Court Programs Offer One-Day Divorce
Brandon, FL (Law Firm Newswire) June 23, 2014 – A pair of courts in California are offering divorce programs in which the bulk of the legal work is done– and the divorce is granted — in a single day.
The programs are intended for the large numbers of divorcing couples who either cannot afford to hire a lawyer or do not want to do so. A New York Times story on the quick-divorce programs quoted a family law judge as saying some three-quarters of those seeking divorce lack attorneys. Those couples often find their cases languishing in the legal system for months following their initial filing because they do not know what to do next. Meanwhile, budget cuts have led to reduced court staff, worsening the backlog.
Divorce attorney O. Reginald Osenton cautioned against self-representation in all but the simplest divorces, but he said the expedited divorce programs serve a need. “If either spouse has any significant assets, I cannot
recommend highly enough that they each hire an attorney,” Osenton said. “This gives them a clear understanding of the reality of their legal and financial situation. That said, many will choose to go it alone, and in many cases, those divorces drag on for some time, clogging up the courts. To the extent that these programs help clear out the backlog and get people what they need, I think they are a good idea.”
Sacramento Superior Court started its one-day divorce program over a year ago, and San Diego Superior Court launched its own in March of this year. The details vary, but both are available to participants free of charge.
The San Diego program requires those who wish to participate to complete an online questionnaire to determine whether they qualify.
Neutral court coordinators then explain the process to participating couples, give them instructions and set court dates. Couples must agree on a general plan for dividing assets and debts and for sharing care and custody of any children before their day in court. The couples arrive at court in the morning and meet with their coordinators, then appear before a judge in the afternoon. At the end of the day, they leave with a divorce judgment.