Do you think your divorce is contentious? First, read Sagonowsky v. Kekoa

It’s no secret that many divorces can be difficult and contentious (although they certainly don’t have to be). Between the raw feelings from splitting up, disagreements regarding how to deal with the children, and the inability to reach agreements regarding spousal support and property, things can be difficult. One case in particular, Sagonowsky v. Kekoa, illustrates what happens when a contentious case totally goes off the rails.

The appeals court, in somewhat of an understatement, called the underlying proceedings a “lengthy and acrimonious battle.” Here are just some of the ways this case was acrimonious:

  1. There were 14 years of litigation (and counting) in a marriage of only 11 years.
  2. There were 21 filings in the Court of Appeal (including regular appeals and petitions for emergency writ relief) and 12 filings with the California Supreme Court.
  3. After Wife was ordered to transfer properties to her Husband, Wife totally failed to comply with the order and refused to sign the deeds that would formally transfer her interest in these properties to her husband
  4. Wife moved to disqualify two judges and filed a petition for a writ of mandate in the Court of Appeals when she lost (which was denied).
  5. Wife filed a federal lawsuit against three of the judges involved in her case (it should be noted that judges are typically immune from such lawsuits which originate from them simply doing their jobs).
  6. Wife attempted to delay the case by six months by invoking the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She requested a “stay of all proceedings, trials, and hearings” due to an alleged total disability. The Court denied this motion on the grounds that Wife was appearing in and maintaining several other cases and did not ask for such a request in those cases. She filed another petition for a writ of mandate with the Court of Appeals, which was also denied. At a later proceeding, her attorney expressed deep concern for the Court refusing the ADA request and attempted to leave the courtroom. The judge had to order the attorney to remain.

Eventually, the judge ordered $500,000 in sanctions against Wife for her “relentless and culpable conduct.” Most of the sanctions awarded by the trial judge were actually reversed on appeal on a technicality, but the Court of appeals stated that it would affirmed the $500,000 in sanctions had the technicality not been an issue. This case should serve as a lesson to both attorneys and clients: don’t let the case get out of control!

Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding a difficult case. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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