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California Says Mister Bobblitt No Longer Cut Off Legally

California Says Mister Bobblitt No Longer Cut Off Legally
Law & Mediation Firm of Klueck & Hoppes, APC

Some years ago, there was a rather nasty legal case involving a Mr. and Mrs. Bobbitt and a certain kind of cutting off. California recently had a very different legal case, involving a Mr. and Mrs. Bobblitt, and a different type of a cut-off. With the first Bobbitt case, doctors quickly acted to undo the damage. Recent good news is that the California State Legislature has also acted quickly to undo the damage in the Bobblitt case.

The Bobblitt case involved a legal process called "discovery." In legal cases, as the name implies, "discovery" is a formal means by which attorneys acquire relevant case information on behalf of their clients. There are various formal discovery methods including depositions (interviewing the opposing party under oath), formal examinations of people or documents, and interrogatories (formally asking questions).

In civil cases, which are law suits for money damages such as personal injuries, there is usually only one trial where the judge makes decisions. In that situation, it makes sense that, once the case has come to a conclusion, the two parties, who are usually strangers to one another before the accident, would not have any reason to continue to ask questions of one another. As a result, California law routinely "cuts off discovery" after trial.

However, family law cases often go on for years because child custody, child visitation, child support, and spousal support (alimony) can be modified years after a divorce case if there is a significant change in circumstances. Circumstances often change as children mature and parties' incomes go up and down over time.

Decided in February, a California Court of Appeal decided in the Bobblitt case that the civil law pattern of cutting off discovery after trial applied to family law cases. That particular cut off was very painful to family law attorneys and their clients because it meant that the attorneys could not do new discovery and acquire new facts when they came back to court for post-divorce modifications of support or custody when circumstances have changed.

However, the California State Legislature recently passed a law stating that in family law cases attorneys can do discovery even though the original divorce was completed years before. This new law goes into effect January 1, 2015.

Questions? Contact the Law & Mediation Firm of Klueck& Hoppes, APC to speak with a San Diego divorce attorney.