Articles Posted in Attorney Fees and Costs

Divorce is never ideal. Even in the most amicable of divorces, it is never the outcome that any couple dreams of on the day that they fall in philippines-holiday-indicates-asian-vacation-or-getawaylove and decide to get married. However, as difficult as divorce might be, financially, emotionally, and otherwise, imagine the alternative. Imagine that you are stuck married to a spouse with whom you are miserable, just because the laws of your county make it that way.

This is exactly the case in the Philippines, the only country in the world (outside of the Vatican), where divorce is still illegal. There, couples may file for a legal separation, which would allow them to lead separate lives and split their property, but they remain legally married. If parties do become legally separated, they are not able to remarry later, and even worse, if they become engaged in a new relationship even after legal separation has been granted, they risk being criminally charged for committing adultery. Continue reading

Bifurcation is an often underutilized procedure in civil cases (including family law cases) that, if used correctly, can significantly reduce the attorney fees and costs necessary to bring a case to a conclusion and can significantly increase the prospect of settlement.family-law-shows-blood-relative-and-court

So what is bifurcation exactly? In the process of bifurcation, the Court, usually on the motion of one of the parties, agrees to hear a trial on just one part of a case. Often times there are difficult issues, that once resolved, simplify the rest of the case. Continue reading

17-year-divorce-caseMuch to our dismay, the couple once lovingly known by the public as “Bennifer,” a.k.a. Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, announced back in June of 2015 that they were going to get a divorce. This was just before the couple’s 10-year anniversary. They reportedly consulted with legal counsel, mediators, and business managers, and agreed that they wouldn’t file the actual divorce papers until after they mediated and resolved all of the issues surrounding custody and property division.

Now over a year since the divorce news broke, neither Jen nor Ben has actually taken the plunge and filed a divorce petition. While Ben has been fairly open about the fact that he never wanted to split from Jen, it finally sounds like the divorce is officially off the table. In their case, the couple is pretty lucky that they didn’t yet file their divorce paperwork. Although it is not difficult to have a divorce petition dismissed, they did not have to bother with the extra steps necessary in actually filing for divorce and then filing a request for a dismissal.

Continue reading

pokerThe title of this blog – for our younger readers – comes from the Kenny Roger’s song, “The Gambler” which feels appropriate when discussing a family law case.  Parties gamble on the strength of their position, the strength of their legal theories and evidence, and the likelihood they can convince a judge to accept their story.  There is always the other side to that gamble; namely the other party.  They are also gambling.  Family law is not always a zero-sum game, but there are many issues that are either a “yes” or a “no.”  So when you litigate a case, you may spend a great deal of time and money only to come out on the other end empty handed.

Good gamblers know to always hedge their bet.  Hedging is the act of protecting yourself from loss by reducing the risk.  Hedging a bet comes at a cost though. You may reduce your risk of loss, but you also reduce your recovery.  In family law, you reduce risk by negotiating a settlement.  There are many ways parties can reach a settlement of their case, but the following three scenarios represent the most common avenues. Continue reading

attorney-fees-sanctions

Attorney fees can be a very important issue in many divorce cases. Most family law litigants in California, and certainly their attorneys, are familiar with Family Code section 2030, which awards attorney fees on a “need and ability” basis. This statute is designed to make sure that each party has equal access to legal representation. This makes perfect sense: as a matter of public policy, we don’t want people prevailing on issues as important as child support and child custody because the prevailing party had an attorney and the losing party did not.

There are, however, many other mechanisms that allow the Court to award attorney fees and/or sanctions, many of which are underutilized. They are discussed below.

Continue reading

sanctions-bad-behavior

More so than in other areas of the law, attorney fees can be a critical part of a divorce case. In most civil cases, a party is awarded attorney fees only after they have prevailed in their case and only where attorney fees are specifically provided for by statute or by contract. In family law cases, the availability of attorney fees can make a huge difference during the case, as well as after it.

Continue reading

123-steps-divorce

It’s no secret that divorces can get expensive. The divorce between Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt exceeded $20,000,000 in fees! There are three fairly simple steps that every single person can take before and during marriage to make any potential divorce less expensive.

Continue reading

custody-evaluation

In earlier blogs I discussed what a parent can expect during child custody mediation, both private mediation and court connected mediation. Both scenarios, while nuanced, are quite straight forward. What happens if you are involved in a high-conflict child custody case and the court orders a custody evaluation? What does the evaluation cost? And how long do they take? I hope to answer these questions in this blog. In my next blog, I will discuss what to expect from a custody evaluation, how you can prepare and some of the reason a court will order a custody evaluation.

Continue reading

attorney-fee-awards

It is no secret that hiring an attorney can be costly. A spouse may be hesitant to seek legal counsel in their divorce or related family law matter, thinking that they would be unable to afford it. However, it is extremely important to have legal representation in certain matters, and this is especially critical where the other party is represented by an attorney. In such a case, in order to ensure adequate representation, a spouse may be entitled to an attorney’s fees and costs award (hereinafter referred to as simply an “award”); or a court order that the other party is to pay attorney’s fees and costs for BOTH parties.

Continue reading

spousal-support-modify-lottery.jpgSpousal support is a hot topic in divorce not only during the divorce process but also after the parties’ divorce judgment has been processed and finalized. We often meet with clients who are currently paying spousal support pursuant to court order and, based on a substantial change in circumstances, would like to request a downward modification of spousal support so they don’t have to fork out so much money each month to their ex-spouse. However, we sometimes also get requests from clients who are the recipients of a spousal support award and would like assistance with getting an upward modification of spousal support so that their ex-spouse actually pays them more each month.

A person currently receiving spousal support pursuant to the initial court order may be inclined to seek an upward spousal support modification if, for example, at the time of divorce the spouse receiving spousal support was making a decent living (and thus the need for spousal support was minimal) but post-judgment that spouse lost their job or has health issues that result in an increased need for spousal support to meet that person’s reasonable needs. Another potential reason that might pique a person’s interest for seeking an upward modification of spousal support includes situations (although quite rare) where the person paying spousal support hits the jackpot on the lottery and arguably now has a much higher ability to pay.

A request for a spousal support modification requires the party seeking the modification to show that there has been a material change of circumstances since the most recent order. The Court will consider whether there has been a significant change in any of the factors set forth in Family Code Section 4320 (the same criteria considered for initial order) when making the subsequent modification order, if any. These factors include, among others, the supporting party’s ability to pay, balance of hardships to each party, and the needs of each party based on the Marital Standard of Living (“MSOL”). The MSOL is the lifestyle enjoyed by the parties during marriage and is typically measured by the parties’ expenditures during marriage, including any funds put towards savings.

spousal-support-modify-arrows.jpgWhile the Court has broad discretion to modify spousal support so long as there has been a material change of circumstances, the Court does not always have jurisdiction to do so. In many cases, spousal support is subject to subsequent modification (or even termination) so long as the spousal support order has not already expired and the court still has jurisdiction over spousal support. However, in accordance with Family Code section 3591(c), if the parties’ judgment has a provision that expressly states that the parties agreed to make the spousal support award non-modifiable, then spousal support cannot be modified post-judgment. In the absence of such an agreement, the court retains jurisdiction to make a decision to increase, decrease or terminate support in a later proceeding (post-judgment) pursuant to a request by one of the parties.

It is also important to note that a post-judgment increase in spousal support being granted by the Court is highly unlikely. While there is nothing that prevents the Court from increasing support, it is simply not very common in California Family Law Courts. And even if the Court is willing to entertain the idea of an upward modification of spousal support, the spousal support award would still be capped at an amount that meets the MSOL. Even if you have an experienced attorney on your side it’s important to have realistic expectations and understand that getting a significant increase in spousal support, or any increase for that matter, is not very common.
Continue reading