Proposing Major Reforms For Family Law Court in Sonoma County – Elkins Task Force Report

In Sonoma County most people are likely to be effected to some extent by family law, whether it is personally or through family and friends. Given the current condition of the family court system in California, can it be repaired?

Because family law is an area of importance, where courts resolve issues important to the futures of our families, children and local communities, bringing change is multifaceted. On April 23, 2010 in San Francisco, The Judicial Council of California accepted the Elkins Task Force Report of 117 recommendations.

Developed by a 38-member task force, including several Sonoma County legal experts, this sweeping report is designed to increase access to justice for the thousands of Californians who appear before court judges. The problems which exist in California family court are legendary.

In 2007, the California Supreme Court faced a difficult question. Were procedures used in court, intended to make the process easier for the litigants, in fact violating their rights to due process? The Court concluded that more needed to be done and it issued a call for action which was what lead to the task force being established.

From the Elkins website, “Throughout its work, the task force has sought input from individuals and organizations with experience and interest in California’s family courts, through focus groups, a survey of attorneys, and extensive opportunities for public input via the task force’s Web site, letters, and phone calls.”

Experienced attorneys in Sonoma County are looking forward to the change that the Elkins Task Force is sure to bring to the current system for their clients.

Appearing in Sonoma County since 1997, Family Attorney Joann Campoy says of the approved Elkins Task Force Report “It is a significant study which provides many recommendations which I would like to see implemented in our courts”. Ms. Campoy based in Santa Rosa also stated that this report is “bound to “improve the processes for everyone involved in family court proceedings and better meet the needs of the public”.

The Council initially charged the Elkins Task Force with two different duties: (1) to conduct a comprehensive review of family law proceedings; and (2) to make recommendations to the Judicial Council designed both to ensure due process, and to provide more effective and consistent rules, policies and procedures in family law matters.

Now accepted, the recommendations are aimed at improvements-from securing more judicial officers for historically under-resourced courts with huge caseloads all the way to expanding legal services for the many people who cannot afford an attorney.

The Judicial Council also approved on the same day, the establishment of a committee that would implement the task force’s recommendations. People all await future news in Sonoma County to see what change the committee will bring once established to the family law courts.

Top Reasons to Hire Family Law Attorneys

Hiring family law attorneys is needed whenever situations arise that require legal documentation or litigation. Some of the more common tasks include establishing guardianship for minor aged children, legal name changes, adoption, and child support.

Certain situations necessitate working with family law attorneys for a long period of time. This might include international adoptions or divorce. Under these circumstances, it is advisable to consult with multiple law firms to locate a lawyer whom you are comfortable with.

Complex legal issues can be difficult to deal with, so it is helpful to seek help from legal professionals who dedicate time and attention to the case. It’s also important to locate attorneys experienced with the specific type of case.

As an example, couples who plan to adopt children outside of the U.S. should get help from family law firms who have experience in international adoptions. Another example is couples who are getting a divorce will need to get legal help to arrange child support and alimony payments.

Sadly, divorce is a primary reason for hiring an attorney. Legal help is required to abide by state child support rules, establish child custody, and file divorce papers with the court. Divorcing couples also need help to determine equitable distribution of jointly-owned assets and to arrange agreements which do not require a court appearance.

Few people will disagree that divorce cases are often the most emotional. This is due to the fact that divorce can bring about a tremendous amount of anger and frustration; especially when children are involved.

When cases involve spousal abuse there is a sense of urgency which often necessitates obtaining protective orders. In many instances, people need help removing children from neglectful or harmful situations.

Dire situations rarely allow individuals time to shop around for a lawyer. In these cases, people can obtain referrals from the state prosecutor’s office or through the American Bar Association.

On the flip side, people often employ attorneys to prepare prenuptial agreements. Individuals who own a substantial amount of assets opt to protect them in the event their upcoming marriage results in divorce.

Prenuptial agreements can be tricky to arrange, so it’s important to work with professionals who can present the pros and cons of this type of contract. Oftentimes, prenuptials create additional problems if divorce occurs and can prolong settlement proceedings. It is imperative for these contracts to be ironclad from the start to prevent problems later on.

Lastly, people often hire family law firms to help settle probate estates. Probate is the legal process used to close decedent estates. The process can be simplified by writing a last will and testament and identifying beneficiaries to receive inheritance property. If a Will is not presented to probate court, the estate is settled in accordance with state law.

It’s never easy to settle a loved one’s estate, especially during the grieving process. Engaging in estate planning can make things easier for family members and can go a long way in avoiding disputes over inheritance property.

It should be noted that it can be more expensive to hire a law firm that specializes in a specific type of law, such as international adoption. Most often, family law lawyers can provide services at a lower rate than those who work in one specific field.

Regardless of the type of legal case, it is always advisable to shop around for the most suitable law firm. Look for family law attorneys who possess experience and have an excellent track record. Also, seek out legal professionals who provide guidance and put you at ease.

Family Law Judge

Family law covers a wide range of legal issues involving children and marriage, and a family law judge is the one that presides over these cases. They may hear cases that are related to child custody, divorce, termination of a parent’s rights, and questionable paternity. They may also decide monetary matters for those that have cases in family law. For example, a family law judge may decide whether to grant child or spousal support and the total that should be given. In some courts, the judge may preside over cases of child neglect and abuse.

Such a judge applies the law in their jurisdiction to the parties that appear before them in court, including the families and attorney. The judge will preside over hearings, trials, and makes the decisions in accordance to the law and are fair. Before they hand down their ruling, the judge will usually listen to each side of the case. They listen to other witnesses if there are any and the statement of the parties that are involved in the case.

Sometimes the judge will as a referee when they hear cases in their court. For example, if the attorneys have a dispute between them the judge will take the necessary steps to settle the dispute. The judge will work to quell outbursts and to make sure that court proceedings are following a satisfactory order. Another example is if a party in a custody case wants to submit a notebook for evidence the judge will be the one to decide if the notebook can be submitted as evidence. They will also decide how the new evidence should be handled.

Every jurisdiction has their own standard regulations and rules for handing cases in family law. In some situations, the judge may have to make a ruling in a case when there are no set standards to follow. If this is the case, the judge may have the power to establish the standards to be used as long as they are within the laws of the jurisdiction. The judge in family law cases is charged with making some decisions that are life altering. They will often have to decide whether or not to grant a couple a divorce, which of the parents should have custody, how much child support is to be paid, and more.

In addition to duties in court, a family law judge also has other duties outside of the courtroom. These duties can include doing legal research and reviewing legal documents in their office. Sometimes they will meet with both attorneys in a hearing instead of in a courtroom. A family law judge also supervises court personnel.

A judge in family court is appointed or elected.

Who Else Wants To Know the Basics Of Family Law?

To those unsure of what family law is, what it covers, what it provides and what it necessarily includes by definition, it is that branch or specialty of law that deals with family related issues and domestic controversies like marriage, divorce, domestic partnership, property arrangements, civil unions, adoption, child care, support and custody, marital rights and prerogatives and all other incidental issue that may originate from the family as a whole.

The practice of family law is conducted inside family courts established by state and federal laws. In family law, a lawyer becomes more than just a professional that provides legal assistance, he assumes the position of a marital or family counselor who identifies the issues that needs discussion and resolution and advises what immediate recourse is needed to lessen the impact of the controversies to the family as a whole.

A family lawyer is tasked to assess the legal extent of every right, eliminate overlaps in the functions of family members and advice against unnecessary litigation where reconciliation is possible.

Family law generally covers issues on divorce litigation, from property arrangements to getting to the very root of who caused the marriage to split apart. It greatly covers child care and support; in full length it protects the rights of the child and their adoption, also, legitimation or paternity determination.

Among spousal conflicts, it defines the support needed to be sustained, the rights to be observed, the obligations to be fulfilled and the courtesy to be extended.

As to property issues that may arise from other marital or family conflict, it covers extensively the division of assets and liabilities, the protection and delivery of legitimate to successors or rightful legatees and devises.

It is also the avenue to bring cases for neglect and abuse both for maternal or paternal authority, where the possibility of termination of parental rights may be adjudged against the neglectful or abusive parent or spouse.

All other issues that are not clearly identified to be under family law, but directly affect or is affected by family relations may be litigated.

What is family law really concerned about? In Family law can you see that the right of every member of the family are identified.

The marital obligations between husband and wives, the responsibilities that comes with domestic partnerships and other civil unions are embodied in principles of the law.

The rights protected between spouses and partners do not distinguish between gender, status, race or denomination. The rights of the children legitimate and illegitimate as well s the extent of the adopted rights are covered under this category of law.

Rights between and among family members either by descendant to ascendant or vice versa, between collateral bloodlines are fully discussed and given priority and attention in this field of law.

Family law is a special field in the practice of law that requires knowledge and expertise in law and psychological tendency to build a profile for each family member without compromising the need of one after the other unless between opposing parties.

Things to Consider When Hiring a Family Law Lawyer

A family law lawyer specializes in matters relating to issues that surround the family. These can include marriage, divorce, child support, spousal alimony, guardianship, adoption, domestic violence and child abuse.

Choosing a family law lawyer is an important decision, especially when dealing with child abuse and domestic violence. These legal issues are highly-charged events that require attorneys who are well-versed in domestic relations law and child advocacy.

Divorce can also be an emotionally-volatile arena that requires lawyers who can help both parties work through their differences while obtaining a fair settlement. When children are involved it is important to work with attorneys who will fight for the rights of minor children to ensure adequate child support is provided.

Issues related to family law often require clients to work closely with their chosen lawyer. It is best to determine what qualities you prefer before interviewing attorneys. Do you prefer a male or female lawyer? Do you require an aggressive attorney or one who remains calm? Do you need a lawyer with years of experience of would a recent law school graduate suffice?

It can be helpful to create a list of questions, concerns, and the desired outcome. Organize all records pertaining to the legal issue. For example, divorce lawyers will require financial records, real estate deeds, automobile titles, current and previous years’ tax returns, and information surrounding minor children.

It can be beneficial to interview three or more attorneys to determine which is best suited for your needs. Most law firms offer gratis meet-and-greet consultations while others assess a minimal fee. When arranging appointments inquire about initial consultation fees and what documents should be brought to the meeting.

During the meeting it is important to determine cost estimates. Family law lawyers normally require clients to provide an upfront retainer. This typically ranges between 25- and 50-percent of expected costs.

Legal fees are usually assessed at an hourly rate, but some cases are charged as a flat fee. Cases requiring extensive research and court appearances are typically billed hourly. Cases involving minimal work, such as a legal name change, are billed at a flat rate.

Law firms also assess backend fees to cover the cost of phone consultations, court filing fees, copying and faxing documents, and postage fees. Some attorneys deduct these costs from the retainer, while others remit monthly invoices.

The majority of family law lawyers require payment at the time services are rendered. However, some will allow clients to develop a payment plan. It is important to determine payment schedules to ensure you can comply. When payment plans are allowed, it is smart to obtain the plan in writing so that all parties understand payment amounts and due dates.

Individuals who require services from a family law lawyer, but cannot afford legal fees may qualify for pro bono services. Much depends on earned income and circumstances surrounding the case.

If possible, obtain family law lawyer referrals from family or friends. This can minimize time spent searching for or consulting with attorneys. Those unable to obtain referrals can utilize the Internet or telephone directories to locate law firms.

Another source for locating reputable attorneys is the American Bar Association website at abanet.org. The ABA does not offer recommendations, but instead publish a list of nationwide family law lawyers who are in good standing with the organization.