When a couple gets a divorce in California, disagreement over critical
issues can cause a simple court proceeding to drag out for years. This
can cause the parties to incur significant attorney’s fees over time.
Given the potential costs of legal representation in a divorce, it is not
uncommon for one or more parties to represent themselves in a divorce
proceeding. The technical terms for a party who represents themselves
in court are “pro se litigant” and “in pro per” party.
However, it becomes problematic where only one party has the resources
to hire an attorney while the other is forced to represent themselves
due to their lack of financial resources.
Need-Based Attorney’s Fees
When a couple in a long-term marriage gets divorced, one spouse is typically
seen as the primary income earner while the other spouse hasn’t
worked a job in nearly a decade. In such cases, the risk one-sided litigation
is higher because one spouse has an income while the other does not. This
can negatively impact the outcome of a case because one party’s
rights are protected by an advocate with professional legal training,
while the other might not.
California laws are designed to mitigate the harmful effects of one-sided
divorce litigation by allowing the more resourceful spouse to contribute
to the other spouse’s legal representation. To “level the
playing field,” California Family Code, Sections 2030 to 2032 were
passed into law, authorizing courts to award attorney’s fees where
there is a disparity in access to funds between the parties.
Evidence Supporting Requests for Need-Based Attorney’s Fees
When evaluating a request for need-based attorney’s fees, courts
will examine the relative financial conditions of the parties. To determine
the financial condition of a party, courts will use the parties’
Income and Expense Declarations (FL-150) and supporting documents, as
well as their tax returns.
Awarding Attorney’s Fees from Property
Although the issue of attorney’s fees and costs is generally separate
from property division issues, courts are authorized under California
Family Code § 23032(c) to order payment out of any type of property,
whether it constitutes community or separate property.
Awarding Attorney’s Fees as Sanctions for Improper Litigation
Sometimes the animosity between spouses becomes so elevated that the parties
and their attorneys resort to dishonest and often retributive actions.
California law will award attorney’s fees to sanction such behavior.
Under California Family Code § 271, courts may award attorney’s
fees to punish a party or their attorney for conduct that “furthers
or frustrates the policy of the law to promote settlement of litigation.”
Furthermore, California Family Code § 20107 allows a party to recover
attorney’s fees and costs if the opposing party fails to comply
with preliminary disclosure requirements.
Call Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich at (951) 506-6654
California divorce cases can be expensive. When the parties are not open
to resolving their conflicts through compromise and mutual understanding,
divorce litigation needlessly can drag out for years. However, a skilled
family law attorney can make sure opportunities for settlement, compromise,
and negotiation are not overlooked. At
Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich, you can rely on us to provide you with sound, comprehensive legal advice
to help ensure you obtain a fair result for your case. We are prepared
to zealously advocate for your rights when compromise is not a realistic
option. We have offices conveniently located in Temecula and Riverside.
Contact our office online to schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our legal team about
your family law or divorce issues today.