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What are Sanctions Under California Family Code Section 271?

Posted by Michael Geller | Jan 01, 2023 | 0 Comments

Both the California legislature and court system encourage spouses to do their best to try and reach amicable settlements to resolve divorce conflicts as quickly and efficiently as possible. So, when a spouse attempts to drive up the cost of a divorce proceeding by being difficult, unreasonable, etc., they can actually be reprimanded and sanctioned for their misconduct.

California Family Code Section 271 Allows Pursuit of Attorney's Fees and Costs

Under California Family Code Section 271, a party involved in a legal proceeding is allowed to pursue sanctions in the form of attorney's fees and costs. For example, if a party involved in a family law case, such as a divorce or custody dispute, incurred $10,000 in attorney's fees and $5,000 in costs because the other party in the case violated Family Code 271's policy, then party seeking fees and costs may request that the family court impose sanctions on the other party.

In some cases, a spouse can be ordered to pay for attorney's fees and court costs that are caused by their misconduct. California Family Code Section 271 can be a powerful tool for spouses involved in California divorce. If you need assistance with seeking sanctions, contact The Geller Firm today for a consultation.

Recovering Attorney's Fees in a Contra Costa County Divorce Case

Under California law, spouses involved in a divorce proceeding may be able to seek the recovery of attorney's fees from their spouse. This option is generally available under the following scenarios:

  • Scenario 1 - When the state has an interest in promoting equal access to the courts; and
  • Scenario 2 - When there is evidence to indicate that one spouse is unnecessarily driving up the cost of a divorce.

In Scenario 1, a spouse who demonstrates a financial need for assistance can request attorney's fees under Family Code Section 2030. If a court determines that the petitioning spouse has a financial need for assistance and the non-petitioning spouse has the ability to pay for attorney's fees, it can order such an award. Spouses must demonstrate a financial need in order to recover attorney's fees under Section 2030.

In Scenario 2, a California court has the authority to impose sanctions against a spouse who intentionally frustrates settlement discussions and a timely resolution of a divorce. The sanctions available under Family Code Section 271 are equal to the attorney's fees and court-related costs that are a direct result of this misconduct.

Financial Need Not a Factor When Considering Section 271 Sanctions

If a spouse files a request for reimbursement of attorney's fees pursuant to Section 271, it is important to note that they do not have to demonstrate financial need. Rather, a spouse must simply provide evidence that the other spouse is intentionally driving up the cost of litigation.

California Courts are authorized to impose sanctions – equal to an amount of attorney's fees and court costs – against a spouse who “frustrates” the state's interest in promoting the “settlement of litigation.”

Have Questions About Section 271 Sanctions in Your Contra Costa County Divorce Case? Contact the Geller Firm Today

California encourages divorcing spouses to resolve divorce conflicts in a timely manner. If a spouse purposefully frustrates this policy, they can be ordered to pay for any resulting costs. If you believe that your spouse has gone out of his/her way to increase your divorce-related costs you may be able to recover an award under Family Code Section 271. As a result, consider contacting The Geller Firm. Our team of experienced and respected Lafayette divorce attorneys stand ready to help. We are located in the San Francisco Bay Area and are proud to provide legal services in San Francisco County, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Marin County, San Mateo County, and Santa Clara County. Our legal team is available for virtual and in-person consultations. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

About the Author

Michael Geller

Michael Geller grew up in San Francisco, CA. He attended the University of Southern California for his undergraduate studies, the City University of New York for his medical training, and Santa Clara University School of Law for his legal education.


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