New California Divorce Laws and Their Potential Effects

The dawn of a new year brought with it some potentially significant changes to California’s family law statutes governing divorce here in Orange County and elsewhere around the state. As NBC San Diego notes, the most significant effect of what are commonly known as the “Elkins Laws” will be the requirement that “most couples testify in person, in court, rather than having their attorneys submit written statements from their clients.”

Whether this is going to speed up Orange County divorces or bog them down depends a lot on who you ask. NBC San Diego and other media outlets had an easy time finding attorneys who would say, on the one hand, that taking testimony in person (unless both sides waive that right) will turn short meetings into long ones, turn depositions into “mini-trials” and make the California divorce process longer, more expensive and more stressful than it already is.

They were also, of course, able to find attorneys who took exactly the opposite view. The belief that things may now move more quickly and smoothly rests on the theory that “divorce cases now generate huge amounts of paperwork, often because of the very lengthy legal declarations that are now filed with the court” and to which all parties must respond. This theory holds that doing things in person will ultimately be quicker than writing up long documents and waiting for the large number of interested parties to read them and comment individually.

Well-argued on both sides. It goes without saying, however, that two weeks into 2011 there is no data that will resolve this dispute one way or the other.

What we can say with assurance is that these changes to California divorce law emphasize the importance of experienced legal representation during every phase of an Orange County divorce. New laws, such as these, are one of the main reasons why an Orange County divorce and family law attorney offers much more than legal representation in the narrow sense of the term. He or she can often be an essential guide through the complex and unfamiliar world of family law for clients who need to know that justice has been done at the end of the day.

KFMB-TV.com: New California divorce laws make untying the knot a lot harder

NBC San Diego.com: New divorce laws may dent your wallet