Family Code section 2030 - "Family Law Attorney Fees and Costs" [2011 Revisions]


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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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 proceeding.
(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.

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