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How Slowing Down a California Divorce Case Could Cost You – In re Marriage of Bell

California divorce cases can be stressful and even hostile affairs that require several rounds of hard-fought litigation. They don’t have to be, however, and many of these matters are resolved on mutually beneficial grounds through a negotiated settlement. In fact, the state family court system wants divorcing spouses to resolve as many issues as possible through negotiation and to work to help ensure that any remaining disputes are sorted out in a timely manner. As the Fourth District Court of Appeals explains in a recent case, a spouse who doesn’t hold up his or her end of the bargain may be subject to a money penalty.

money-607703-mHusband and Wife were married for 16 years and had two children before separating in 2010. What followed, according to the Fourth District, was “protracted, highly contentious litigation.” In particular, the spouses disputed child custody and property division issues in a series of hearings and trials over a two-year period.

In December 2012, the trial court ordered Wife to pay $70,000 in sanctions to Husband as a result of her actions in litigating the case. The trial judge said Wife unreasonably extended the proceedings because she “frustrated efforts to minimize litigation” and used an “unnecessarily aggressive approach to the case thwarting the reduction of litigation and possibility of settlement.” Among other behavior, the judge noted that Wife withdrew more than $75,000 in community money on the same day that she filed for divorce, filed “frivolous” objections, refused to cooperate with the admission of an expert report, failed to disclose a 401k account, interfered with the appraisal of certain community property, and arrived at a trial two hours late. The judge further said Wife’s actions violated California public policy, which encourages the early settlement of divorce disputes.

Affirming the decision on appeal, the Fourth District said the evidence showed that Wife’s actions “went beyond vigorous representation and fell into the category of unreasonable and uncooperative conduct.” As such, the Court said the behavior fell afoul of the public policy favoring “expeditious adjudication” and settlement. For example, the Court said Wife’s withdrawal of the money and refusal to acknowledge that half of it belonged to Husband forced the parties to litigate what was a straightforward issue. In addition, her “frivolous” objections to certain discovery requests slowed down the pretrial process and added thousands of dollars in related litigation costs for Husband. Her interference with the property appraiser also had a similar impact, according to the Court.

As a result, the Court said that the sanctions were warranted.

If you’re considering seeking a divorce in California, it’s important to seek the counsel of an experienced divorce attorney who can guide you through the process and work to resolve the matter in the most efficient way possible, while making sure that your interests are fully protected and advanced. Contact San Jose divorce lawyer John S. Yohanan. With more than 30 years of experience, Mr. Yohanan is an accomplished family law attorney who has helped a number of clients resolve a wide variety of issues on optimal terms. Call our office at (408) 297-0700 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

Related blog posts:

The ‘Clean Hands’ Requirement in California Child Support Cases – In re Marriage of Boswell

Pre-Divorce Agreements and Financial Disclosures in California Divorce Cases – In re Marriage of Evans

Income and Spousal Support in California Divorce Cases – In re Marriage of Whalen


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