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Attorney fees awards in California Family Law proceedings

An award of attorney fees in a California dissolution (divorce) proceeding pursuant to Family Code section 2030 is the topic of this blog post.

Parties involved in dissolution (divorce) litigation in California are often not aware that the Courts have the power to order that the other party to the proceeding pay a reasonable amount to allow a party who is representing themselves, known in California as “In Pro Per” to retain an attorney in a timely manner before proceedings in the matter go forward. This procedure can also be utilized in a legal separation or nullity proceeding in California as well.  The relevant statutes authorizing this procedure are found in Chapter 3.5 of the California Family Code, sections 2030 through 2034. These statutes can be very useful for a party who does not presently have the funds to retain an attorney and has a pending trial or hearing.

This procedure can also be helpful to attorneys as well as any prospective client who is currently representing themselves without an attorney and that wishes to retain an attorney  can ask the Court to order the other party to pay so that they can retain an attorney before any trial or hearing. See California Family Code § 2030(b).

Further the Court has the authority to make an attorney fees award without notice by an oral motion at the time of a hearing on the cause of the merits. See California Family Code § 2031(b)(1), and at any time before entry of judgment against a party whose default has been entered pursuant to Section 585 or 586 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The court shall rule on any motion made pursuant to this subdivision within 15 days and prior to the entry of any judgment. See California Family Code § 2031(b)(2).

The court has the power to impose additional fees than those requested if it determines that the opposing party failed to cooperate.

The family law judge has discretion to create a “judicial lien” on community or separate property in order to secure payment of section 2030 fees. See California Family Code § 2032(c).

The use of this procedure allows a party who is currently representing themselves without an attorney to “level the playing field”.  And the procedure allows them to make such a request by an oral motion at the time of any trial or hearing.  This is very advantageous to certain family law litigants as many of them wish to retain an attorney but cannot afford to pay the thousands of dollars most attorneys charge as an upfront retainer.

In fact the California Supreme Court has stated that it is the public policy in California that both spouses have the ability to obtain effective legal representation.

Attorneys or parties in California who wish to view a portion of a sample memorandum of points and authorities and sample declaration in support of a request for attorney fees in California can see below.

Attorneys or parties in California that would like more information on a California divorce litigation document package containing over 45 sample documents including a sample motion for attorney fees under Family Code section 2030 can use the link shown below.

California divorce litigation document package

The author of this article, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995.

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter with legal tips and tricks for California. http://www.legaldocspro.net/newsletter.htm


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