California Court Discusses Grounds for Awarding Attorneys’ Fees in Family Law Cases

Generally, parties engaged in family law disputes are required to pay for their own attorneys. In some family law matters, however, they may be entitled to recover attorneys’ fees from the opposing party. The grounds for ordering one party to pay another’s legal fees were the topic of an opinion issued by a California court earlier this month in a custody case. If you need help with a custody dispute, it is advisable to consult a capable San Diego child custody lawyer to evaluate what measures you can take to protect your parental rights.

The Factual Background

Reportedly, the mother gave birth to a son in November 2018. She then instituted a child support claim against the father. The father’s paternity was established via genetic testing, after which the court entered a stipulated judgment. The father subsequently sought sole custody of the child and a protective order against the mother, arguing she engaged in harassment and cyberstalking.

Allegedly, criminal charges were filed against the mother. The family court granted the father sole custody of the child but delayed proceedings on the protective order until the resolution of the criminal case. The mother filed petitions to modify custody and visitation and requested attorneys’ fees. The court denied her request for fees, and she appealed.

Grounds for Awarding Attorneys’ Fees in Family Law Cases

The Court rejected many of the arguments the mother asserted in her quest for attorneys’ fees. Specifically, the Court found that there were no findings that the father made false allegations that the mother abused the child, thereby entitling her to such fees. Further, the mother was not the prevailing party.

The Court explained, though,  that merely because she was not entitled to attorneys’ fees under the section of the Code awarding such fees to the prevailing party, she was not precluded from recovering them under another provision. The Court noted that the mother argued that the subject case was related to the prior paternity proceeding, thereby entitling her to attorneys’ fees. The Court explained that two cases might be related if they pertain to a similar or same subject matter and could be joined in one suit.

A separate civil suit that could impact a family law action could be related to a family law action as well. Here, the Court ultimately adopted the mother’s reasoning, finding that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to evaluate whether the mother was entitled to attorneys’ fees. Thus, it reversed the order denying her request and remanded the matter to the trial court.

Meet with a Trusted California Family Law Attorney

Disagreements over the custody of a child often require legal action, and in some cases, a party forced to turn to the courts to resolve a dispute may be able to recover attorneys’ fees.  If you need assistance with a child custody matter, you should meet with a lawyer as soon as possible. The trusted San Diego family law attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC are adept at helping parties protect their parental rights, and we can help you to seek the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can reach us by calling 800-769-4748 or by using the form online to set up a free and confidential meeting.




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