Monday, February 09, 2015

Andrew V. v. Superior Court (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 9, 2015)

I'm glad the Court of Appeal decided to (belatedly) publish this opinion.  It's important.  I'm also impressed how quickly it resolved the writ petition.  For good reason.

Mother files a motion to move Children to Washington, and Father opposes it.  At the hearing, however, the child custody investigator isn't available to testify, and Father's counsel is also sick, so isn't there.  As a result, the hearing gets continued.

But the trial court nonetheless grants a "temporary" move-away order that lets Mother move Children to Washington in the interim.  Without a full hearing.  Without Father's counsel.  And without staying that order for 30 days as required by California law.

The Court of Appeal grants a peremptory writ and reverses.  You can't do that.

It's also done extraordinarily quickly.  The trial court order was on January 14, 2015.  Father filed his writ on January 20.  The Court of Appeal issues a Palma notice the very same day.  Three days later, the Court of Appeal issues its opinion reversing.  Publishing that previously-unpublished opinion earlier today.

Well done.

The only thing I'll add, however, is that the laudatory speed of the Court of Appeal in reversing the trial court's move-away order was far from matched by the speed of the trial court in adjudicating this order.  Mother got a promotion and was transferred to Washington in early 2014.  She filed her motion for a move-away order in July 2014.  A child custody investigation was ordered in August.  Which took until December 2014 to complete.  Then a hearing is scheduled for January 2015.  Which (as described above) doesn't fully resolve the issue, so the trial court continues the hearing until March 2015.

That's nearly a full year after Mother asks for the move-away order.  So she and the children are forced to stay in California the whole time.

It's clearly important to get these things right.  But it's also important to get these things decided quickly.  For the welfare of the parents as well as the children.  People shouldn't be in limbo for eons.  When (as appears here) there's a seemingly legitimate reason for a move, the court should act as quickly as it can.  Because a delay isn't in anyone's interest.

And if that means appointing more family law judges, or more custody investigators, or getting them (and/or the parties) to do their work a bit faster, so be it.

Good job by a busy Court of Appeal.  Let's hope this practice gets replicated by our busy trial courts.