My First Experience With The Family Court System

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By Kiki, Guest Author - December 05, 2014 - Updated November 30, 2016

 

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OK just to recap, I am married to another woman and we are physically separated and have two children ages 11 and 13.  Before separating we orally agreed to joint custody, no spousal support and splitting reasonable expenses for the children.  

We both work and she makes more money than I do. I was served with the divorce papers on October 21st and had 30 days to respond. The first court date is set for November 18th at 9am and I took the day off from work.

I completed an "Income and Expense Declaration." The paperwork for the response is overwhelming.

We have not been able to agree on a schedule for the children. Nor do we agree on reasonable expenses. 

I lawyered up with a friend who is a member of the Alameda County Bar Association Volunteer Legal Services Corporation. I signed a "retainer agreement for legal services, pro bono". Other friends going through a divorce told me to expect to pay a retainer of between $7,000 and $10,000.  

I requested a "child custody recommending counseling services" appointment with the Unified Family Court before the first hearing date. I got a form email back from the courts telling me that there were no appointments available prior to my hearing date and to contact them again if the hearing date changed.

I received in the mail a notice to appear in court on March 24th at 10am for an "Initial Family Law Status Conference". I guess the courts really are backed up.  

In the mailing for the initial family law conference was a "family centered case resolution (FCCR) information packet" "the purpose  of the FCCR is to benefit the parties by providing judicial assistance and management in actions for dissolution of marriage . Assistance includes promptly moving the action forward, reducing the costs of litigation, and focusing on early resolution".

There was also a chart for "self-help services" including an overview of a dissolution, listing of clinics including a divorce clinic, local legal resources, and more. The information was in Spanish and English.

The day for court arrived. Despite the fact that I get up at 4am and live less than 3 miles away,  I was late to court. A friend asked if she could meet me there for moral support. I said yes at first and then later said no because I thought I would have more anxiety with her presence.

In retrospect, I wished I had, had a calm friend to drive me to court and drop me off. Parking was challenging, the lot was full upon my arrival and there was no parking on the street and I was anxious driving myself. Next time I will arrive 30 minutes early.

Fortunately, court did not start on time. It was crowded and the seating was such that I had to awkwardly crawl over people who refused to stand up as I got to my seat.

Did you know if you have a temporary judge you can request a continuance? Long story short, nothing happened in court, we are rescheduled until January 6th.

While I was at the courthouse I tried to schedule an appointment for "child custody recommending counseling services" but was told that there were no appointments until late January after my court date. We filed an answer and other papers.

I was finished with court at 10:30. I made no eye contact with my ex, our lawyers did talk to one another.

As mentioned, I simply want what we agreed to and what is in the best interest of our children. As one friend who has been through a divorce said to me..."It's so challenging for everyone, no one wins, been there and prayers up".

To be continued.

Peace, love, compassion and blessings.

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