A child who thrived in a loving healthy environment with both parents prior to a divorce - MUST entrust the court made every effort to ensure they have a loving healthy environment with both parents following a divorce.
The best interest of the child is first on our list and must be the utmost priority for our judicial. We will show you how the Pathways to Success Program will place our children first...
In 2015, approximately one-third of new Los Angeles County family law filings were for domestic violence (21,492) and civil harassment restraining
orders (11, 279).
California courts are literally embracing a high-conflict divorce model with infrastructure to sustain the out-of-control domestic violence rates. To allow domestic violence to reach such unconscionable levels, obviously the courts have become part of the problem and not part of the cure. The cure is preventive practices; unfortunately, our judicial often propagate domestic violence by creating worse case environments during the most tumultuous period in a divorce...A time when people need help.
California was the first state to require mandatory mediation; however, little has changed since the first mediation/ADR model was adopted. The CA ADR Program is a "one size fits all" approach, which frankly fails those who need more help. Fortunately, a few states have evolved their ADR programs by implementing a "Triage Model" which provides greater support to those in need. We intend to evolve the triage model further by enhancing collaboration between judge and mediator and improving conflict resolution practices, especially domestic violence prevention.
Because parents know the most about their children and their own living situation, their decisions will integrate the needs of all family members better than determinations imposed by judges (perhaps based on the recommendation of another third party, a custody evaluator) or distributive negotiations orchestrated by lawyers. Having fully participated in the process, the parents will experience a greater sense of ownership and satisfaction with the outcomes.
Our OFL Case Studies demonstrate CA courts often contribute to an adversarial divorce; therefore, the approach and culture must change to ensure judge/mediator become a key part of the solution, and no longer part of the problem. No one is ready for the elevated emotional state and stress of a divorce and some need more help than others. Example: A divorce is a hot point for domestic violence, yet there is virtually no/zero domestic violence prevention offered - A reactive approach to domestic violence is socially irresponsible and must no longer be acceptable. Under normal circumstance's most incidents would not occur; therefore, providing people help through this tumultuous period would avoid approx. 75% of occurrences!
In 2015, approximately one-third of new Los Angeles County family law filings were for domestic violence (21,492) and civil harassment restraining
orders (11, 279). How much more out of control can the numbers get!?
Next Steps: We are working with experts in the field to leverages best practices and lessons learned to provide an optimal solution for California.
*Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to a variety of processes that help parties resolve disputes without a trial. Typical ADR processes include mediation, arbitration, neutral evaluation, and collaborative law. Courts which propagate ADR result in "Win-Win" outcomes which allow families to quickly resume their post-divorce lives in the best interest of their children.
Because aspects of initiative #3 may be viewed negatively by court staff, we will hold off on sharing details until our other initiatives highlight the significant benefits to everyone (court staff and litigants) within the overall program.
End of March the excellent work under development from the Public Welfare Foundation will be published.
Please see our Pro Per and Case Law pages to learn how a little help can change the plight of self-represented litigants and streamline the legal process - objectivity = informed (EVERYONE) application of the law = optimum efficiency. 75% - 80% (depending on your state) of the court population is self-represented (mass majority!), in spite of this gaudy statistic most courts have cost PROHIBITED the self-represented from legal advisement. The 20% - 25% who are afforded counsel have access to abundant resources (paralegal, legal tools and extensive legal experience) resulting in David v. Goliath matchups when one party is afforded counsel and the other is not.
A Civil Right to Counsel (or Civil Gideon) is unrealistic due to the significant costs involved; however, there are "working" solutions which are helping to narrow the justice gap in a few progressive states - Please see our "Access to Justice" page for more detail and to learn about the "Washington effect". Unforntuetly in most states, including California, there is NO/ZERO offering available for most litigants who are cost prohibited from hiring an attorney. As a result, the failure rate for self-represented litigants is an unconscionable *75%+ when the opposing party is afforded an attorney! Do you think our court leadership would stake their families lives on less than a 25% chance??...they don't have to their families can afford justice.
*75% is based on the court's own data from the Elkins Task Force Study.
Why is there an easy fix? Because we do not have to "reinvent the wheel", there are many localized "best practice" courts which we can leverage to strengthen our "state" court. People experiencing inadequate and often abysmal processes and services in court X/county X should not suffer when court Y/county Y has figured out how to optimize their processes and services. We will profile the best practice courts to demonstrate how synergies among courts will provide a healthier state court system. Not surprising, employees within our best practice courts (progressive proactive, empowered courts) report higher job satisfaction - everyone wins in a "healthy" court.
#4 above highlighted the egregious failure rate for self-represented (pro se) litigants, but they don't have to fail. 2DCA, Division One has figured out how to provide the pro se pathways to succeed - we will demonstrate how...
Pro se cases often fail due to procedural mistakes because these hard working people made minor "preventable" mistakes (service was incorrect, they checked the wrong box, etc.) juggling legal procedure in addition to performing their full-time jobs (squeeze in time on breaks, etc.). Most Pro Se are cost prohibited from legal advisement and are provided limited self-help options - circumstances ripe for making mistakes. Unlike attorneys who dedicate their time to legal procedure and have abundant resources available to them (paralegal, etc.) to double check their work.
2DCA Clerks Office, Joseph Lane, Clerk/Executive Officer - Mr. Lane and his staff run a first class eFiling office as follows...
The 2DCA Clerks eFile system enables immediate notification and assists litigants to resolve procedural issues quickly. In addition, their eFiling instructions are easy to navigate and 2DCA forms are all available in one place. They also provide procedural instructions to ensure document standards are understood. Call the 2DCA office and you will immediately receive someone with strong customer facing skills to answer your question promptly, or they will help find someone who can. Empowering the clerk's office to resolve administrative procedural issues results in significant efficiency gains by allowing the 2DCA Justices to devote the entirety of their valuable time on the merits of a case. In addition, eFile documents are traceable (fax-file and counter filed documents are not), which avoids failure when a court misplaces documents. This is a Win-Win operation, cases do not fail due to preventable procedural mistakes and the court operates with maximum efficiency.
Unfortunately, many Superior Courts operate at the other end of the efficiency scale. Superior Court judges often spend the majority of their caseload on court administration, preventable procedural issues, rather than holding court on the merits of a case. This is a Lose-Lose operation, many cases are denied access to justice completely due to "preventable" procedural issue's (never receiving an opportunity to be heard on merit!), or the case is refiled which further burdens an already overwhelmed court system. Check back at the end of November and we will share horror stories of good people/families who failed due to insignificant preventable procedural issues.
The Pathways to Success Program is leveraging 2DCA best practices and other best practice courts to limit points of failure by error proofing forms, providing templates, FAQs and encouraging parties to meet-and-confer. Our/your future eFiling system will provide everyone opportunities to succeed and save the court/state/taxpayers a billion dollars (combined PSP savings) - stay tuned for further details...
Case Study Profile (initials used to protect identity):
> YS holds a minor in ADR and is a career Human Resources Professional. YS is a prior victim of domestic violence; however, she did not file for domestic violence during the aforementioned divorce. YS and several friends/family all settled their divorces without court intervention through the Chula Vista Superior Court, below YS shares why the program was effective.
> CJ, the Family Court Counselor assisted with the child custody mediation. Ms. J is not an attorney, but is empowered to guide parties through the legal process.
> A separate department assisted with mediation for child support. During child support mediation a Dissomaster report is provided to both parties and explained in detail. If the parties do not stipulate on child support, the Dissomaster report is provided to the judge to review and make a ruling.
> The Honorable Maureen F. Hallahan presided in the case, Judge Maureen F. Hallahan received training within the ADR program.
Personal feedback from YS:
1. Judge Hallahan demonstrated an in-depth understanding of the ADR program and her stern support for ADR raised both awareness and the importance to diligently work towards a solution outside of court.
2. Ms. J’s style was extremely effective, she too was stern and ensured both parties focused on the issues – her professionalism and command of the mediation helped avoid emotional distractions. This was not a counseling session to air grievances, we were clear there were objectives and consequences. Frankly, both of us worried/had concern for the consequences (explained to us) of not reaching an agreement, which was a highly effective aspect/approach during mediation. Watching the documentary Divorce Corp helped motivate a stipulation too!
3. In my divorce, both parties were self-represented and I feel the program helped guide us through the important issues; while, providing enough legal guidance to assist us to stick to the merits of our case rather than burden us, or the court with meritless procedural, or process concerns.
1. I believe domestic violence prevention should be included in the ADR program (details of domestic violence concerns are withheld). In the beginning of our divorce we did not take ADR seriously and missed the first session; however, once in your program we were able to set aside emotions and work out a solution in the best interest of our son - Had there been a similar approach to domestic violence prevention, I strongly believe the court would have helped us through this extremely emotional period of our divorce by setting us on a path to civil cooperation. I chose not to file for domestic violence, because I did not want to impact my ex-husbands career and have our son lose time with his father.
Why share pros and cons from a personal account? Because client data is the greatest deficiency in our courts. Our "State" court leaders are progressing towards a "Central Office" model for obvious reasons (economies of scale, standardized processes & procedures, etc.); however, the model holds little value without client data to monitor and improve the health of the program. Unlike the private sector which places the client #1, our courts often neglect or place little value on their prominent client (pro se) due to a legacy attorney-centric culture. Example: Please see details from the 2012 Santa Clara County Court audit (numerous more examples are forthcoming), court staff literally engaged in practices to disadvantage self-represented litigants; while heavily favoring their attorney clients (i.e. contributing to why 75+% of pro se litigants fail)! Note: We anticipate similar concerns resulting from the CJP audit, which is why the commission is fighting against transparency?
The fear or resistance to "change" is typically the greatest obstacle to progression in any institution - i.e. why we continuously highlight the cultural aspects/challenges as we move forward with the “Pathways to Success” Program.
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The “Pathways to Success” Court Program is comprised of several initiatives which provided litigants pathways to succeed by eliminating the numerous points of failure in our courts (starting with ADR) while providing assistance where no offering exists today. Provide people “Pathways to Success” and everyone succeeds, introduce opportunities to fail and many will fail, especially the Pro Se.
As you review the initiatives below, it should become apparent the Pathways to Success Program not only helps people succeed, the initiatives reduced court costs by introducing greater efficiencies, and providing opportunities to turn costly programs into profit centers.
ETA- We are building on the work from our national partners to provide details soon, in the meantime please see our working area below. Why begin with California? *California court leadership recognize the severity of our "justice gap" and are receptive to innovative programs to improve the glaring "access to justice" problem; therefore, there are opportunities to take a holistic approach and "build upon" other state programs which we can optimize in CA and then extend the program nationally.
*California court leadership - CA Judicial Council, Supreme Court of CA, CA State Bar Association, Governor Jerry Brown and we welcome CA's new Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Traditionally other lawmakers (senators, etc.) have taken a hands off approach to our courts; however, CA lawmakers have begun engaging in the "access to justice" movement to help us spearhead greater accountability within our judicial.
The #1 question we receive is how can the program move faster? Answer: We need more lawmakers to engage, having Federal/Washington lawmakers on board would provide a tremendous boost.