THURMAN'S "FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY FEES" TIPS
Family Code Section 2030:
How Do I Get Lawyer's Fees for My Divorce?
Family Code section 2030 is the key statute to quote to a judge for parties engaged in divorce
or legal separation litigation who need help with their attorney fees
or forensic costs from the other party. I have written a detailed explanation
of the principles involved
requests for attorney fees in family law proceedings that you might find helpful, here. Understand that there are other California
family codes that address attorney fee requests in domestic violence settings,
in connection with custody applications, as sanctions for uncooperative
conduct that frustrates the public policy to decrease the costs of litigation,
for discovery disputes, for enforcement of support orders, and so on.
You can find these listed under "Attorney Fees" on my
Family Code Statutes page. Also, is you wish to request attorney fees, please check our
Family Law Form Library you are required to utilize Judicial Council Form
FL-319, and see below for the additional FL-158, which is optional but wise.
Section 2030 covers initial applications for attorney fee orders, and it
applies to post-judgment modifications. Family court judges look to whether
there is a disparity of earnings between the parties or, in the event
that there isn't a great disparity, to the liquid resources available
to each party respectively. The greater the inequality of access between
the parties to money to hire attorneys, the greater the likelihood that
such orders will issue. The amounts that a court may award aren't
necessary relative to how much money the parties have, but instead the
complexity of the issues in light of what must be accomplished for each
side to have the opportunity to fully present or defend their cases. If
you have a situation where there are little community property assets
with any value but the other party has considerable separate property,
you will want to also cite
Family Code section 2032.
This section allows an unrepresented party to ask the court to award sufficient
monies to employ an attorney. In that situation, if you are resisting
such a request be sure to ask that the Court state in its minute order
or order after hearing that any monies ordered as attorney fees only be
paid directly to the applicant's attorney - since if the money is
turned over to the applicant, they may spend it before they retain a lawyer.
Be aware that in attorney fee applications involving married people or
registered domestic partners, you must either address the
marital standard of living factors set forth in Family Code section 4320 in your supporting declaration, or you
must attach a completed
Judicial Council Form FL-158 that addresses the 4320 factors - probably using the form will make it
more likely you make no technical errors. Also, if your case involves
a marriage and you are opposing a fee request, also use the FL-158.
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CALIFORNIA FAMILY CODE
Family Code section 2030
(a) (1) 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
(2) 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.
(b) 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.
(c) 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.
(d) 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.
(e) The Judicial Council shall, by January 1, 2012, adopt a statewide rule
of court to implement this section and develop a form for the information
that shall be submitted to the court to obtain an award of attorney's
fees under this section.