Attorney Fees

Attorney Fees

Often, the first question of a client is how can I afford to retain an attorney. The amount of attorney fees vary dependant upon the divergence on the positions taken by the parties and their respective counsel. The Court has the power to award two different forms of attorney fees

Family Code 2030 and Need based Attorneys Fees

The California judicial system ensures that each party have equal access to representation. Whether you are the spousal in need of assistance from your spousal to pay your fees or whether a spouse is requesting you pay a portion of their fees, the most important factor is a for your attorney to be well versed in the legal aspects as well as the factual aspects of your specific case. California Family Code 2030 sets forth the factors to be considered in assessing either a request for attorney fees or defense against attorney fees.

In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, nullity of marriage, or legal separation of the parties, and in any proceeding subsequent to entry of a related judgment, the court shall ensure that each party has access to legal representation, including access early in the proceedings, to preserve each party's rights by ordering, if necessary based on the income and needs assessments, one party, except a governmental entity, to pay to the other party, or to the other party's attorney, whatever amount is reasonably necessary for attorney's fees and for the cost of maintaining or defending the proceeding during the pendency of the proceeding.

When a request for attorney's fees and costs is made, the court shall make findings on whether an award of attorney's fees and costs under this section is appropriate, whether there is a disparity in access to funds to retain counsel, and whether one party is able to pay for legal representation of both parties. If the findings demonstrate disparity in access and ability to pay, the court shall make an order awarding attorney's fees and costs. A party who lacks the financial ability to hire an attorney may request, as an in pro per litigant, that the court order the other party, if that other party has the financial ability, to pay a reasonable amount to allow the unrepresented party to retain an attorney in a timely manner before proceedings in the matter go forward.

Attorney's fees and costs within this section may be awarded for legal services rendered or costs incurred before or after the commencement of the proceeding. The court shall augment or modify the original award for attorney's fees and costs as may be reasonably necessary for the prosecution or defense of the proceeding, or any proceeding related thereto, including after any appeal has been concluded. Any order requiring a party who is not the spouse of another party to the proceeding to pay attorney's fees or costs shall be limited to an amount reasonably necessary to maintain or defend the action on the issues relating to that party.

Family Code 271 Sanctions

Unfortunately, either the spouses or the opposing counsel are inflating the costs of litigation by taking unreasonable positions or simply due to the non experience of the attorney with the San Luis Obispo Superior Court Family Law Bench. An important aspect when deciding which attorney to hire to take care of you and your family is the experience of the attorney. Too often, I find that very simple cases are exaggerated resulting in financial detriment and emotional detriment of the parties because the attorneys are unfamiliar with the law or take positions that a Court would never consider reasonable. One of the most important roles of an attorney to their client is as the role of educator. This education provides the client with the ability to make an informed decision on the direction of the case.

As attorneys and parties to a divorce, we are mandated to conduct ourselves which promotes settlement of litigation and encourages cooperation. Lisa Ramsey encourages client to obtain several consultations with prospective counsel to ensure the attorney interest is the client financial well fair. A well educated attorney and therefore client can make reasonable requests from the Court and therefore expect a reasonable result.

Family Code Section 271 provides

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, the court may base an award of attorney’s fees and costs on the extent to which the conduct of each party or attorney furthers or frustrates the policy of the law to promote settlement of litigation and, where possible, to reduce the cost of litigation by encouraging cooperation between the parties and attorneys. An award of attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to this section is in the nature of a sanction. In making an award pursuant to this section, the court shall take into consideration all evidence concerning the parties’ incomes, assets, and liabilities. The court shall not impose a sanction pursuant to this section that imposes an unreasonable financial burden on the party against whom the sanction is imposed. In order to obtain an award under this section, the party requesting an award of attorney’s fees and costs is not required to demonstrate any financial need for the award.

(b) An award of attorney’s fees and costs as a sanction pursuant to this section shall be imposed only after notice to the party against whom the sanction is proposed to be imposed and opportunity for that party to be heard.

(c) An award of attorney’s fees and costs as a sanction pursuant to this section is payable only from the property or income of the party against whom the sanction is imposed, except that the award may be against the sanctioned party’s share of the community property.

Contact Lisa Ramsey

1026 Chorro Street, Suite 220

San Luis Obispo, CA, 93401
805 773-2555

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