California Court Upholds Award of Attorney Fees, Denies Sanctions

red-symbols-5-1237168.jpgThe California Code provides parties with an opportunity to recoup certain fees and costs associated with various family law proceedings. For instance, under Section 2030 of the Code, courts have the authority to order one party to pay the attorney fees of the other, under certain circumstances. Essentially, the purpose of the law is to ensure that each spouse in a divorce, separation, or other related proceeding has equal access to legal representation. While the goal of the law is clear, parties often argue over the right to recover attorney fees in divorce cases. If you are considering separation or divorce, or a related issue, you may be entitled to an award of attorney fees. The best course of action is to contact an experienced family law attorney from the local San Diego area.

In a recent case involving a divorce that was finalized in 2011, the wife later brought an action under Section 2030 for attorney fees associated with the proceedings to modify the husband’s child support obligations. The wife alleged that she underwent two significant surgical procedures and was laid off from her job. The husband’s income was $160,000 that year. Based on the disparity of their incomes, the wife sought $1,500 in attorney fees at that point in the proceeding. Although the court suggested that the husband pay the fees, he refused and forced the wife to make a formal request.

At the subsequent hearing, the wife’s attorney sought the Section 2030 fees as well as a Section 271 award of sanctions against the husband for his failure to cooperate earlier in the proceeding. The trial court granted the wife’s request for attorney fees under Section 2030 but denied the additional sanctions. The husband appealed, setting forth several arguments for the reversal of the fee award. The court of appeals reviewed the language of Section 2030 and pointed out that the purpose of such an award is to ensure a fair hearing with both sides equally represented. Courts have approved attorney fee awards that are deemed just and reasonable in view of the relative positions of the parties.

To make that determination, courts consider a variety of statutory factors set forth in Section 2032 of the Code, such as ” … the need for the award to enable each party, to the extent practical, to have sufficient financial resources to present the party’s case adequately, taking into consideration, to the extent relevant, the circumstances of the respective parties … ” Courts further look to whether there is disparate access to funds, and whether one party is able to pay for the legal counsel of both parties. Ultimately, the court affirmed the attorney fee award, stating (among other reasons) that there was ample evidence to support the award. There was a clear disparity in income, and the court found that rendering an award under Section 2030 served to level the playing field between the spouses.

This case illustrates the complex nature of legal proceedings related to a divorce case. Here, the wife was entitled to recoup certain attorney fees associated with her request to modify child support. It is important to understand your legal and financial rights in divorce. To do so, you are encouraged to contact an experienced family law attorney as early in the process as possible. For more than 20 years, Roy M. Doppelt has been representing parties in 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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California Family Code Governs Request for Attorney Fees in Divorce Proceedings

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