When summer arrives, schools close down (at least the ones that are not year round). So it figures that parents may choose this time to move, as opposed to during the middle of the school year. After all, there is less disruption and housing prices seem to rise in the summer.
For single parents seeking to move away with their kids, there is not a moment to delay. Recent spending reductions on our courts here in California mean that it is taking family law cases longer to get to hearing. For example, if you file something today, your hearing might not be until August.
One of the reasons for the delay, besides the financial problem, is that parties are supposed to go to mediation before their court date. That means there has to be enough time to have the mediation and for the mediator to write a recommendation to the judge if the parties fail to reach an agreement at mediation.
Admittedly, there are ways to get around mediation. In San Diego County, you may not have to go if you have been to mediation in the previous 12 months, or if the first date available for mediation is so far down the road that the judge decides to have a hearing first and make at least some orders before mediation and before a second hearing where the rest of the orders are made.
But even if you can avoid the mediation dance, there are other issues to consider. The Family Code allows parents in California to cross-examine the mediator or cross-examine each other or even have the court order a child custody evaluation. Then there is the problem of coordinating everybody’s schedule — the witnesses’, the lawyers’, even the judge’s. All of this means a longer hearing which may mean looking longer down the road for time when you can be fit in.
Also, Code of Civil Procedure section 917.7 says an order allowing a parent to remove a child to another state does not go into effect until after 30 days have gone by from the day that the judge makes the order. So even if you win the hearing and get to relocate, you are on a holding pattern for basically a month, unless your move is within the state.
With all of this in mind, now is the time to get your papers ready and file.