THURMAN'S TIPS FOR RECOVERING PATERNITY LAWYER'S FEES
Family Code Section 7640:
Can I Obtain Attorney Fees In My Uniform Parentage Case?
Family Code section 7640 authorizes orders for reasonable attorney fees and costs for all parties
and their representatives in proceedings involving the establishment of
the parent-child relation, under California's Uniform Parentage Act.
For biological reasons, it is typically men who must obtain a formal adjudication
of parentage of children. Without such a determination, mothers are not
required to grant dad's custody or visitation. This section is intend
to allow any party to seek and recover their lawyer fees and costs. It
is much broader though, and also includes fees for counsel for the minor
child, guardians, and others.
Because the statute references "proportions," family court judges
are required in paternity cases to fix fees for one party in a manner
that considers attorney fees required by another. This statute also covers
the costs of determining parentage. Not all California attorney fee statutes
explicitly reference the word "reasonable" when determining
how much to award, although certainly that concept is implicit. However,
the inclusion of that term supports an argument that the legislature has
directed that family court judges be somewhat constrained in terms of
amounts, a point I would argue if I was defending against an attorney
Realistically, a man who seeks to recover his lawyer's fees against
the child's mother won't gain much traction unless (a) the parties'
relative incomes strongly favor her and (b) she has unreasonably denied
that the plaintiff father is the bio-dad, possibly to cut him out of the
child's life, or otherwise obstructs parenting time. More commonly
this section will benefit a mother who has sued the father to establish
parentage, probably in order to begin collecting child support.
CALIFORNIA FAMILY CODE
Family Code section 7640
The court may order reasonable fees of counsel, experts, and the child's
guardian ad litem, and other costs of the action and pretrial proceedings,
including blood tests, to be paid by the parties, excluding any governmental
entity, in proportions and at times determined by the court.