The newly- enacted revisions to Family Code section 2450 that take effect on January 1, 2012 gives the family law court more authority to control cases that are out of control or at a standstill by ordering a Family Centered Case Resolution Plan. This change will allow the courts to assist the parties by providing judicial assistance and management to expedite the processing of a case with the aim of cutting litigation costs and focusing on an early resolution of the case. This must be music to litigants’ ears because an all-too-common complaint is that the process takes too long.
One of the most significant changes to the old law is that now courts can order a Family Centered Case Resolution Plan, whereas before the court could only do so upon the parties’ agreement. This should increase the court’s authority to control a family law case.
The following are some of the statutorily proscribed components of a Family Centered Case Resolution Plan, but are in no way intended to limit what could be ordered:
- Early neutral case evaluation.
- Alternate Dispute Resolution.
- Limitations on discovery, including its temporary suspension for settlement purposes.
- Use of telephone conferences between counsel and the court to assist in resolving issues.
- If stipulated to by the parties, modification or waiver of the requirements of procedural statutes.
- Bifurcation of issues for trial (for example, date of separation; valuation of business; validity of the marriage; and, division of an asset that cannot wait until trial).
This new tool could effectively reduce costs and time in court, and pave the way to a quick and efficient resolution of a family law case. However, this is a new law, and the quirks have not been worked out, so only time will tell whether this revised statute will work as well as it sounds.