California Family Law Attorney


CAL Family Code Section 3652:

Attorney Fees When Modifying Prior Family Court Orders

When a party seeks to modify prior court orders and judgments, Family Code section 3652 authorizes family court bench officers to award attorney fees to the party who prevails in those modification proceedings.

This statute is somewhat unusual since ordinarily attorney fees are awarded based primarily upon need and the ability to pay, where there is a disparity in income or wealth between the two parties. However, its purpose is a bit different than when a party is seeking initial orders - here the question may become whether the modification request was reasonable in light of the rule that most orders cannot be changed unless and until there has been a material change in the circumstances that justified the first order. Often people think something important has changed, but from a burden of proof standpoint they are mistaken. In those situations the responding party has perhaps unnecessarily been forced to expend money to defend themselves and it may be fair that they be reimbursed for those costs.

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Family Code section 3652

Except as against a governmental agency, an order modifying, terminating, or setting aside a support order may include an award of attorney's fees and court costs to the prevailing party.