California Court Discusses Sanctions in Family Law Cases

It is not unheard of for the Courts to require parties in family law proceedings to undergo medical evaluations. Typically, the results of such assessments are confidential and cannot be disclosed in other matters. While parties may be tempted to use statements made by their opponents to their advantage in family law cases, doing so can result in the imposition of sanctions. This was demonstrated in a recent California custody case in which the father revealed information from the mother’s prior medical exam. If you are involved in a dispute over custody of your child, it is wise to contact a San Diego child custody lawyer to assess what evidence the Court may consider in determining parental rights.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the father and mother married in August 2014 and had a child in 2016. In 2017, the mother sought and obtained a domestic violence restraining order against the father, which is set to expire in June 2022. Additionally, the father pleaded guilty to battery on a spouse. The Court issued a criminal protective order against the father, and the mother was granted sole custody of the child.

It is alleged that the father subsequently filed a request for order seeking joint physical and legal custody of the child he shared with the mother. In his request, he referred to and quoted a confidential psychological report from an evaluation the mother underwent in the dissolution proceedings of her prior marriage. The mother opposed the father’s request and sought sanctions. The Court found in favor of the mother and issued $10,000 in sanctions against the father and $15,000 against his attorney. The attorney appealed.

Sanctions in Custody Disputes

On appeal, the attorney argued that the sanctions against her were improper because the applicable statute, Section 3111, did not allow for the imposition of sanctions against an attorney. The Appellate Court explained that Section 3111 permits a trial court to order custody evaluations when doing so is in the best interest of the subject child. The reports produced following such assessment are confidential and may not be disclosed to outside parties.

If a Court finds that a party disclosed a confidential written report without permission, it can issue sanctions against the disclosing party. The attorney argued that as Section 3111 only refers to parties, it does not allow Courts to impose sanctions on attorneys. The Appellate Court declined to adopt the attorney’s reasoning, noting that the plain language of the law did not limit its enforcement to litigants. Thus, it affirmed the sanctions imposed against her.

Meet with a Skillful California Family Law Attorney

Child custody disputes can become contentious, but co-parents must treat one another with respect and refrain from disclosing confidential information to persuade the courts to rule in their favor. If you have questions regarding the custody of your child, it is smart to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The skillful San Diego family law attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC are mindful of the importance of protecting parental rights, and if we represent you, we will set forth compelling arguments on your behalf. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at 800-769-4748 to set up a free and confidential conference.







Contact Information