New Year, New Laws for Family Law Attorneys

The California legislature has enacted several new laws that may affect your family law practice. Here are some of the key statutory changes you need to know about.

  • No more waiting! Orders on child custody and visitation rights are immediately appealable.
    Bifurcation is commonly used in dissolution proceedings, but it has been complicated by the fact that decisions in one part of the case weren’t automatically appealable due to the “one final judgment rule” in CCP §904.1. That’s about to change: A final order or judgment in a bifurcated proceeding on child custody or visitation rights will soon be immediately appealable without the need for certification from the trial court. See CCP §904.1(a)(14)(amended by Stats 2017, ch 41, effective January 1, 2018). Appeals in family law cases are discussed in CEB’s Practice Under the California Family Code: Dissolution, Legal Separation, Nullity, chap 19.
  • Parents get an earlier shot at working out custody and visitation issues in mediation.
    To help resolve or narrow child custody disputes before the parties ever get to court, family courts must provide mediation services for parents. For the next two years, parents will be able to attend mediation even earlier in the process, i.e., before the filing of a petition, application, or other pleading to obtain or modify a custody or visitation order. The hope is that parents will be able to resolve the issues and avoid a court hearing entirely. See Fam C §3170 (amended by Stats 2017, ch 330, effective January 1, 2018, and set to repeal on January 1, 2020). For guidance on custody mediation, turn to CEB’s California Child Custody Litigation and Practice, chap 8.
  • New law streamlines the process under surrogacy agreements.
    Surrogacy situations are getting easier, from a legal perspective anyway. Under a new law, a surrogate who’s a party to a properly executed assisted reproduction agreement doesn’t establish a parent-child relationship by giving birth to the child. This means that there’s no parent-child relationship to terminate in an action to establish the parentage rights of the intended parents. See Fam C §7962 (amended by Stats 2017, ch 326, effective January 1, 2018). On parentage concepts and the legal effects, turn to CEB’s Practice Under the California Family Code: Dissolution, Legal Separation, Nullity, chap 8A.
  • Domestic violence victims have one less hurdle to obtaining evidence.
    California law has permitted the recording of a confidential communication to obtain evidence reasonably believed to relate to the commission of certain crimes, including a felony involving violence against the person making the recording. This limit created problems for domestic violence victims, because domestic violence is frequently charged as a misdemeanor. To address this issue, the law was amended to state that recording a communication to get evidence reasonably believed to relate to domestic violence is lawful and not rendered inadmissible in a prosecution against the perpetrator for domestic violence. This law will also allow victims seeking a domestic violence restraining order to record communications by the perpetrator to provide evidence to the court. See Pen C §633.5 (amended by Stats 2017, ch 191, effective January 1, 2018). Get guidance on obtaining temporary orders under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act in CEB’s Practice Under the California Family Code: Dissolution, Legal Separation, Nullity, chap 11.

Get more of these key legislative updates in CEB’s free 2017 NewsFlash! Key Statutory Developments for Family Law Attorneys. To keep up with all developments in family law, subscribe to CEB’s OnLAW® Family Law Library—a virtual encyclopedia of California family law, full of commentary, practice advice, and sample documents.

From all of us at CEB, we wish you a very happy and healthy new year!

Check out all CEBblog™ posts on family law.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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