Divorce can take a toll on families, both emotionally and financially. In some divorce cases, one spouse may be more vulnerable financially than the other. For instance, it is not uncommon for one spouse to be the main “breadwinner” and for the other to take care of their children and home. In some cases, both parties are employed outside the home but there may be a huge disparity in their income levels. These financial considerations (and many others) could ultimately factor into the judgment of marital dissolution. Anyone who is considering a divorce is encouraged to contact an experienced San Diego family law attorney who can protect your financial interests throughout the proceedings.
In some cases, a spouse may be able to recover attorney’s fees related to dissolution of the marriage. While California law authorizes an award of attorney’s fees in divorce actions, it is typically within the discretion of the court whether and to what extent to award such fees. Under section 2030 of the state Family Code, courts must ensure that each party has access to legal representation and may order one party to pay to the other any amount deemed reasonably necessary for attorney’s fees (and for the cost of maintaining or defending the proceeding). In a recent California divorce case, the wife sought to recover attorney’s fees from her soon to be ex-husband.
The trial court denied the request, pointing out that the statute authorizes a fee award that would be “just and reasonable” taking into account the circumstances of each party. Under the law, the court must look at one party’s relative need and the other party’s ability to pay the fees. In making such a determination, the court may review evidence related to the parties’ current assets, incomes and abilities, including investment and income producing properties. The court found that there had not been a disparity in the access to funds to retain an attorney and that no party had the ability to pay their own and the other’s fees.
The wife appealed. The court conducted an examination of the parties’ respective needs and abilities to pay and whether it was necessary to award fees in order to “level the legal playing field.” After thoroughly analyzing each party’s finances, the court agreed with the trial court’s decision and concluded that neither party had the financial resources to pay their own fees, let alone their spouse’s fees as well. The court observed, among other details, that the wife’s larger earnings counterbalanced the husband’s greater separate assets.
While the facts in this case did not support an award of attorney’s fees, the decision is certainly limited to these circumstances. There are plenty of cases in which a court will deem it appropriate to grant an award of attorney’s fees to one spouse in divorce. In order to properly evaluate your case, it is important that you contact a family law attorney with full knowledge of the local laws and procedures affecting divorce matters in and around San Diego.
Mr. Doppelt is an experienced divorce attorney representing families for more than 20 years in Southern California. Doppelt & Forney serves clients in Linda Vista, Encinitas, Scripps Ranch, San Diego, and throughout Southern California. For a free consultation with a dedicated and experienced family lawyer, contact Doppelt & Forney through the law firm’s website or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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