Second District, Division 6 Finds No Abuse of Discretion in $5,000 Fee Award.
Everyone knows that times are tough. However, this does not mean that every discretionary fee award should be appealed. The next case is a good example of why this is so, especially where a deferential standard of review is in play and economic disparities are not that close.
In Marriage of Nast, Case No. B209620 (2d Dist., Div. 6 June 29, 2009), husband was ordered to pay wife $5,000 of her attorney's fees under Family Code sections 2030 and 2032 (needs-based statutes, designed to allow a litigant to hire an attorney to level the playing field in a dissolution case). Husband had a gross monthly income of $6,074 ($4,088 monthly disposable income), while wife had been unemployed for several months and had primary custodial responsibilities for the two minor children. Although wife and an adult son operated a Laundromat, it never made a profit. Husband appealed.
Family law claimant: old lady living in shoe with numerous offspring.
He did not prevail. Abuse of discretion was the correct review standard. (In re Marriage of Duncan, 90 Cal.App.4th 617, 630 (2001).) The trial court correctly put the well-being of the children foremost and center. Wife terminated her employment (which entailed significant travel) so that she could stay with the children, being unemployed for nine months and becoming the sole custodial parent. Given that husband was employed and wife was not, the lower court did not error in awarding fees to wife under the circumstances. The $5,000 fee award was affirmed.