Chapter 3. Santa Clara County Pilot Project of California Family Law Code >> Division 20. >> Part 1. >> Chapter 3.
The Superior Court of the County of Santa Clara may conduct
a pilot project pursuant to this chapter.
The pilot project applies to all hearings, for temporary or
permanent child or spousal support, modifications thereof, health
insurance, custody, or visitation in a proceeding for dissolution of
marriage, nullity of marriage, legal separation of the parties,
exclusive custody, or pursuant to the Uniform Parentage Act (Part 3
(commencing with Section 7600) of Division 12).
(a) Each and every hearing in a proceeding described in
Section 20031 in which child or spousal support is at issue,
including related contempt matters, shall be set by the clerk of the
court for hearing within 30 days of filing.
(b) At any hearing in which child or spousal support is at issue,
each party, both moving and responding, shall bring to the hearing,
copies of the last two federal and state income tax returns filed by
the party and pay stubs from the last four full months immediately
preceding the hearing received by the party, and shall serve those
documents on the opposing party at least five days in advance of the
hearing date. Willful failure to comply with these requirements or
any of the requirements of this pilot project may result in a
citation for contempt under Title 5 (commencing with Section 1209) of
Part 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure, or in the court's discretion,
the court may refuse to grant relief requested or may impose
evidentiary sanctions on a party who fails to submit these documents.
The clerk shall cause to be placed on the face sheet of any moving
papers for child or spousal support at the time of filing, a notice
informing the parties of the requirements of this section. The notice
shall also inform the parties that prior to the hearing, they must
meet with the Attorney-Mediator pursuant to Section 20034. That
meeting may occur in advance of the hearing dates by agreement of the
parties, or on the day of the hearing.
(c) No continuance of any hearing involving child or spousal
support shall be granted by a court without an order setting an
interim support level unless the parties stipulate otherwise or the
court finds good cause therefor.
The court may pass a local rule that suspends the use of the
Income and Expense Declaration mandated by California Rule of Court
1285.50 in some or all proceedings during the pendency of the pilot
project, provided that substitute forms are developed and adopted to
solicit substantially the same information in a simplified format.
The court may, notwithstanding the adoption of a local form, require
the use of the Income and Expense Declaration mandated by California
Rule of Court 1285.50 in appropriate cases on the motion of either
party or on the court's own motion.
(a) An attorney, known as an Attorney-Mediator, shall be
hired to assist the court in resolving child and spousal support
disputes, to develop community outreach programs, and to undertake
other duties as assigned by the court.
(b) The Attorney-Mediator shall be an attorney, licensed to
practice in this state, with mediation or litigation experience, or
both, in the field of family law.
(c) By local rule, the superior court may designate the duties of
the Attorney-Mediator, which may include, but are not limited to, the
(1) Meeting with litigants to mediate issues of child support,
spousal support, and maintenance of health insurance. Actions in
which one or both of the parties are unrepresented by counsel shall
(2) Preparing support schedules based on statutory guidelines
accessed through existing up-to-date computer technology.
(3) Drafting stipulations to include all issues agreed to by the
parties, which may include issues other than those specified in
(4) If the parties are unable to resolve issues with the
assistance of the Attorney-Mediator, prior to or at the hearing, and
at the request of the court, the Attorney-Mediator shall review the
paperwork, examine documents, prepare support schedules, and advise
the judge whether or not the matter is ready to proceed.
(5) Assisting the clerk in maintaining records.
(6) Preparing formal orders consistent with the court's announced
order in cases where both parties are unrepresented.
(7) Serving as a special master to hearing proceedings and making
findings to the court unless he or she has served as a mediator in
(8) Assisting the court with research and any other
responsibilities that will enable the court to be responsive to the
(9) Developing programs for bar and community outreach through day
and evening programs, video recordings, and other innovative means
that will assist unrepresented and financially disadvantaged
litigants in gaining meaningful access to family court. These
programs shall specifically include information concerning
underutilized legislation, such as expedited temporary support orders
(Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 3620) of Part 1 of Division 9),
modification of support orders (Article 3 (commencing with Section
3680) of Chapter 6 of Part 1 of Division 9), and preexisting,
court-sponsored programs, such as supervised visitation and
appointment of attorneys for children.
(d) The court shall develop a protocol wherein all litigants, both
unrepresented by counsel and represented by counsel, have ultimate
access to a hearing before the court.
Orders for temporary support issued pursuant to this chapter
shall comply with the statewide uniform guideline set forth in
Article 2 (commencing with Section 4050) of Chapter 2 of Part 2 of
Division 9 and shall be based on the economic evidence supplied by
the parties or otherwise available to the court.
Upon motion by either party or on the court's own motion,
any proceeding that would otherwise fall within this pilot project
may by judicial order be exempted from its requirements.
(a) Except as provided in subdivision (c):
(1) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to apply to a child
for whom services are provided or required to be provided by a
district attorney pursuant to Section 11475.1 of the Welfare and
(2) The court shall not hear or enter any order under this chapter
in a matter involving such a child.
(b) Any order entered contrary to subdivision (a) is void and
without legal effect.
(c) For purposes of enabling a custodial parent receiving
assistance under Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 11200) of Part 3
of Division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code to participate in
a pilot project authorized by this chapter, the district attorney,
upon the request of the custodial parent, may execute a limited
waiver of the obligation of representation under Section 11475.1 of
the Welfare and Institutions Code. These limited waivers shall be
signed by both the district attorney and custodial parent and shall
only permit the custodial parent to participate in the proceedings
under this chapter. It is not the intent of the Legislature in
enacting this section to limit the duties of district attorneys with
respect to seeking child support payments or to in any way limit or
supersede other provisions of this code respecting temporary child
(a) In any case where either party has filed a motion
regarding a custody or visitation dispute and has not yet scheduled
an appointment for the mediation orientation class by the time of the
hearing on the order to show cause, the court shall order all
parties to go to Family Court Services that day to schedule an
appointment. The mediation orientation shall be scheduled within 14
days. Mediation orientation shall be conducted by Family Court
Services and shall include general information on the effect of
separation and dissolution on children and parents, the developmental
and emotional needs of children in those circumstances, time-sharing
considerations and various options concerning legal and physical
custody of children, the effect of exposure to domestic violence and
extreme conflict on children and parents, the nature of the mediation
process and other Family Court Services procedures, and related
(b) After the mediation orientation, the parties may elect to
utilize private mental health professionals, in which case the
parties or the court may modify the fast track time guidelines
provided for in this section.
(c) If, after orientation, either party requests mediation, and
both parties complete Family Court Services mediation petitions, an
appointment shall be scheduled within four weeks after both petitions
are submitted and both parties shall attend the mediation as
(d) At the mediation, if the parties agree to all of the issues
regarding custody or visitation, the mediator shall memorialize the
agreement in writing, and shall mail copies of the document to the
attorneys and parents. Unless written objections to the agreement are
sent to Family Court Services within 20 days of mailing the
agreement, it will be submitted to the court and become a court
order. A copy of the order shall be sent with proof of service to the
parties and attorneys by the Family Court.
(e) If mediation is completed and there are remaining disputes,
the mediator shall write a memorandum of any partial agreement and
shall outline the remaining disputes which shall be sent to the
attorneys and parties acting in propria persona. The mediator shall
refer the parties to the Early Resolution Project. The parties shall
meet and confer within 14 days of the referral to determine if a
solution can be formulated. If there are remaining issues to be
settled after the meeting, an early resolution judicial conference
shall be scheduled within 30 days of the request of either party.
(f) At the early resolution conference, the judge may take
stipulations resolving the issues of custody or visitation. The judge
may also request the staff of Family Court Services to provide
assessments and expedited evaluations to be held on the same day as
the conference, in which case the judge, upon stipulation of the
parties, may also order a hearing as soon as the same day on the
issues. The judge may also order counseling, a mental health special
master, psychological testing, or an extended evaluation by Family
Court Services or a private evaluator on some or all issues.
(g) When the court at the early resolution judicial conference
orders an extended evaluation, the parties shall complete all
paperwork, submit deposits to Family Court Services, or both, within
five days of the early resolution judicial conference. An evaluator
shall be assigned to the case within 10 days thereafter.
(h) Evaluation shall be completed within 60 days of assignment to
the evaluator, and the evaluator shall submit a report and
recommendations which include a proposed order resolving all disputed
issues. This report shall be served by certified mail on the
attorneys of record, or on the parties if they are appearing in
propria persona. If there are objections to the proposed order, the
parties shall file written objections, meet with the evaluator within
30 days of service of the report, and serve a copy of the order on
Family Court Services within the 30-day period. If a stipulation is
reached, it shall be filed with the court. If a dispute remains, a
judicial settlement conference shall be scheduled within 14 days of
the meeting with the evaluator. Parties, counsel, and the evaluator
shall be present at this judicial settlement conference. If there is
no resolution at this settlement conference, a trial shall be set
within 30 days from the settlement conference by the settlement
conference judge. If no objections are filed, Family Court Services
shall file the proposed order with the court, and it shall become the
(i) For good cause shown, all deadlines in this section may be
altered by the court.
(a) The costs of the pilot project shall be borne by an
equalization of filing fees in Santa Clara County for all petitions
for marital dissolution, annulment, and legal separation, and all
first papers on behalf of respondents in proceedings for marital
dissolution, annulment, and legal separation and by equalization of
filing fees for motions and responsive pleadings.
(b) A donation of computers, printers, software, and other
equipment shall be solicited from existing hardware and software
(c) The court shall administer funds for the various components of
the pilot program.
The court may elect to publish a low-cost booklet describing
The court shall centralize, augment, and coordinate all
presently existing programs under the court's supervision that relate
to children, including, but not limited to, mental health special
masters, appointment of attorneys for children, supervised
visitation, and other supporting personnel.
(a) It is estimated for Santa Clara County's participation
in the pilot project authorized by this chapter, that 4,000 litigants
will be served annually, and that the following savings will occur:
(1) With an estimated 20 percent reduction in the use of court
time over the current system, the county would save approximately 178
hours per year of court time, or approximately 22 workdays per year.
(2) With an estimated cost savings in incomes of judges, court
reporters, clerks, bailiffs, and sheriffs, the project is expected to
save approximately twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) per year. Cases
involving child support obligations which the district attorney's
office was required to handle in one participating county, for the
1989-90 fiscal year, number 2,461. The average time spent on a
typical child support order is approximately five hours. There is a
potential of 12,500 man-hours per year that could be saved, resulting
in a savings of three hundred sixty-seven thousand eight hundred
seventy-five dollars ($367,875) per year in attorney salaries alone.
This does not take into consideration costs for documents, filing,
and other district attorney personnel.
(3) The average savings personally to litigants who otherwise
would require private representation would be from fifty dollars
($50) to two hundred fifty dollars ($250) per hour of court time and
other preparation work.
(b) The satisfaction of participating parties will be determined
by requiring the litigants using the pilot project to fill out a
simple exit poll. The response of at least 70 percent of those
questionnaires will be analyzed to decide whether the program has
been deemed satisfactory by the participants.
(c) The estimated cost of the program is as follows:
(1) The estimated salary for an Attorney-Mediator is sixty
thousand dollars ($60,000) to sixty-five thousand dollars ($65,000)
per year, plus an additional 25 percent of salary to cover the costs
of benefits for that position. In addition, there may be other costs
connected with this position for support staff at the court.
(2) The costs of exit polling and any informational materials to
be handed out to the public by the Attorney-Mediator is undetermined
and cannot be estimated.
(d) The estimated income to cover the costs of this program will
be as follows:
(1) There are approximately 10,000 dissolution of marriage
petitions filed in Santa Clara County each year. Of those cases,
approximately one-third of them have responses filed. At the present
time, it costs one hundred sixty-five dollars ($165) to have a
petition for dissolution of marriage filed and one hundred
twenty-seven dollars ($127) to have a response filed, for a cost
differential of thirty-eight dollars ($38). By equalizing the
response fee with the petition fee, income generated would be
approximately one hundred twenty-five thousand four hundred dollars
($125,400) per year. This does not include the cost of fourteen
dollars ($14) for each responsive declaration filed to a motion or
order to show cause, the annual number of which is significantly
greater than 3,300. It is estimated that an additional fifty thousand
dollars ($50,000) per year could be generated by equalizing the
responsive fees to a motion or order to show cause with the filing of
those motions. These fees generated would more than offset the costs
of the program.
(2) It is also anticipated that the Attorney-Mediator will develop
public information and outreach programs which will be paid for by
any excess revenue generated from the pilot project and ultimately
will result in savings to the public and the court. The public will
save by not having to pay attorneys for certain information regarding
child support matters, and the court will save by not having to
educate the public from the bench, thus expediting the handling of
support and custody cases.
(e) The cost of computers, printers, and other equipment will be
defrayed by contributions.