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Disadvantages of a Litigated Divorce in Southern California
Problems confronting a litigated divorce are made worse in Southern California because of congestion of the family courts with the large number of divorce cases.
A litigated divorce takes too long. In Los Angeles County, during the fiscal year 2002-2003, 37,541 new divorce cases were filed, i.e., 816 for each of the 46 family court judges. No wonder most cases do not come to trial for two to three years or more.
During the several years that the case is pending, it may come up on the court calendar two or three times a year for a status conference, at which both attorneys are required to appear and inform the judge of the status of the case. In addition, one or the other attorney, or both, may schedule other matters for appearance in the court for hearings on orders to show cause, or noticed motions. Typically, the attorneys sit in court waiting while others of the 20-25 cases on the court's morning calendar are heard. Sometimes, the judge puts the matter over for further hearing the same afternoon or on another day. Both attorneys bill for their time [which includes time spent preparing for court, and traveling to and from the courthouse]. Typically, it may total three hours. If each charges $300.00 per hour, and there are ten such appearances before the case is called for trial, the total could be $18,000 (2 x $300 x3 x10) for court appearances alone.
In addition, attorneys, paralegals or both may bill for preparation for trial, mediation or settlement conference, numerous letters and phone calls to the client and to and from the opposing spouse's attorney, meetings with the client, communications with a financial planner and other experts, communications with the clerk of the court, research, writing briefs, and other miscellaneous activities.
All of the above follows the pattern of a personal injury, contract, or other civil case where each side's primary, if not sole interest, is to get, or keep the other side from getting money or property.
Poor Resolution of the Important Problems Facing the Spouses
In all of the above activity in the war that is a litigated divorce, the spouse and his/her attorney tries to gain an advantage over the other spouse, of money, time with the children, division of property, or on any issue that arises.
There is no attempt to take account of the legitimate concerns and needs of the other spouse; the spouses and their attorneys never sit down to work together to generate ideas to produce a reasonable and workable agreement. No experience in working out mutual problems has been gained, or in learning and planning for the future.
Instead, at the end of the case, with trial impending, the attorneys cobble together an agreement that contains some provisions favoring one spouse and other provisions favoring the other spouse, to the dissatisfaction of both, and disservice to the children and extended families.
Generally, debts incurred during the marriage are community obligations. This includes credit card bills, even if the credit card is in one name only. Student loans are an important exception because they are considered separate property debts. Community property possessions and community property debts are divided equally unless both spouses agree to an unequal division in writing. If spouses can't agree on the division of debts and possessions, a judge makes that decision.
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