Sanctions in Family Law Cases

Family law cases typically involve an intersection of legal issues and emotional concerns. As such, it is not uncommon for family law disputes to become contentious. In some instances, parties in family law cases will go so far as to attempt to frustrate the resolution of their cases by refusing to comply with procedural rules. To address such behavior, the California legislature enacted a statute that permits the courts to impose sanctions on non-compliant parties in family law cases, as discussed in In Re Marriage of Feldman. If you intend to end your marriage, it is essential to understand your rights and obligations, and you should speak to a California divorce lawyer as soon as possible.

Factual Background of the Case

It is reported that the husband and the wife married in 1969. They separated after thirty-four years of marriage, and in 2003, the wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. Pursuant to California law, the parties were required to disclose their financial information. The husband, who created numerous highly valuable privately held companies during the marriage, responded to discovery requests regarding his finances and provided a schedule of assets and debts.

The wife alleged, however, that the husband failed to fully disclose his financial information. Specifically, he neglected to provide information regarding several entities, a retirement account, and the purchase of a bond and a private home. The wife filed an application for an order imposing sanctions against the husband and requiring him to pay her attorneys’ fees, pursuant to Family Code sections 1101 and 2107. The trial court granted the application and sanctioned the husband. The husband appealed.

Sanctions in Family Law Cases

The sole issue on appeal was whether the trial court abused its discretion by imposing sanctions on the husband. The appellate court concluded that the trial court did not commit an abuse of discretion and upheld its ruling. The appellate court explained that the applicable Family Code provisions did not require the party seeking sanctions to establish a separate injury in order for their request to be answered.

The court elaborated that the laws permitting sanctions do not aim to redress actual injury but to compel compliance with the provisions requiring spouses to make disclosures to one another and promote the policy of settling cases and encouraging cooperation. In light of the legislature’s intention in drafting the relevant provisions, the appellate court stated that it was clear that the goal of imposing sanctions was to reduce the adversarial nature of divorce cases, not to mitigate harm. Thus, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Confer with a Dedicated California Family Law Attorney

Divorce actions often require parties to reveal sensitive and private information, and if they refuse to, they may be sanctioned. If you have questions regarding the implications of filing a divorce action or any other family law matter, you should confer with an attorney. The dedicated family law attorneys at the Bay Area Family Law Center can offer you advice regarding what measures you can take to protect your interests and assist you in seeking a just outcome. You can reach us at 925-258-2020 or via the form online to set up a meeting.

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