Each new year brings us new laws, and this year is no different. Some years there are more significant law changes than in others, but regardless of the significance or insignificance, each and every person is responsible for knowing the law. In the arena of criminal law, where one’s liberty is at stake if sent to jail or prison, there may be defenses to a lack of knowledge of the law, but this is rarely the case, if ever, in family law. Therefore, here are some changes in family law of which you, your friends and colleagues should be aware (please note, this list is not exhaustive and does not include or reflect all aspects of the newly enacted law but full texts can be found in the California Family Code.
New Standard Family Law Restraining Order. On the back of every Summons issued in a family law case, there are Standard Family Law Restraining Orders which apply to the filing party upon filing of the Petition and are effective when the responding party is served. This year, a new restraining order has been added which restrains a parent from applying for a new or replacement passport for a minor child unless either the other parent’s consent or a court order were first obtained. [Family Code § 2040(a)(1)]
Sexually Violent Felony Conviction as a Factor in Spousal Support. The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse shall be considered in making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support award in accordance with Family Code § 4324.5 or 4325. [Family Code §4320(m)]. If the conviction is that for a sexually violent felony against the spouse, spousal support to the perpetrator is prohibited [Family Code §4324.5(a(1)]
Prescribed Controlled Substances and Child Custody. The law has provided for years that in making custody decisions the Court must consider a parent’s habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances and habitual or continual abuse of alcohol. Now, the law has been amended to require the Court to also include the habitual or continual abuse of prescribed controlled substances by either parent in determining the best custody interest of a child. [Family Code §3011(d)]
Immigration Status and Custody. The immigration status of a parent, legal guardian or relative shall not disqualify the parent, legal guardian or relative from receiving custody. [Family Code § 3040(b)]
Child Concealment and Frozen Assets. At the request of the district attorney, the assets of a person who unlawfully detains or conceals a child may be frozen. [Family Code § 3134.5]
While there are many more new laws on the books – in all areas of the law – I felt the new statutes or amendments discussed above were the highlights for family law.