Budget Cuts Threaten Access to Bay Area Family Courts

Across the country, state courts face severe budget cuts that threaten access to justice for many and California is no exception. California state legislators have cut $350 million from the state court budget, with more cuts certain to follow. Local court will lose $135 million in the fiscal year that began July 1 and another $170 million next year from an overall budget of more than $3 billion.

In Santa Clara County, it means a loss of $6.8 million this year and perhaps more than double that amount next year. San Mateo County’s courts will take at least a $2.7 million hit this year, while Alameda County’s court system will be cut by more than $6.7 million. Contra Costa County’s courts will absorb more than $3 million in cuts and will likewise be forced to cut even more from next year’s budget.

For those considering divorce, be prepared. Twenty-five of San Francisco’s 63 Superior court chambers have been closed; two hundred of 480 employees will be laid off. “It will take a year and a half to get a divorce in San Francisco and to get a child custody order. If you file suit, we won’t do anything with your case for five years,” according to San Francisco Superior Court spokesperson Ann Donlan. That can be disastrous if the matter concerns custody of children, visitation, or many other sensitive issues.

Getting on with life after divorce is key, and a long, costly court battle only continues the pain, multiplies the cost, and hurts you and your children.

But, there is hope and a silver lining. Collaborative Divorce and Mediation provide a less destructive and even positive, path to resolving the issues and rearranging the family. Both are sensible alternatives to the embattled and clogged state courts. Either choice will make the process shorter, less traumatic, more equitable and leave more goodwill and cooperation than traditional divorce.