In California, roughly three-fourths of family law litigants lack lawyers, said Maureen F. Hallahan, supervising judge in the family law division at San Diego Superior Court. Typically, people file initial divorce paperwork on their own, but they don’t know what to do next, so their file languishes for months. Budget cuts in the state courts reduced available personnel and made the problem worse.Sometimes I think that the courts make it artificially difficult in order to make people use lawyers.
So now some courts in California offer one-day divorce programs for people who either can’t afford or don’t want to hire a lawyer. “The reality is, people are going to do it without lawyers, and we had to accommodate that,” said Judge Hallahan.
The program doesn’t mean a divorce is truly started and completed in a single day — residency and notification requirements have to be met first. You must, for example, already have filed a divorce petition and served your spouse with divorce papers to participate.
But the program does allow you to wrap things up in a single day, or even a matter of hours, once you meet the initial criteria. “This is designed to help people get through the system,” said Judge Hallahan.
Sacramento Superior Court began offering a one-day program, created by Judge James Mize, more than a year ago, and San Diego Superior Court began offering a similar option in March. Details of the programs vary (the Sacramento program has income limits, while San Diego’s currently does not, for instance), but both are free.
Monday, June 09, 2014
Some courts simplify divorce
The NY Times reports