Today’s Times report’s on one day court-aided divorce is a breakthrough in several ways.
First it is a breakthrough that the concept, while perhaps obvious once articuleatd, is actually now deployed, if only in a few places. The core paras from the Times story are:
Under the San Diego program, you answer a series of questions online to see whether you qualify to use the program; a family law expert, acting as the program’s coordinator, advises you ahead of time what forms and documentation you must bring to court.
Couples arrive at [the San Diego] court in the morning having generally agreed on the division of property and debts and a plan for the care of any children. The coordinator makes sure the paperwork is in order and helps wrap up any remaining details. (The coordinator isn’t representing either side and doesn’t offer legal advice or strategy, said Judge Hallahan.) Then, you go before a judge in the afternoon and leave with a divorce judgment. Since the program made its debut in March, the court has handled four to five such divorces a week, said Judge Hallahan.
Second, it is a breakthrough that a solution to the access to justice problem is getting national media coverage, rather than just endless restatements of the high number of the self-represented.
Thirdly and fourthly, the actual language used is important The actual headline, in full, is as follows: California Pioneers the Court-Aided One-Day Divorce. The phrase “Court-Aided,” catches the huge shift in the courts, in which they are starting to take responsibility for providing whatever “aid” litigants need to get justice.
Moreover, the use of he the phrase “court-aided” is fully consistent with the communication research driven strategy of using the phrase “legal aid” to include a broad range of services, including those provided by courts themselves.
Note that the article includes the usual cautions from family law practitioners, and also a discussion of the Dutch “DivorceHotel” concept, not yet launched in the US, in which couples check into a hotel and get the services they need to get to settlement. (Presumably the service provides separate bedrooms!)
Much more information about the San Diego program is at this link. Information about the Sacramento program, in which the litigants are means tested, is here.
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