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Bill to Cut California Divorce Costs Faces Key Senate Committee

Legislation would allow families to use electronic recording instead of hiring reporter

A proposed bill in the California state legislature that would dramatically reduce divorce costs faces a vote from key committee, as attorneys and others have called for reform, said longtime family law attorney Alphonse Provinziano.

Proposed by state Sen. Susan Rubio, S.B. 662 would allow the use of electronic recording systems all civil law courtrooms, including family law, when certified shorthand reporters are not available.

That has become a serious problem amid a shortage of reporters in California which has led local court systems to reassign publicly funded reporters to criminal courtrooms, forcing couples undergoing divorce or disputes over child custody and support to hire private services that can cost hundreds of dollars per hearing.

“Should the bill pass out of Appropriations Committee, it will go directly to the floor, and we will need all the support we can get to all of the senators,” said Provinziano. “Electronic recording has been used successfully in other jurisdictions and remains a good, low-cost substitute when traditional court reporters aren’t available.”

As secretary-treasurer of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, Provinziano led a committee that looked into the shortage of court reporters and recommended specific legislative changes that could be made to allow electronic recording.

He said that court reporters are important in criminal cases where the need for accuracy is highest, but for divorce cases electronic recordings are sufficient for attorneys and judges to be able to check the record for what was agreed on previously.

“Court reporters remain an important part of our legal system, but if there are shortages, it makes sense that they should be assigned to criminal cases,” added Provinziano. “But that shouldn’t mean that everyone else in the legal system only has the option of paying a private court reporter and adding thousands of dollars to the cost of a divorce.”