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THE FAMILY COURTS AND WHY THEY MATTER

Santa Clara County has a family courthouse dedicated to family law litigation. It is a new courthouse built in the last couple of years. It is located at 201 N. First Street, San Jose, CA. The courthouse is where we file all the documents, where you go to appear in court, and where your case is going to be resolved.

If your case in Santa Clara County is determined by the judge to exceed two days, you are then referred to the Superior Courthouse of Santa Clara County, Civil Division. The Civil Division is used for cases that are going to exceed the two-day limit that Family Court allows for.

This process is problematic in many ways. If your case is transferred to Superior Court, you then do not have a judge who has family law experience. The Superior Court of Santa Clara County has more than 150 judges who handle all different kinds of cases. You may be in front of a judge who has never had a family law case before.

The huge advantage of being referred to the Superior Court in the Civil Division is that you have unlimited time in which to present your case, unlike when you are in the Family Law Division and you have advised the court that the trial will be two days. You are held to that trial list event and can be mis-tried if your trial must go over two days, even another half-day. Mis-tried means the court can say you gave the court an inaccurate time estimate. It is at the trial judge's discretion whether or not he is going to mis-try you.

It is critical to have an attorney who has operated in both of the Family Division and Civil Division because they have different rules and standards. There are a host of differences that can result from you being assigned to the Civil Division to try your case. You are in this arena where you may have a judge who has never dealt with a family law case. It is most likely if you are in trial, you have a complex matter, for example the valuation of a business, which is one of the most complex areas in California law. The case law that determines what business will be valued at is so complex and so unique that if you had a judge who is hearing it for the first time, you must have an attorney representing you who is able to navigate this very complicated issue.

The other issue complex issue in California is permanent spousal support. It is not unusual for permanent spousal support to end up in the civil court because in a long-term marriage California allows you to request support for a lifetime. There are statutes that have 15 to 20 factors that the court has to consider before it awards a lifetime spousal support.

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