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Budget cuts hitting the court system, child custody issues hard

State budget cuts in California are hitting many government programs hard. The California court system is an example of a government branch that has taken one of the deepest cuts. Courthouses across the state are cutting back hours and even closing altogether. What has resulted is longer waits for court dates and further drives for some who no longer have a courthouse in their home city. Divorcing spouses involved in child custody disputes are particularly affected by these recent cuts, which totaled approximately $350 million from the California court system this year.

Child custody disputes are one of the most complicated and emotionally rife areas of divorce. The determination of with whom one's children spends time and the amount of time is never an easy decision for either spouse to undertake. In the midst of a contentious divorce where feelings of animosity and anger often run high, coming to an agreement with one's spouse on child custody can be even more difficult.

In addition, it is the court that makes the ultimate decision on a child custody determination. That being said, a judge will always consider the best interests of the child when ruling on the custody issue. The process can be complicated because legal custody, as well as physical custody, must be decided in addition to visitation rights of third parties such as grandparents if they become involved.

The last thing that any separating couple wants is a long, drawn out divorce. With a court system that has lost $350 million in funding, efficiency may no longer be an option. Sadly, in the Bay area alone, six courtrooms will likely close by the end of the year.

Source: kalw.org, "Court budget crisis creates long lines at legal self-help centers," Nicole Jones, Nov. 15, 2012

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
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