4.15.2014

"One Day Divorce" Overlooks Possibility of Working at Marriage in Favor of Judicial Economy

This guest blog post is by Zach Hardister, current Regent University Family Law student:

A new marital dissolution procedure in California carries innovation, but misses the mark on marriage potential.  The following summary was taken from the San Diego Superior Court website regarding the “One Day Divorce” procedure being implemented in San Diego, California:

“The One Day Divorce Program assists parties with divorce cases before the San Diego Superior Court to finish their case and get a final judgment. Eligible parties will receive hands on assistance in finalizing all of the necessary forms to obtain the final Judgment of divorce or separation. Parties who successfully complete the process will go before a judge the same day and will leave court with a final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation.”

Essentially, parties to a One Day Divorce must work out all aspects of dissolution or legal separation prior to appearing before the court. The current requirements for the One Day Divorce Program are:
  1.  The parties must wait at least 6 months from the date of filing their Petition.
  2. The parties must be self-represented.
  3. The Summons and Petition must be served on the Respondent.
  4. Proof of Service of Summons OR a Response must be filed with the Court.
  5. The Parties must reach an agreement on all orders that will be included in the judgment, including: division of property and debts, spousal support, and if they have children, a parenting plan and child support. (This is not a requirement for the petitioner if the Respondent has not filed a response AND if the Respondent does not intend to participate in the program.)

According to California Court officials, nearly 72% of family law litigants are not represented by an attorney. Additionally, even simple divorce cases can take years to exit the system. These facts alone make California an ideal place to launch a pilot program of this nature.

After the filing and service requirements are met, both parties confer with a family law professional who examines their proposed divorce settlement agreement. Guided by the court professional, the parties fill out the forms needed to finalize the divorce right on the spot. If all of the necessary paperwork and disclosures are satisfactory, the litigants can appear in court the same day and leave with a final divorce decree in their possession.

It appears this new idea of the “One Day Divorce” is aimed at revising or extinguishing many of the requirements needed for summary dissolution in California. In the One Day Divorce Program, most (if not all) of the time, money, and resources needed to complete a simple divorce are eliminated. It’s been no secret that California is experiencing some of the worst budget problems in U.S. history. Fortunately, the One Day Divorce Program is completely funded by a grant from the San Diego Bar Foundation. Therefore, the SDBF has single-handedly relieved the San Diego court system from a majority of the financial burdens associated with these types of cases.

In a time when courts across the state are slashing public services because of budget cuts, the San Diego Superior Court is providing a new and innovative solution to simple divorces at no cost to the public. You can compare the differences between California Summary Dissolution and the One Day Divorce Program by looking up California Family Code §2400.

It is relatively easy to see the benefits provided to the court by the Program; however, the benefits which the parties receive are not as easily recognizable. Yes, the parties to a One Day Divorce are saving time and money in the present, but shouldn’t those involved in such a serious proceeding be more concerned about the long term effects? If the allure of avoiding attorneys and saving money isn’t enough to sway couples to the Program, avoiding all the time and trouble of the family court “grinder” surely will be.

Make no mistake; this program is truly innovative and beneficial. However, the glaring negative is that couples are not obligated to make an attempt at working things out before they rush into a dissolution of their marriage. A mere six months is all couples need before they can obtain their decree. Despite all the benefits, the One Day Divorce Program has the potential to make it too easy for a couple to obtain a dissolution. Of course, a great deal of couples are unable to peaceably form an agreement like the one needed for a One Day Divorce. Indeed, for this reason, good divorce attorneys will always have work in San Diego. In any case, this program gives couples a relatively “quick and easy” way out of what should be a lifelong commitment.

In sum, the Program is missing something more meaningful. The results of the One Day Divorce will be exciting to analyze as the program develops, especially if it becomes more widely accepted. Hopefully, there will be revised versions of the program if it catches on (“One Day Divorce [1.0]”?). Perhaps, a version that incorporates a more reconciliatory approach might work even better.  It is reasonable to believe that if either counseling or mediation were added to the requirements, more marriages might be rapidly preserved instead of terminated. California has a strong public policy for preserving marriage; however, it seems clear that the One Day Divorce Program overlooks this well established objective —at least for now.


3 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing the information.

    I would like to inform that I too have recently came across a site called simon family law on internet who is providing the service of family law, divorce, child custody, equitable distribution etc.
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  2. Zach,

    Thanks for the information piece on this "One-day-divorce" program in California. However, I think one very important piece to the analysis of this "innovative" program, is the damaging effect that such an implementation will have on the children of such divorced couples. To think that two adults can significantly alter the future well-being of their children in one-day ostensibly places judicial economy before the "Best Interests of the Child." It seems that the adverse affects of such a system will severely outweigh any potential benefit. But, we will just have to see how this plays out.

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  3. Hey Zach,

    Until reading your post, I had never before heard of the "One-day-divorce" program. As you have already mentioned, this program certainly does have its pros and cons. I agree with what you have said and I also agree with what Chris Pocta had to say. Children are often forgotten in the midst of any divorce proceeding whether it be a one-day-divorce or a one-year-divorce. However, because of the 6-month waiting period, I do not see how this one-day program is any different than a no-faut grounds for divorce which allows for a married couple to become divorced if they've met the simple requirement of living apart for 6-months (when no children are involved--one year if there are children). In that case the parties need an agreement as well but there is no requirement for counseling or otherwise. I think that the one-day program is no different than a no-fault divorce which nearly every state has adopted except that it will save time and money. Anyway, great post!

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