California Family Code Governs Request for Attorney Fees in Divorce Proceedings

justice-srb-1-1040136-m.jpgThe California Family Code governs various aspects of a divorce proceeding. In many cases, the Code operates to establish a fair and just process for both spouses and any children involved. One of the ways the law does this is to ensure that both parties have access to legal representation. Under the law, courts may order one party to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees and costs of maintaining or defending the proceeding. It is no surprise that the Code functions in this manner, considering the importance of being represented by an experienced family law attorney in any divorce-related action. Spouses from the San Diego area must ensure that their rights are protected every step of the way.

It is not uncommon for parties to seek an award of attorney fees as part of a divorce case. There may be times when it is justified and supported by the evidence or circumstances. And there are also situations where the court will refuse to issue an award of attorney fees, in accordance with California law. In a recent case, the wife sought an order to set aside the divorce judgment, claiming that her husband owned a great deal of property in Iran while they were married, which she claimed to have discovered after the end of their marriage. She further alleged that her husband transferred the proceeds of the land sales to his brother and his son, Majid Salim.

Because of these alleged transfers, the wife “joined” both of the parties to the dissolution proceeding. The Family Court granted the wife three awards of attorney fees against Salim, who in turn argued that the court erred in granting these awards. Here, although the parties obtained a judgment of divorce in 1993, in July 2012, the wife moved to set it aside on the grounds of fraud and misappropriation of quasi-community assets. Under California law, quasi-community assets include any type of property that was acquired by either or both spouses when living in another state that, had it been acquired while living in California, would have been considered community property.

The wife argued, among other things, that her husband sold the family home in Iran and transferred some of the proceeds to his brother and Salim. In response, the husband argued that the wife was aware of the sale at the time and that she had received her share of the proceeds. Once she successfully joined Salim to the divorce action, she attached a declaration reiterating the charges, as well as an income and expense declaration, without any further evidence of Salim’s involvement. The court of appeals agreed with Salim’s argument that the wife was required to offer some evidence to connect Salim to her misappropriation claims and reversed the family court’s decision. The court concluded that she failed to provide any admissible evidence to support a finding that Salim had received community or quasi-community property.

California courts examine the unique facts and circumstances surrounding every divorce case, when making determinations about the division of community property as well as requests for attorney fees. While this is an unpublished decision, and parties may not rely on or cite to it in future cases, the court’s conclusions may certainly serve to inform later decisions in this jurisdiction. It is extremely important that parties anticipating a divorce reach out to a highly trained and experienced family law attorney, who understands the particular provisions of the California family code.

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).

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