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Santa Barbara Attorney Fees 

Obtaining Attorney Fees in a Divorce 

Santa Barbara Attorney Fees

The problem of finding the funds necessary to retain an attorney is a common source of anxiety for family law litigants. Not having an attorney can have negative life altering economic consequences, particularly in divorce. It certainly has emotional consequences because at times the law seems impossible to decipher and you have no idea how Family Court operates. Without a skilled advocate to guide you, much remains invisible. At times you have so much hurt or anger you feel as though you are shutting down, and that you just can't process all this alone. You know you need a family law attorney, but this takes money. How do you get an attorney retained, and paid through to the conclusion of the proceedings?

At the Law Office of Channe G. Coles, we are experienced in navigating the legal and factual hurdles of requesting and obtaining attorney fee awards. We work diligently with each client to determine their particular needs and the existence of community assets or funds available for contributions towards attorney fees, even if such assets are in the control of the opposing party. Our approach is never one-size-fits all, and we understand the emotional gravity of facing a divorce action without a skilled advocate to get you through the complex maze of divorce proceedings.

California law requires that parties to a divorce have equal right and access to representation during a divorce or family law proceeding. What does this mean? It means, that early on in a dissolution proceeding (or legal separation or nullity of marriage), one party can request that the other party pay to him/her or their 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.” [Cal Family Code §2030(a)(1)] The court will make such an order by looking at the income disparity of the parties, by determining whether one party is able to pay for the attorney fees of both parties, and by assessing the actual needs of the asking party.

The legislative history of this code system stems from the common sense realization that very seldom is there income earning equality in a marriage, and even in this modern age, there is often a spouse who stays home to tend to the house and children, and one spouse who provides the income. Often times the non-income earning spouse has given up on their own professional aspirations to support the other spouse in their professional or academic pursuits. When children are involved, personal and financial reasons may require that one spouse quit their job and become a stay-at-home parent. When such an arrangement persists over a long period of time, the stay-at-home spouse may have profoundly effected their income earning capacity in the long-run. Practically speaking, when such a marriage ends, the non-income earning spouse often finds themselves in the predicament of needing a lawyer but without the funds to afford one. 

Santa Barbara Divorce Attorney

Upon the request of the financially disparate party, the Court will order the other party to pay a “reasonable amount” to allow the asking party the ability to retain counsel in a timely manner before proceedings in the matter and/or after the commencement of the divorce proceedings. [Cal. Fam. Code §2030(a)(2) and (b).] The caveat of course is that the 'other' party must have the ability to pay both his attorney fees and the fees requested by the asking party.

What this means on a practical level is that the income earning spouse cannot gain the upper hand by out-lawyering the non-income earning spouse simply by taking advantage of the fact that he or she has superior earning capability. California laws regarding the payment of attorney fees to the financially disparate party in a dissolution or legal separation is specifically designed to protect against such a scenario.

The 2011 revisions to Family Code § 2032 similarly expand what the Court must consider in making or refusing an attorney fee request. The considerations include "the need for the award to enable each party, to the extent practical, to have sufficient financial resources to present the party's case adequately,..." Section 2032 continues that "[t]he fact that the party requesting an award of attorney's fees and costs has resources from which the party could pay the party's own attorney's fees and costs is not itself a bar to the order that the other party pay part or all of the fees and costs requested." This is because, financial resources are only one factor the court considers when determining how to apportion the overall cost of the litigation equitably between the parties under their relative circumstances.

The revisions to section 2032 are quite important because the legislature has declared that the other party's separate property can be accessed to pay your fees. "The court may order payment of an award of attorney's fees and costs from any type of property, whether community or separate, principal or income." 

At the Law Office of Channe G. Coles, we are experienced in successfully obtaining attorney fee orders for our clients that are just and reasonable and which allow them to maintain representation throughout the divorce process, ensuring a fair and equal playing field.

To speak to an attorney at the Law Office of Channe G. Coles about attorney fees in a Santa Barbara County divorce or family law matter, please visit us online at www.ccsblaw.com or call us at (805) 617-4618 for a free confidential consultation..

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