Appellant Joan Drelinger (Mother) registered in 2004 a 1973 order for child support issued in the State of Nevada, and sought to enforce the order. The trial court confirmed the order’s registration but found respondent Jay Drelinger (Father) had satisfied his child support obligation. The court deferred ruling on the parties’ competing motions for attorney fees, and mother appealed both orders. Marriage of Drelinger, Case No. C055458 (3rd Dist., July 29, 2009) (not for publication).
Among other things, the trial court had ruled, "The parties left the matter according to the terms of the agreement until the breakup of their extramarital affair in 2004. At which time, [Mother,] spurned, decided to pursue to [sic] old [child support] order . . . Both parties were harmed by the passage of time, the dimming of memories, the lack of documentary evidence." Neither party requested a statement of decision. However, the trial judge decided to defer any ruling on fees, explaining, "I do believe that the Court of Appeal gets first shot at deciding this issue.”
Mother made numerous claims on appeal, none of which were found to have merit. Father argued he was unable to pay fees, and that the entire proceeding was motivated by vindictiveness.
And now, the matter of fees. Here, the Court of Appeal ruled:
"On such a record, we cannot conclude that Mother’s motion was essentially “unopposed,” as she claimed in oral argument, or that the evidence was so overwhelmingly in her favor that it was an abuse of discretion to deny her request, de facto or otherwise. Nor can we rule that she was entitled to fees as a matter of law. We will, therefore, remand the matter and direct the trial court to rule on Mother’s motion for section 2030 pendente lite attorney fees."
The Court of Appeal remanded on the question of pendente lite legal fees, and affirmed the order in all other respects. Justice Raye authored the 3-0 opinion.
PRACTICE TIP: The Court of Appeal observed: "Mother makes numerous claims on appeal, many of which are buried under a single heading in violation of California Rules of Court, rule 8.204(a)(1)(B) . . . . " That rule provides: "State each point under a separate heading or subheading summarizing the point, and support each point by argument and, if possible, by citation of authority."