California budget cuts threaten child custody court hearings

On April 16, the chief justice of the California Supreme Court cautioned that the state's budget cuts are putting pressure on its court system. She warned that yet another round of potential budget cuts threatens to result in the closure of more courtrooms. If true, this may inhibit the ability of the state's residents to rely on the judicial system to preside over child custody proceedings and other family law matters.

One of the cases affected involved a Sacramento man whose child was taken out of state by the mother. Because of the budget cuts, though, his case has been postponed. Along with the chief justice, state legislators and leaders of the California and American Bar Associations appealed to the legislature to restore reasonable funding to the court system. The president of the California Bar Association labeled the court budget reductions extreme and remarked that such budget reductions have so hindered the court's capability to work for California citizens that the rule of law might be in jeopardy.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye observed that the judicial system's budget has been reduced by 30 percent over the previous four years. Potential cuts include another $125 million if a tax proposal on the November ballot is not passed. She further remarked that, since cuts in 2008, the courts' ability to operate has been severely threatened.

Cases involving child custody cases are unique and have many variables. In California, the proceedings are exclusively adjudicated by an impartial family law court judge. But many say the proposed budget cuts will interfere with prudent and efficient use of the courts for the benefit of litigants. Hopefully state legislators find a way to remedy this problem.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "California chief justice warns budget cuts are threatening court system," Patrick McGreevy, April 16, 2012

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