San Diego One Day Divorce Program

Is the San Diego One Day Divorce Program a Good Idea or Disaster Waiting to Happen?

San Diego County has launched a "one day divorce" program as part of a pilot project. The pilot project proposes to divorce certain couples in one day.

Before you say, "how is that possible?", there are a few catches. The San Diego One Day Divorce program doesn't mean a husband and wife walk into a courtroom, say "we are here to get divorced" and they leave as they wished. It is really designed for those who have a pending case, are without representation and meet certain criteria.

What are the criteria of the One Day Divorce process?

According to the San Diego court website, the requirements are as follows:

"The One Day Divorce Program is for self-represented litigants who have filed a dissolution of marriage (divorce) case in San Diego County at least six months ago and are ready for judgment. Your case may be ready for judgment if you can answer Yes to all of the following questions:

  1. Has it been at least 6 months since you filed your petition for divorce or separation?
  2. Are both of you self-represented (do not have a lawyer)?
  3. Has the summons and petition been served on Respondent?
  4. Has a Proof of Service of Summons OR a Response been filed with the Court?
  5. Have you and your spouse reached an agreement on all orders that will be included in your judgment, including division of property and debts, spousal support, and if you have children, a parenting plan and child support? (this is not a requirement if you are the petitioner, your spouse has not filed a response AND he or she does not intend to participate in the clinic.)"

So there are your five requirements for the San Diego One Day Divorce program as of the date of this article. The one thing that jumps out at me is this is not limited to what would normally be California summary dissolution divorce cases. To review, summary dissolution cases involve:

  • There cannot be any children from the marriage and the wife must not be pregnant;
  • The marriage cannot be more than five years. This date is measured from the date of marriage to the date of separation.
  • Neither spouse can have any interest in real estate.
  • Neither spouse can have debts that are more than $5000.00 This does not include debts for automobiles that are not counted toward the $5000.00
  • The total net fair market value of all the assets that are community property, once again not including cars, must be less than $33,000.00 and neither spouse can have separate property assets, not including automobiles, with a net value of more than $33,000.00
  • Net value of course refers to the total value minus the debt or encumbrances owed. For example, if your car is worth $20,000.00 but you owe $15,000.00 on it, the net value is $5,000.00
  • Most importantly, neither spouse can seek alimony against the other spouse. Both spouses have to forever waive any right to receive alimony.

The San Diego One Day Divorce program doesn't limit its cases to these parameters. Thus, cases that involve long-term marriages, custody, mid level and even higher assets, high debts, spousal support and so forth can fall into this program. Usually, the more complex the divorce case, the more likely one or both spouses have respective lawyers but there are exceptions. Does San Diego really want those exceptions?

Is the San Diego One Day Divorce program risky?

It can be but there are two sides to this.

First, much depends on the person who is helping the husband and wife during this One Day Divorce process. Is he or she an experienced divorce attorney? Will he or she give legal advice? Will this person act as a mediator or a document preparer?

Second, what happens when the husband or wife have questions about issues, such as the length of spousal support or its amount, whether the custody plan agreed upon is the right choice or is there a better one, second-guessing that may take place about dividing assets that may or may not be community property, and so forth? I could go on but you get the point.

If the goal of this One Day Divorce program is to help husbands and wives who have reached an agreement on everything, don't have any questions or, if they do, they are told to get their answers elsewhere until they are ready to turn in their settlement proposal and forms and the husband and wife just need someone to put it on paper and finish it, okay, then it has potential. If it goes beyond that and actual legal advice is given, is San Diego Family Court strolling down a potentially slippery slope with this One Day Divorce program?

NBC Los Angeles did a writeup of the "one day divorce", with quotes from the presiding judge, David J. Danielsen.

The San Diego One Day Divorce program is an interesting move. It has potential to help those truly uncontested cases. Like most plans like this though, its success may depend less on intent and more on execution.

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