Spouse Seeking Attorney Fees in Divorce Must Show “Disparity” Between the Parties

law-education-series-3-68918-m.jpgIn many divorce cases, one spouse often earns a greater income or has easier access to financial resources than the other. For the less advantaged spouse, this can present a multitude of problems throughout the proceedings. But fortunately, California law serves to reduce the disparity in income and access to funds, at least as far as one’s legal representation goes. One of the most significant steps in pursuing your case and protecting your financial rights – is to find an experienced family law attorney who is fully aware of the local laws applicable to cases brought in the San Diego area.

In a recent case, In re Marriage of Aguina and Kang, the trial court determined that the wife would be obligated to pay $10,000 of the husband’s attorney fees, to date. Here, the husband sought to dissolve the marriage back in September 2008. Since that time, the parties have been undergoing protracted, contentious litigation in both family and civil courts. In this particular segment of their case, the husband filed an order to show cause – why the wife should not be ordered to pay $25,000 of his attorney fees and $3,500 in monthly spousal support. He argued that his wife failed to comply with requests to produce documents reflecting the amount of income she earned or received.

Although both parties submitted income and expense declarations in the spring of 2012, the court ordered a forensic accounting of the wife’s income sources and expenses (and ordered her to pay for the evaluation). Later, the court found that neither party had been particularly forthcoming with information regarding their sources of income. Further, at the hearing, the wife still had not provided all of the financial documents that she was required to produce. The court ordered the wife to pay $10,000 of the husband’s attorney fees (which amounted to $25,000), concluding that it was necessary to allow him to pursue the litigation “on an equal basis and equal footing” with his wife. The wife appealed.

California law provides a set of factors for the court to review when making a determination as to whether (and to what extent) to award a party costs and fees. Section 2030 requires a court to determine whether such an award is appropriate, whether there is a disparity in access to funds to retain counsel, and also whether one party has the ability to pay for the legal representation of both parties. According to the court, if the findings show a disparity in access and ability to pay, then the court shall make an award of attorney’s fees and costs. The court of appeals concluded that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the wife to pay $10,000 of the husband’s attorney fees, in accordance with Sections 2030 and 2032. Specifically, the court pointed out that the wife seemed to have ready access to sufficient funds to pay her attorneys and living expenses, while the husband did not. Further, the wife delayed in completing the forensic evaluation of her income and expenses.

This case illustrates the importance of reaching out to a competent, experienced family law attorney who can effectively protect your interests – while working hard to move the case along in a timely fashion. For more than 20 years, Roy M. Doppelt has been representing parties with divorce matters 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).

Related Blog Posts:

California Court May Award Attorney Fees in Divorce Cases

In Divorce Proceeding, Court Denied Wife’s Request for Attorney’s Fees