The consequences from the 2011 Elkin's Task Force changes to the Family
Code are beginning to take roost, making your efforts to obtain a California
divorce, legal separation, annulment, or dissolution of domestic partnership
way more expensive then ever before. Which may be a good thing, since
we should all be mediating and settling these cases (and financial incentives
like this manage to force some litigants to behave more sensibly)!
Family Code section 217 introduced the requirement for live-testimony hearings at OSC's and at notice of motion hearings, and we just don't have the budgetary ability to manage and accommodate all these new contests. The courts were already over-burdened, but Elkin's Revenge guaranteed that the system would begin to collapse (as I predicted) and we are now beginning to see that this is so. More will be revealed.
The result is that trial judges have, in April, 2011, decided to impose a vast new set of requirements on family law litigants that promises to make their experience of Family Court more expensive and complicated than ever before. Which is a good thing for family law specialists, like myself, ... except that I really do want you to get out of this mess intact and with some money left over for your children's college educations (or just a little peace)! I can't imagine how non-represented parties will navigate through this latest morass, however.
Effective April, 2011, the San Bernardino Family Court has adopted this new form which must be filed with the Court prior to any mandatory settlement conference and before you get a trial date.
Similarly, Riverside County adopted this form under similar circumstances last month.Oh, and this one too if you are requesting spousal or domestic support. Expect other counties to follow suit. You may be sanctioned for failure to comply with these new informational requirements, and/or you may find you cannot conclude your case until you do comply.
Now I am not saying this is a "conspiracy" to punish recalcitrant litigants and in fact the work that someone (including otherwise lazy family law practitioners) must do to fill these things out guarantees the case is really ready for settlement or trial, on your dime. However, it will take five hours of extra fees in any middle class case with any marriage of significant duration to get them done, and as a non-lawyer do you have any idea what is now expected of you (from reading the questions you must answer)? I doubt it, because it takes a certified family law specialist in California to understand what information is being requested and why it is relevant (and it is). Pro-pers... good luck!
The system is broken because we are all so damned conflicted that nobody wants to give an inch. Give an inch, gain a mile!
Settle your family law disputes (or not as you wish, I have a mortgage to pay too!)
Thurman W. Arnold III, California Certified Family Law Specialist