Family Law: When party’s respective resources are not balanced, courts will do what they can to equal the playing field.

Case Summary

In the marriage dissolution custody and support case of In re Marriage of Smith (2015) E060373, Mother was financing her litigation with over $400,000 of her parents’ money while Father used credit cards to pay his attorney’s fees.  What was more concerning for the court, was that Mother’s attorneys, being heavily financed, crossed the line of zealous advocacy to tactics that were oppressive, unreasonable, and unduly burdensome to Father, making the respective parties ability to litigate detrimentally imbalanced.

The court awarded attorneys fees and sanctions to Father by applying Family Code §2032(b)‘s stated direction that “the court shall take into consideration 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, taking into consideration, the the extent relevant, the circumstances of the respective parties…”

Reminder to Family Law Litigants

Although not always a reality, the justice system is meant to level the playing field to the extent that the law and the facts should control.  When certain litigants can afford high priced attorneys and their opponents cannot, in the family law context, the court has the power to order those who can afford it to pay for their opponents litigation costs.