One of the toughest parts of going through a court divorce, legal separation, or annulment is being able to afford a family lawyer. CA Family Code § 2030 gives the court guidance in helping any party to have fair and equal access to legal representation in family litigation. In this post we break down the sections of Family Code 2030 which details the laws governing attorney’s fees and costs.
What Does 2030 Say About Legal Fees?
Family Code 2030 is separated into 6 sections:
Section A (1)
Family Code 2030(a) says that each party has the right to have representation. This statute requires that the family court ensures that both defendant and plaintiff have access to legal representation. The family court must also:
- Order whatever amount that is needed to reasonably cover the attorney’s fees and costs that are required to maintain or defend the pending legal action
- Make the orders based on the parties’ incomes and needs
Section A (2)
To be fair, Family code 2030 also covers the court’s actions. Section B says that the family court must state its reasons surrounding these following issues regarding orders for attorney’s fee requests:
- If an award for attorney’s fee and cost is appropriate or not
- If there is a big difference (disparity) in the parties’ ability to access funds to hire an attorney*
- If one party can afford to pay the attorney’s fees for both parties**
* **If the award is deemed to be appropriate and if one party is in a significantly better financial standing than the other, then the judge can order that party to pay the other party’s attorney fees.
The family law attorney’s fees and costs that are referred to in Family code 2030 can include costs for legal services rendered, costs incurred before the proceeding, as well as after the process has already begun.
The original order for an award can be modified if things change. This can include changes in fees and costs to related proceedings or even additionally related proceedings after an appeal has been made.
The family court is also allowed to award family law legal fees against a party who is not a spouse. The difference in this allowance is that the amount is to be limited to what is “reasonably necessary to maintain or defend the action on the issues relating to that (non-spouse) party”.
This section simply says that the court will use Family code 2030 to create a form for this information to be submitted to the court in order to receive an award of family law legal fees.
What Does 2030 Say About Access to Legal Representation?
This provision was made because of the fact that sometimes one spouse has significantly more income than the other and it would be unfair if the latter spouse wasn’t able to have representation in a divorce or family law case.
Can Family Law Attorney’s Fees and Costs Be Ordered?
Yes! Having access to legal representation helps both spouses have a more equal standing in court. So, according to Family Code 2030, it’s the court’s responsibility to provide access to legal representation to both parties. A judge can make orders for an opposing spouse to pay for attorney fees and costs. It’s very difficult for self-represented spouses to do well in court against legitimate family lawyers.
What Does Family Code 2030 Mean by “Reasonably Necessary”?
“Reasonably necessary” is term that we need to be cautious about. This wasn’t written so that attorneys can get a blank check. This amount must be reasonable and necessary to get the family issues resolved, no more and no less.
What Does Disparity in Access to Funds to Hire an Attorney mean?
This is an important word written in family code 2030. Disparity means a great difference. This does not say that if a spouse has access to funds, the other spouse (who has more assets) doesn’t need to contribute. In the case Marriage of Sorge, the wife was valued at $7 million and the husband at $64 million; even though the wife could pay for her own family law attorney’s fees, the disparity in access to funds between the two are extremely great and the husband should help with attorney fees and costs.
How is Family Code 4320 Relevant to Family Code 2030-2032?
Family Code 4320 deals with spousal support in dissolution of marriage/domestic partnership cases. When you look at Family code 4320, you’ll see a list of factors that a judge looks at in order to make a judgment on spousal support orders. Family code 2030-2032 (which this page is about), deals with attorney’s fees and costs. Awards for family law legal fees need to be justified, reasonable and necessary. To determine that, the judge looks at the requesting spouse’s financial standing, guided by that list found in family code 4320. To learn more about alimony, visit our Spousal Support webpage.
What Do You Need to Do to Request Attorney’s Fees Be Paid by the Other Spouse
Family code 2031 allows for verbal requests in court, however this is accepted in special circumstances such as when a spouse is self-representing and doesn’t have immediate access to funds to hire legal representation. The conventional method of requesting attorney’s fees starts with filing several documents:
- A Request for Order – Form FL-300
- A Request for Attorney’s Fees and Costs Attachment – Form FL-319
- A current Income and Expense Declaration – Form FL-150
- A personal declaration in support of the request for attorney’s fees and costs. This can be through a Supporting Declaration for Attorney’s Fees and Costs Attachment (Form FL-158) or a comparable declaration that covers the same information found in FL-158
- Any other documentations that are relevant for a court to make a judgment
When making this request, the person requesting must provide the court with complete information about the attorney’s service, including: hourly billing rate, nature of the litigation, the attorney’s relevant experience, the fees and costs that have already been incurred or is anticipated, and reasons for why the requested amount is necessary and reasonable. To see the complete process of requesting Attorney’s fees and costs, visit the California Courts Website.
What Sources Are Allowed to Be Used to Pay Family Law Legal Fees and Costs, According to Family Code 2030?
Attorney’s fees can be paid using marital property, separate property, work income, real estate, financial accounts, stocks, and just about anything that has value. Family code 2030 does protect one asset though; attorney fee awards cannot be paid using retirement plans. Not all situations are the same, so consulting with a family law attorney is highly recommended.
Can the Family Law Attorney’s Fees Be Opposed?
If you are the one who is being asked to pay attorney’s fees and costs, you can oppose the motion. Unfortunately, simply saying that you don’t want to pay or you can’t pay is not enough for the court. Opposing the request for attorney’s fees requires you to prove that you cannot pay or that the amount requested is not reasonable or necessary.
What Tips Do You Have to Help with the Request for Family Law Attorney’s Fees and Costs or to Oppose it?
Although the filing documents required might seem straightforward, but what you fill in as answers needs to be accurate. The court will make sure that the information is true, so it’s very important that you submit the documents with complete and correct details. Below are some other tips that can help you request or oppose the payment of attorney fees and costs.
Tips for requesting attorney’s fees:
- Hire and experienced lawyer to file the documents for you. When paperwork is done correctly, it can make the process smoother. People tend to underestimate or overestimate when making declarations; this should not be done.
- Don’t forget to add in any net disposable income, in the form of alimony or child support
- Consider other valuable assets/property, not just income from working. This might include real estate, stocks, bank savings, home equity lines of credit, etc.
Tips for opposing attorney’s fees:
- Again, hire an experienced lawyer. Having someone who knows how to file these documents correctly can make a significant difference in outcome.
- If there really is truly a disparity in income or other funds, consider making a realistic offer to avoid the expenses of opposing this request.
- Have a lawyer help you calculate the real difference in access to funds, if you are paying spousal support or child support.
- If you cannot pay the requested attorney’s fees and costs, you’ll need to provide solid evidence that you, indeed, do not have the means to pay your spouse’s attorney fees.
If you know or suspect that there is a disparity in access to funds between you and your spouse, contact us to discuss your situation with our family lawyer. This over-the-phone consultation does not obligate you to hire us, nor does it form a client-attorney relationship.