Wednesday, 19 January 2011

New Divorce Laws for California

Couples filing for divorce in 2011 could find that the process has just become more difficult, expensive and time-consuming. Starting January first, new laws require oral testimony by both parties, instead of just merely written testimony. Until now, this testimony was routinely given by written declaration and submitted to the court. The new laws will require oral testimony, unless both parties waive that right, or a judge finds good cause not to have oral testimony.

The California divorce court system is already bogged down with a backlog of cases, and can already be difficult to get timely hearings. California divorce lawyers expect plenty of delays. Oral testimony definitely has its advantages. For instance, it gives you a chance to get your voice heard by the system.

However, there are practical difficulties here. Oral testimony means that we need more courts and judges to handle the extra workload. The California government has been downsizing and making drastic budget cuts. In a situation like this, it is going to be next to impossible for courts to increase their capacity to hear additional oral testimony.

This year also saw some other new changes to California family law. AB 1050, for example, will amend the Family Code to require family courts to consider the preference of children while granting a change in child visitation schedules. For this, the child must be old enough to make an intelligent decision. The bill also requires a court to allow a child aged 14 years or over to address the court in matters regarding visitation and custody.

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