Fourth District, Division 1 Finds Husband Had Income and Assets More Than 1600% Greater Than Wife.
As the next case illustrates, most "needs"-based awards under Family Code section 2030 are reviewed under the deferential abuse of discretion standard. When that standard is used, an affirmance follows in most situations.
Marriage of Carson, Case No. D053025 (4th Dist., Div. 1 May 12, 2009) (unpublished) involved a family law judge's award of $12,000 to wife based upon need under Family Code section 2030, to be paid "forthwith." The evidence showed that husband had assets of $326,700, an average net monthly income of $2,634, and monthly expenses of $1,924. By contrast, wife had $20,100 in assets, no income from wages, and monthly expenses of $2,310. Husband did not like the award, and appealed.
He did not prevail. Based upon review under the abuse of discretion standard, the award was reasonable. "Both parties live modestly and have comparable monthly personal expenses; however, Michael's income and assets exceed Carolina's by more than 1600 percent. Such a disparity in the parties' circumstances is sufficient to support an award of attorney fees based on relative need. (Marriage of Cheriton (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 269, 315; Marriage of Drake (1997) 53 Cal.App.4th 1139, 1167.)" (Slip Opn., at p. 10.)
The Court of Appeal also found the result was just because the lower court terminated spousal support, which improved husband's relative financial circumstances to reimburse some of her fees.
Finally, he challenged the order requiring payment "forthwith." This did not resonate with the appellate panel, because there was prior evidence of record showing he had substantial funds in a trust established by his father, ran a construction company for 20 years generating over $100,000 in annual income, and had substantial equity in real property.