THURMAN'S TIPS FOR RECOVERING ATTORNEY FEES IN DIVORCE
Family Code Section 2031:
Oral Motions for Attorney Fees in Divorce and Family Law
Family Code section 2031 is often ignored by family court judges in that I never see a court rule upon an attorney fee application within 15 days. This statute references "an order to show cause" and these are no longer utilized - effective July, 2012, the proper application is called a "request for order". I've provided the Judicial Council form in our Family Law Forms Library.
Probably the most important provision in section 2031 is subsection (b), which authorizes parties to make a request for fees in "open court." If you are a self-represented party and you find yourself at a hearing where you are over your head, my recommendation is that you make this request (cite the section) and also point out that Family Code section 2030 (a)(2) also directs family courts to issue fee awards to unrepresented parties so that they can hire an attorney. Argue to the court that the hearing should be set within 15 days per section 2031, and if both sides have not filed their Income and Expense Declaration (form FL-150), request that each party be required to file one with the court at least five days before the next hearing date.
For Blogs we've written, and there are a ton, about attorney fees in divorce, click here!
For a Sample Points and Authorities Discussing Key Cases, click here!
CALIFORNIA FAMILY CODE
Family Code section 2031
(a) (1) Except as provided in subdivision (b), during the pendency of a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, for nullity of marriage, for legal separation of the parties, or any proceeding subsequent to entry of a related judgment, an application for a temporary order making, augmenting, or modifying an award of attorney' s fees, including a reasonable retainer to hire an attorney, or costs or both shall be made by motion on notice or by an order to show cause.
(2) The court shall rule on an application within 15 days of the hearing on the motion or order to show cause.
(b) An order described in subdivision (a) may be made without notice by an oral motion in open court at either of the following times:
(1) At the time of the hearing of the cause on the merits.
(2) At any time before entry of judgment against a party whose default has been entered pursuant to Section 585 or 586 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The court shall rule on any motion made pursuant to this subdivision within 15 days and prior to the entry of any judgment.