best addressed in the courtroom, or even outside the courtroom doors. They are best addressed far away from the courthouse. Family problems are not limited to the litigants and often are the result of contentious divorce cases and unpleasant episodes with opposing counsel. These practice tips will be helpful, not only is reducing conflict for the parties, but lessening the adverse effects of litigation on the attorney, and provide some relief for judicial officers.

David Kuroda is the former Division Chief, Family Court Services, Superior Court of Los Angeles and directed the Mediation and Conciliation Service, the first and largest court mediation program in the nation.

In his 18 years with the Superior Court, he was responsible for the district courts, the PACT and Contemnors’ Programs, Divorce Seminars, and Visitation Monitors. Under his leadership, the service set high standards for the mediation service and other innovative programs serving children and families of divorce.

He has served on numerous committees with the Judicial Council, Los Angeles County Bar Executive Committee, Family Law Section, and has collaborated on numerous programs with the bar associations of the South Bay, Beverly Hills, San Fernando Valley, and Long Beach. He’s the past vice-president of A Better Divorce: A group of collaborative professionals; he also serves as vice-president of the California Social Welfare Archives., on he advisory board of the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association, and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) California Chapter and with the George Nickel Award by the California Social Welfare Archives, USC.

In addition to directing the program, he has personally provided mediation services to over 7,000 families from the working poor to the wealthy and famous, including high profile cases and movie producers. Virtually all parents, whatever their backgrounds, love their children, and with some guidance, have been able to work together, even after divorce. Mr. Kuroda has provided training for graduate students from USC, and has taught professionals child custody mediation.

Always consult a professional in your area.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Ken Harvey permalink
    May 16, 2013 4:16 pm

    As usual, David is right on point. The opportunity for game-playing because of longer time to hearing/resolution is great. As professionals, we must encourage the use of CDR.

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