There is a concept in civil law, which includes family law, called a statement of decision. When there is a trial a litigant has the right to request a statement of decision from a judge which explains the factual and legal basis of any decision. Generally judges do get a tad annoyed when you request a statement of decision as it takes time and effort to detail the reason for a judgment. In California the process is governed by California rules of court 3.1590 and Civil code procedure § 632. The purpose in going through this process is to preserve the objections to the identified ambiguities and controverted issues that the trial court failed to address for the appellate court.
The procedures are quite well defined. First the court has to serve a tentative statement of decision which is not binding upon the court in the case of a long cause trial. A party has the right to identify the controverted issues and ambiguities that have not been resolved with the statement of decision. In some cases the trial court attempts to overrule objections to a tentative statement of decision. However, the legislature does not provide an avenue for a judge to overrule any objections, rather the legislature specifies that a judge may order a hearing on proposals or objections to a proposed statement of decision or the proposed judgment pursuant to California rules of court 3.1590 (k).
Code of Civil Procedure § 632 states in pertinent part: “Upon the request of any party appearing at the trial, made within 10 days after the court announces a tentative decision, or if the trial has lasted less than one day, made prior to submission of the matter for decision, the court shall issue a statement of decision explaining the factual and legal basis for its decision as to each of the principal controverted issues at trial. … [¶] The statement of decision shall be in writing, unless the parties appearing at trial agree otherwise; however, when the trial has been completed within one day, the statement of decision may be made orally on the record in the presence of the parties Social Service Union, Local 535 v. County of Monterey (1989) 208 Cal. App. 3d 676, 681.
Where counsel makes a timely request for a statement of decision upon the trial of a question of fact by the court, that court’s failure to prepare such a statement is reversible error. People v. Casa Blanca Convalescent Homes, Inc., supra, 159 Cal. App. 3d 509; Miramar Hotel Corp. v. Frank B. Hall & Co., supra, 163 Cal. App. 3d 1126; In re Marriage of S. (1985) 171 Cal. App. 3d 738, 748 [217 Cal.Rptr. 561]; McCurter v. Older (1985) 173 Cal. App. 3d 582, 593 [219 Cal.Rptr. 104].)
The CA legislature supports the fact that the court may simply not overrule the objections addressing the principal controverted issued and ambiguities that the trial court failed to address and that the court is required to present a statement of decision that addresses the factual and legal basis for the identified controverted issues. The 10-day period for making the request commences at the time the clerk mails the copy of the minute order or decision. See Hutchins v. Glanda (1990) 216 Cal. App. 3d 1529, 1531.
Section 634 provides: “When a statement of decision does not resolve a controverted issue, or if the statement is ambiguous and the record shows that the omission or ambiguity was brought to the attention of the trial court either prior to entry of judgment or in conjunction with a motion under Section 657 or 663, it shall not be inferred on appeal or upon a motion under Section 657 or 663 that the trial court decided in favor of the prevailing party as to those facts or on that issue.” In re Marriage of Arceneaux (1990) 51 Cal.3dll30, 1132-1133