Wife’s Motions that ‘Purposely Delayed and Frustrated’ Case Trigger Award of Attorney’s Fees

gavelSometimes, divorce cases are extremely contentious. Sometimes, a party will make extremely incendiary and potentially damaging allegations, even though the courts would later declare that “not one iota of proof” supported those claims. Even when facing unfounded claims, it is important to take them seriously, retain counsel, and contest them aggressively. If the courts conclude, as they did in the recent case of one California father, that your ex-spouse purposely prolonged the case and delayed resolution, you may be entitled to an order demanding that your ex-spouse pay some of your attorney’s fees.

In that recent case, a family court here in California issued the couple’s divorce judgment in March 2010, but that did not end the litigation. Shortly after the court entered the order, which included provisions for child custody and visitation, the mother began restricting the father’s visitation. The mother alleged that the father abused alcohol, abused drugs, was mentally ill, sexually abused the children, or allowed his family to sexually abuse the children while they were with him.

The mother litigated her case for modification of visitation in California and, after losing here, in New York. The New York judge stated that the mother had no proof to back up her assertions. Despite the California order’s clear direction that the father’s visitation be unmonitored and not conditioned on drug testing, the mother allegedly denied visitation unless the father passed a drug test or used a third-party monitor.

The mother also asked for a child custody evaluation, which the court granted. As part of that motion, the judge found zero proof of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or mental illness on the part of the father, as well as no evidence that the father or his family had molested the children either. In fact, the judge stated that the mother needed to apologize to the father for calling him a pedophile.

In this case, the mother’s claims were totally devoid of factual foundation in the courts’ opinions. Nevertheless, even baseless claims can be dangerous to you and should be taken very seriously. This father did that, hiring counsel in both California and New York to defend him. Along the way, he racked up more than $125,000 in legal fees. Eventually, the trial court in Los Angeles County ordered the mother to pay $20,000 of the father’s legal fees. This sum was a sanction for the mother’s “impeding resolution of custody and visitation issues.”

The mother appealed, but the father, who was again represented by counsel, prevailed once more. The appeals court agreed with the father’s arguments that the mother’s conduct had the effect of needlessly prolonging the litigation (and increasing the father’s legal fees expenditures), while frustrating the “policy of the law to promote settlement of litigation and, where possible, to reduce the cost of litigation by encouraging cooperation between the parties and attorneys.” By going forward with claims that the courts ultimately found were devoid of an evidentiary basis, it was not unreasonable for the trial court to decide that the mother had “purposely delayed and frustrated” the father’s visitation and prolonged the litigation as a result.

Whether a family court action launched by your ex-spouse is baseless or credible, it is always worthwhile to take every action seriously and put forth a carefully prepared defense. The hardworking San Diego child custody attorneys at Roy M. Doppelt & Associates have been assisting clients throughout Southern California, including in San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista, with child custody, visitation, and other family law matters. For a free consultation, reach out to Roy M. Doppelt & Associates through our website or call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).

More blog posts:

California Court Addresses Award of Sanctions in Divorce Proceedings, San Diego Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 12, 2016

California Court Upholds Award of Attorney Fees and Sanctions in Divorce Litigation, San Diego Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 1, 2015