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 following:
  (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 have priority.
  (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 Section 20031.
  (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 that case.
  (8) Assisting the court with research and any other responsibilities that will enable the court to be responsive to the litigants' needs.
  (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 Institutions Code.
  (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 support.
(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 community resources.
  (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 scheduled.
  (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 court's order.
  (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 providers.
  (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 program.
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.