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2011 San Diego Divorce Court Changes in Law

In San Diego, divorce court has changes in the law for 2011. Some of these changes affect many parties and some only a few but these are important. These changes are not comprehensive and only selective. The divorce courts in San Diego remain as follows: San Diego Main Family Law Court downtown; Madge Bradley Court downtown; El Cajon Court in East County; Vista Court in North County and Chula Vista Court in South Bay. Divorce, legal separation, paternity and annulment are all heard in the San Diego Courts as listed above.

The Elkins task force, as enumerated in AB 939, has recommended that hearings which, in the past, were decided on declarations {such as the initial order to show cause hearings for custody and visitation} will now be decided by oral testimony. The effect will be to give each litigant “their day in court” but will also make the divorce court calendar much heavier since oral testimony is time consuming and this will take effect on January 1, 2011. This is very significant since now the parties will be able to testify in divorce court at their initial hearing and the Judge can assess their credibility and demeanor. As such, absent a stipulation [agreement of the parties] or good cause, a Judge must take testimony or witnesses and/or parties.

In the past, when a restraining order expired, the orders were vacated and not valid. In many restraining orders, there were orders not only to restrain and stay away but also for custody and visitation since a restraining order affects custody and visitation under the California Family Law Code. Starting in 2011, the custody and visitation orders will survive the expiration of the restraining order. As such, to modify the orders granted in the restraining order, a motion to modify {order to show cause} will need to be filed and served absent a written stipulation.

Service of post judgment motions [custody, visitation, child support] was an issue since the local rules required personal service. In 2011, this has changed so that other forms of service will be accepted as proof of service. This is very technical and an attorney should be consulted to make sure the service is within the San Diego County Local Rules and California Family Law Code.

Summary dissolution requirements have changed as well. Summary dissolution eligibility is now determined by the five year period from the date of marriage to the date of separation and not to the date of filing. This is very significant and will affect many summary dissolution petitions.

Please feel free to contact us if you would like to consult with our firm.

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