Wife Only Receives $50,000 Despite Claiming To Have Spent Over $200,000, With Husband Claiming He Had Paid $169,000 In Past Attorney’s Fees and $20,000 In Expert Fees While Still Owing $116,000 In Attorney’s Fees.
The next case involves an award illustrating how expensive and resource draining family law contests can become when they are bitterly contested and protracted in nature.
In Marriage of Reddy, Case No. 206268 (2d Dist., Div. 4 Mar. 24, 2009) (unpublished), ex-husband was ordered to pay $50,000 in attorney’s fees to ex-wife under Family Code sections 2030 and 2032, which involves an assessment of the relative “needs” of each side and which attempts to level the playing field so that the impecunious side can obtain representation. (The $50,000 award was payable in $1,000 monthly installments.) Husband appealed.
He did not prevail.
The record showed that husband had twice the income of wife, and that wife’s assets likely had no positive side once debt was figured into the equation. Husband would have $2,000 in excess income each month even after deducting the $1,000 fee award installment. Based on relative circumstances, the award was not an abuse of discretion. It was also reasonable because husband hotly contested the family law action, a factor that can be considered in determining to award fees to the other side. (Warner v. Warner, 34 Cal.2d 838, 840, 842 (1950) [predecessor statute to section 2030]; In re Marriage of Jovel, 49 Cal.App.4th 575, 588 (1996) [section 2030].)
The sad part of this case is the attorney’s fees carnage from the overall action. Wife spent over $200,000 during one period, but was only awarded $50,000 (or 25% of the requested fees). Husband had spent $189,000 in past attorney’s/expert fees, but still owed his attorneys $116,000. Sounds like some cups of coffee at a local Starbucks might have avoided some financial fallout in this type of case.