California Court Discusses Pendente Lite Attorney Fee Awards in Family Law Cases

The assistance of a good attorney is can be crucial to achieving a good outcome in divorce actions. Parties cannot always afford to hire capable attorneys, however. Fortunately, California law allows parties to ask the courts to order their estranged spouse to pay their attorneys’ fees while the divorce is pending. If a court refuses to weigh such a request, it may unjustly prejudice a party, as demonstrated in a recent California ruling. If you have questions about the cost of pursuing a divorce, it is smart to talk to a dedicated San Diego divorce attorney about your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the husband and the wife married in 2005 and separated in 2017. They did not have any children. In 2018, the wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. The issues presented to the Court were solely financial. The wife represented herself when filing the petition but later retained an attorney who made a request for pendente lite attorney fees, among other things. The Court scheduled the hearing on the issue of fees for June 2018, but it was continued numerous times.

Allegedly, a second attorney briefly represented the wife, but he withdrew, and she once again represented herself. The Court entered a judgment of dissolution in September 2019 and ruled on reserved issues two months later. The wife retained an attorney in April 2020, and the Court issued a final judgment in February 2021 in which it denied her request for attorneys’ fees. The wife appealed the judgment.

Pendente Lite Attorney Fee Awards in Family Law Cases

California case law long held that the issue of whether attorney fees should be granted in a dissolution proceeding is within the sound discretion of the Courts. Statutory modifications superseded such rulings, however, in that they require Courts to make findings of fact, resolve questions of law, and exercise discretionary authority to resolve certain matters.

In the subject case, the wife argued that the Trial Court erred in failing to make findings on whether an award of fees and costs was appropriate pursuant to its obligations under Section 2030 of the California Code. The Court agreed, finding that the Trial Court was required to hold a hearing on the pendente lite attorneys’ fees requests relatively promptly and that its failure to do so was prejudicial. Thus, the Court remanded the matter to the Trial Court for further proceedings, which were to include a hearing on the wife’s request. 

Confer with a Skilled San Diego Family Law Attorney

The California Courts seek to deliver just outcomes in divorce actions, which in some cases means they will require one party to pay the other’s attorneys’ fees. If you or your spouse intend to seek a divorce, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney about how you can protect your rights. The skilled San Diego lawyers of Doppelt and Forney APLC possess the knowledge and experience needed to help you seek a good outcome, and if we represent you, we will work diligently on your behalf. You can contact us by calling us at 800-769-4748 or using our online form to set up a free and confidential meeting.

Contact Information