Thursday, July 30, 2015

In Re Marriage of Olson (Cal. Ct. App. - July 30, 2015)

Here's a nice, short, and equitable opinion.

Justice Rothschild holds that even though the relevant case law is sparse, and even though there's a provision in the Family Code that says that family law cases are otherwise treated like any other civil dispute, a parent isn't precluded from asking that a child custody order be modified just because a default judgment was initially entered against her in the dissolution action.

A spouse might default for any number of reasons.  Maybe they're poor.  Maybe they're emotionally burdened.  Maybe they're content (at least initially) with what their spouse is requesting in the divorce.

Whatever.  The child custody portion of family law cases isn't primarily concerned with what the parties want (or wanted).  It cares instead about the welfare of the child.  Even if one spouse was initially content to have (as here) joint custody, and hence defaulted, that shouldn't stop her from moving to modify this order if circumstances have changed.  Nor should she be required to undo the entire dissolution proceeding -- e.g., seek relief from default -- in order to do so.

That's what the Court of Appeal holds.  And it's right.

Didn't even take a full eight pages.