In the aftermath of the Great Recession, which officially began in December 2007, funding for California’s judiciary was substantially diminished. Moreover, ongoing budget cuts and a lack of affordable legal representation threaten to make access to justice an impossibility for the average person. In the last five years, California’s judicial branch’s budget cuts have totaled $1 billion in which twenty-two courthouses have closed and thirty courtrooms have reduced their hours of operation to the public including San Diego County, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts. Many county courthouses, including San Diego County, have been forced to increase fees and fines in order to maintain the courthouses’ operations. Notwithstanding, courthouses have been forced to reduced staff and hours across the board.

The unfortunate budget cuts at our State’s capital have long-reaching consequences that have ultimately trickled down to the Family Courts. Perhaps the most noticeable budget cuts are to court staff. Effective January 1, 2013, court reporters will no longer made available by the court to litigants for matters over 40 minutes.

Litigants will have to provide their own court reporters to preserve the record on appeal, which can cost upwards of $1,000depending on the length of the hearing. Moreover, the court has now imposed additional filing fees for matters under 40 minutes to assist in paying the court reporters. Also, courtrooms are being closed and the caseload for Family Law Judges has increased substantially, which means longer wait times for matters to be heard.

One of the best ways to avoid feeling the impact of these budget cuts on your case is to retain the services of an experienced family law attorney who is skilled in preparing the case thoroughly early on to put the matter in the best possible posture for settlement. Achieving a settlement over litigating the case can save you thousands and allow you to move on with your life sooner.