Husband Did Show Pattern Of Needlessly Contesting Child Support Awards Over Time.
Cordray v. Lee, Case No. H036826 (6th Dist. Dec. 28, 2012) (unpublished) involved an unmarried couple with two children. In 1999, Father’s net worth was $10 million although in child support proceedings he tried to play up on subsequent financial losses--although by the time of the germane proceedings Father had inherited Taiwanese income-producing properties and he had made significant cash gifts to his older children/charities. The trial court awarded Mother $45,000 in attorney’s fees under both Family Code section 3652 (a needs-based child support prevailing party provision) and section 271 (the well-known sanctions provision for needless/uncooperative litigation), after the trial judge continued to peg child support at $3,300 per month and after observing the fee award was one-half of Mother’s entire net worth.
The appellate court independently affirmed the fee award under the section 271 ground alone. After all here is what the record below demonstrated: (1) considerable time was spent with respect to a request by Father for a protective order, and the lower court ultimately adopted the order proposed by Mother’s counsel; (2) financial information provided by Father to his counsel was inaccurate and incomplete, necessitating additional time and expense; (3) Father’s expert relied on Father's erroneously supplied information, which resulted in opinions significantly understating the value of Father’s investments and omitting some of his assets; (4) Father maintained his unmeritorious legal position that his substantial gifting should have no effect on his obligation to pay child support (a position he further maintained on appeal), ignoring statutes and existing case law in the process; (5) Father maintained the unmeritorious positions that the child support he pays enriched Mother and that he was entitled to know how that child support is being spent; (6) Father required the unnecessary expenditure of time litigating the issue of Social Security benefits payable to the children; (6) Mother needed the fee award as she cannot afford the level of litigation required to contest Father’s motion, his second unsuccessful attempt to contest child support in the last 2 years; and (7) the 271 award would not unreasonably burden Father.
Given this record, the 271 fee award was found not to run afoul of the abuse of discretion standard of review.