Articles Posted in Attorney Fees and Costs

It wouldn’t be a surprise if you had never heard of a “trust account” prior to partaking in a divorce. While there are many different types of trust accounts, in this context we will discuss accounts that attorneys, specifically family law attorneys, maintain on behalf of their clients.  coins-currency-investment-insurance-300x200

To begin, a trust account is a separate account that a lawyer or law firm may open to hold money that a client or third party has an interest in. Attorneys are not allowed to comingle (mix) any of their own personal funds with funds held in a client’s trust account (with some limited exceptions). There are two types of attorney-client trust accounts. The first is an “IOLTA” account, which holds small amounts of money for short amounts of time, typically retainers, and the interest accrued goes to the state bar. The second type is a Segregated Interest-Bearing Attorney Client Trust Account (“segregated trust account”), which holds larger amounts of money for longer periods of time, and the interest accrued goes to the client. The second type, segregated trust accounts, will be discussed here. Continue reading

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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