ELECTRONIC FILING IN FAMILY COURT

   

After reading an article in the Fall 2017 Journal of the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists and then reviewing the most recent update to my Judicial Counsel Forms, I encountered the electronic filing and service group, forms EFS-050 (D) et seq.  These forms are based upon Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) section 1010.6 and California Rules of Court 2.250-2.261.  These rules authorize a court to provide for the electronic filing of documents, which has the same legal effect as filing a document in paper form.  A California court may also require mandatory electronic filing by local rule.  However, self-represented parties are exempt from mandatory filing, Rule 2.253(b)(2).  In other words, a self-represented party is to file, serve and be served with documents by non-electronic means unless he or she affirmatively agrees otherwise, Rule 2.253(b)(3).  Further, anyone may be excused from mandatory e-filing upon a showing of hardship or significant prejudice, Form EFS-007.

Each county is permitted to make it’s own rules about mandatory filing and service and to designate the case types that are to be e-filed.  Because county procedures vary, the best practice is to visit the court’s website to review the applicable local rules and procedures prior to filing.  For example, not all document types are accepted for electronic filing.  Some courts will continue to accept hard copies of ex-parte filings, judgments, exhibits, etc.

Participating courts have contracted to utilize an electronic filing system called Odyssey, which allows litigants to submit documents electronically and allows court clerks and judges to access pleadings electronically without the need to maintain a paper file.  A list of the currently participating county courts can be found on Odyssey’s website, odysseyefileca.com.

In order to begin filing documents electronically, the filing party or attorney is required to choose a certified electronic filing service provider (EFSP).  For choices, consult your county’s court website or review the list of certified providers on Odyssey’s website.  An account must be established with the EFSP, which acts as an intermediary between the filer and the Odyssey system.  Once an account is set up, the filer may submit documents to the court electronically.

DEADLINES:  Filing deadlines usually mean 5:00 p.m. or the time at which the court will not accept filing at the clerk’s filing counter, whichever is earlier.  By contrast, the Odyssey system allows documents to be filed 24 hours per day.  However, any document that is electronically filed after 5:00 p.m., or the time at which the court will not accept filing, is deemed to have been filed on the next court day, unless the court has provided by local rule that documents received before midnight on a court day are deemed to have been filed on that day.  For example, in Los Angeles County a document that is e-filed by 11:59 p.m. is deemed filed on that day.  Again, a party has to know the local rules.

FEES: When e-filing, the party or attorney must pay the court filing fees and the electronic filing fees by e-check or credit card.  Rule 2.258.  Alternatively, an application for a fee waiver may be electronically submitted for qualified litigants.

FORMAT REQUIREMENTS: To be filed electronically, a document must be submitted in a searchable PDF format.  Rule 2.256(d)(3).  This can be accomplished by creating a PDF directory in a word processing program or by scanning paper documents and saving the scan as a PDF.

CONFIRMATION OR REJECTION: The court receiving an electronically filed document must issue a confirmation that the document has been received and filed.  The confirmation serves as proof that the document has been filed on the date indicated.  CCP section 1010.6(b)(4).  Alternatively, the court must promptly send notice of the rejection of the document to the electronic filer.  Rule 2.259(b).

PROOF OF SERVICE: Electronic service may be required for represented parties by local rule or court order.  Where e-filing is mandatory, e-service is also mandatory, except when personal service is required by law.  Rule 2.251(c).  Voluntary electronic service (e-service) is permitted when the parties consent by serving a notice on all parties that the party accepts e-service and by filing the notice with the court.  Parties may use judicial counsel form EFS-005-CV.  Unlike other methods of service that cannot be performed by a party to litigation, electronic service may be performed by a party. CCP section 1010.6 and Rule 2.251(e).  If the electronic address changes, a party must file form EFS-010.  In addition to the parties, the court may electronically serve any document issued by the court that is not required to be personally served in the same manner that parties electronically serve documents.  CCP section1010.6(a)(3).  With limited exception, electronic service of a document is complete at the time of the electronic transmission of the document or at the time the electronic notification service of the document is sent.  However, any period of notice, or any right or duty to do any act or make any response after the service of the document shall be extended after service by electronic means by two court days.  CCP section 1010.6(a)(4)(A) and Rule 2.251(h).  Service that occurs after the close of business is deemed to have occurred on the next court day and proof of electronic service of the moving papers must be filed at least five court days before a hearing.  The judicial counsel form POS-050/EFS-050, proof of electronic service, may be used for this purpose.

While e-filing is not mandatory in the counties where I practice,  it is now mandatory in seven California counties and the expectation is for additional counties to adopt mandatory e-filing in the future.  For this reason, software providers are already providing the forms and e-filing is something that parties and their attorneys should be aware of.

Do you want to know  the latest information about legal electronic filing or any area of family law? If so, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. The Law Office of Family Law Attorneys Richard E. Bawden & Robert A. Kochis handle legal issues regarding separation, child custody, visitation, adoption, annulment, mediation, domestic violence, child and spousal support as well as pre and post-marital agreements. Telephone (909)792-0222, or email us at Officestaff@Richardbawdenlaw.com.

Along with his 30-year passion for the law, Family Law Specialist Richard E. Bawden is an avid baseball fan, loves history, and particularly enjoys sampling any kind of donut that is available.