New Laws That Will Affect Family Law Litigants

AB 2792 (Stats 2018, Ch. 83) Termination of parent-child relationship:

Under existing California Family Code Section 7823, a child may be declared free from the custody and control of either or both parents if all of the following are true: (1) the child has been neglected or cruelly treated by either or both parents; (2) the child has been a dependent child of Juvenile Court under California Welfare & Institution Code Section 300 and the parents have been deprived of his or her custody for one year prior to the filing of the termination petition; and (3) the one-year period is not tolled by any insubstantial periods of time during which the parent or parents had custody.

Effective January 1, 2019, this bill will add to item (1) the following: A finding that a parent committed severe sexual abuse (as described in Welfare & Institution Code Section 361.5(b)(6)) against the child shall be a prima facie evidence that the parent has neglected or cruelly treated the child within the meaning of this subdivision.

AB 929 (Stats 2018, Ch. 938) Spousal support factors:

This bill amends California Family Code Section 4320 to require Trial Court to consider all documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Family Code Section 6211, between the parties or perpetrated by either party against either party’s child, including, but not limited to, consideration of (1) a no contest plea; (2) emotional distress that results from domestic violence inflicted by the supporting party against the supported party; (3) any history of domestic violence by the supported party against the supporting party; (4) issuance of a protective order after hearing pursuant to Family Code Section 6340; and (5) a finding by Trial Court during the pendency of a divorce, separation, or child custody proceeding, or other proceeding under the Domestic Violence Protection Act (beginning with Family Code Section 6200), that the spouse has committed domestic violence.

AB 2274 (Stats 2018, Ch. 820) Order regarding care of pet animals in divorce or legal separation proceeding:

This bill adds new California Family Code Section 2605. Family Code Section 2605(a) will provide that in a divorce or legal separation proceeding, Trial Court may enter an order at the request of a party to require a party to care for a pet animal prior to the final determination of ownership of the pet animal. The existence of such an order shall not have any impact on Trial Courts final determination of ownership of the pet animal

Family Code Section 2605(b) will provide that, notwithstanding any other law, including, but not limited to Family Code Section 2550 [manner of division of community property], Trial Court may, at a partys request, assign sole or joint ownership of a pet animal taking into consideration the care of the pet animal.

Family Code Section 2605(c)(1) defines care to include (but not limited to) prevention of acts of harm or cruelty, as described in California Penal Code Section 597, and the provision of food, water, veterinary care, and safe and protected shelter.

Family Code Section 2605(c)(2) defines pet animal as any animal that is community property and is kept as a household pet.

AB 1290 (Stats 2018, Ch. 475) Holder of attorney-client privilege:

Current California Evidence Code Section 953(a) defines the holder of the attorney-client privilege as either the client (if the client has no guardian or conservator) or per Section 953(b) (now renumbered as Section 953(b)(1)) the clients guardian or conservator. This bill amends Evidence Code Section 953 to add Section 953(b)(2), which provides that the guardian or conservator will not be the holder of the privilege if he or she has an actual or apparent conflict of interest with the client.

AB 2780 (Stats 2018, Ch.178) Earning capacity in child support orders:

Current California Family Code Section 4058(b) gives Trial Court discretion to consider a parents earning capacity in lieu of his or her income, consistent with the best interests of the children when making a child support order. This bill will amend that provision to add that a Trial Court should take into consideration the overall welfare and developmental needs of the children, and the time that the parent spends with them.

It will also amend Family Code Section 4331(e)(1) regarding the necessary qualifications for a vocational training counselor to include a masters degree in the behavioral sciences or other postgraduate degree that Trial Court finds provides sufficient training to perform a vocational evaluation.

SB 1436 (Stats 2018, Ch.116) Parent/child relationship in intestate succession cases:

Existing law establishes a natural parent and child relationship for the purposes of intestate succession based on provisions of the Uniform Parentage Act, except for those provisions specifically excluded. It also authorizes the use of a provision of the Uniform Parentage Act to establish such a relationship if it was impossible for the father to hold out the child as his own and paternity is established by clear and convincing evidence. This bill will amend California Probate Code Section 6453(b)(3) [ways that Trial Court may determine whether person is natural parent] to replace the word Paternity with the word Parentage and to change references to father to parent. It will also specify that where it was impossible for the parent to hold out the child as that parents own, the requisite clear and convincing evidence by which parentage may be established includes genetic DNA evidence acquired during the parents lifetime.

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