Family Law

Family Law News Issue 1, 2021, Volume 43, No. 1

Message from the Chair

Stephen A. Montagna, CFLS

Turn and Face the Strange – Changes.

We are indeed living in strange times with many changes. "Adapt, Improvise, Overcome" is no longer just a meme and social media cliche, but rather a mantra for which many family law practitioners and judicial officers have followed this past year. Navigating the pandemic and impact it has had on family law has required us to turn and face the strange, accepting many of the changes that have occurred over the course of this last year. Change is just a natural progression of the practice of law, be it good or bad. Over this last year we have witnessed many changes that, although may have initially been designed as a temporary solution, are now being considered as permanent fixtures in the practice of law. One important underlying theme associated with the changes is access to justice. As the court system continues to face potential closures, delays, and other logistical issues, the focus has been on how to ensure access to justice for those who are self-represented.

Recently, the State Bar published a study, (2019 California Justice Gap Study: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Californians),1 in which it was determined that 55 percent of people in California experience at least one civil legal problem in their household each year. Of these cases, 85 percent of these litigants received inadequate or no legal assistance at all. The survey determined that that the two biggest culprits responsible for the justice gap were a lack of knowledge and lack of services. Unsurprisingly there was an economic component to this problem with direct correlation between access to legal assistance and household income levels.

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