NEW LAW DRAMATICALLY CHANGES CALIFORNIA DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS

SAN JOSE CA DIVORCE LAWYER

A new law, effective January 1, 2011, is expected to have a large impact on California divorce proceedings. The law requires oral testimony during divorce hearings unless both spouses or a judge specifically declines it. This change could significantly lengthen the time it takes to finalize a divorce in the Golden State.

NEW CALIFORNIA DIVORCE LAW

The new California divorce law follows a 2007 case from the California Supreme Court. In that case, 34 of a man’s written exhibits were excluded from his divorce hearings. He later sued over the exclusion claiming that it prevented his voice from being heard, and he won.

To give parties more ways to state their cases, the California legislature passed a law requiring the opportunity for oral testimony in all divorce proceedings. The law states that the court shall receive live testimony and also that the court may ask questions of spouses seeking divorces. Live oral testimony is required unless each spouse specifically waives his or her right to it, or unless the judge finds good cause not to receive oral testimony. The law does not yet define what good cause is in these circumstances, however.

IMPACT OF NEW DIVORCE LAW

The new law gives judges the opportunity to observe and weigh the credibility of the spouses and various witnesses in divorce proceedings. However, amid government downsizing and California’s budget crisis, the addition of required oral testimony is likely to strain the judicial system.

Divorce court proceedings may take much longer to finish because of the extra time required for oral testimony from spouses and a number of witnesses. Couples wishing to divorce in California also may have to wait longer for their initial court hearings because of the courts’ fuller schedules.

In addition, the law may cause more couples to pursue divorce outside of traditional divorce litigation in order to finalize their divorces more quickly. Possible alternatives include mediation, arbitration and collaborative divorce.

If you have questions about California divorce or how the new law affects you, contact an experienced divorce lawyer in your area. A knowledgeable family law attorney can discuss your divorce options and help you determine which one is right for you.

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